Vitamin B12-Rich Foods for Vegetarians

Vitamin B12 foods for vegetarians

Vitamin B12 is one of those vitamins you need for a number of things, including helping your nervous system and brain function properly and the creation of red blood cells. It can be found in abundance in meats and other animal products. This is great news for those of us who eat meat, but if you are a vegetarian, it makes things a little more difficult. So, we’ve done some research and present to you an introductory look at vitamin B12 foods for vegetarians. We’ll discuss vitamin B12-rich foods that fit a vegetarian diet, why you need B12 in your system, and vitamin B12 benefits. We’ll also look at a few vegan sources of B12.

Vitamin B12 Foods for Vegetarians

The following chart contains a list of foods that are friendly to vegetarian and vegan diets and great for getting B12 into your system. Please pay attention to what foods fall into which column. Also, note that this is just a general vegetarian diet list, so it may not fit your particular dietary restrictions.

Name of Food Vegetarian Vegan Friendly Notes
Cheese Yes No Cheese is a good source of B12, but some types are better than others. Swiss, mozzarella, and feta cheeses are all recommended sources of B12.
Eggs Yes No Eggs can provide B12 but note that the best source of it is the yolk. Chicken eggs are good for B12, but goose and duck eggs are better.
Milk Yes No
Yogurt Yes No
Yeast Extract Spreads Yes Yes Many yeast extract spreads (certain versions Vegemite and Marmite) are not only vegetarian friendly but also vegan friendly and contain a healthy amount of B12. However, pay attention to the label as not all yeast extract spreads contain B12.

While this is a slim list, keep in mind that these are just the foods naturally contain B12. For a full range of choices, you can also purchase many foods that are fortified with B12. There are fortified versions of breakfast cereal, soybean products, and dairy alternatives.

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When you’re doing your grocery shopping, make sure to read the labels to ensure you are getting the B12 you require. An alternative to fortified and natural foods is B12 supplements.

B12 supplements can come in a few different forms like pills, drops, and even gummies. Just make sure to double check the label to see if it meets your dietary needs.

Vitamin B12 Benefits

As mentioned, vitamin B12 or cobalamin, is very important to your nervous and circulatory systems. B12 is involved in the replication of red blood cells and synthesizes and regulates DNA. If this sounds important, that’s because it is.

DNA carries the unique genetic code that makes us who we are. Your brain is the computer and the nervous system is the conduit through which the brain’s orders are carried out. Red blood cells help carry oxygen to the various systems in your body.

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A vitamin B12 deficiency can affect those systems in negative ways. Mild depression, tiredness, and confusion are some of the lighter effects of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Related: Why You Need Vitamin B

Long-term deficiency can cause major damage to your nervous system as well as dementia and psychosis, and may increase your risk for diseases like Alzheimer’s. Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause tremors or numbness in the limbs, reflex problems, and growth issues in children and adolescents.

Due to its connection to red blood cells, B12 deficiency can also cause anemia, a lack of red blood cells and the reduced ability of the blood to carry oxygen to the brain. This can result in fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.

Suffice to say, B12 is not a vitamin to miss out on. It’s fairly easy to obtain your recommended daily amount (about 2.4 micrograms for adults) through animal meats. But if you’re vegetarian or vegan, what are your options?

Vitamin B12 Dosage: How Much Should You Take it?

Now that you know how important vitamin B12 is to your body and health and some food sources of the vitamin, you may be worried that you aren’t getting enough of it. So, how much vitamin B12 do you need a day regardless of its source? Don’t worry; it may not be as much as you think.

The following chart shows the age progression and the amount needed at each age along the way. B12 amounts are measured in micrograms.

Age Daily Amount
0- 6 months 0.4 mcg
7- 12 months 0.5 mcg
1- 3 years 0.9 mcg
4- 8 years 1.2 mcg
9- 13 years 1.8 mcg
14 years and older 2.4 mcg
Pregnant Women 2.6 mcg
Breastfeeding Women 2.8 mcg

 

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

As we’ve noted above, vitamin B12 is necessary for everyone including vegetarians and vegans of course. You really can’t function properly without it, and without an adequate amount, you are at the risk of some major health problems.

People deficient in this vitamin are slightly disoriented and have memory issues, and this can get complicated if left untreated. Being a vegetarian or vegan can be daunting, especially when you consider how many B12-rich foods are prohibited from your diet.

Just remember there are plenty of options out there for you; you just need to find the right combination for your personal diet. Just a few rules of thumb:

  • Make sure to read the labels. See if you’re getting the right amount of B12 in the food you’re purchasing.
  • Don’t be afraid of supplements. There are so many B12 supplements on the market, and there’s bound to be one or two that fit your dietary needs. Once again, labels are your friend.
  • If you need more information, you can always consult with your doctor or a nutritionist on how to up your B12 intake in a manner that works for you.

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Sources:
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“Vegetarian Vitamin B12 Sources,” Oldways; http://oldwayspt.org/programs/oldways-vegetarian-network/oldways-vegetarian-network-resources/vegetarian-vitamin-b12-food, last accessed February 16, 2017.
“Vitamin B-12 Foods for Vegetarians,” SFGate; http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/vitamin-b12-foods-vegetarians-3893.html, last accessed February 16, 2017.
“B12,” Vegan Health, http://veganhealth.org/b12/vegansources, last accessed February 16, 2017.
Cicero, K., “9 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough B12,” Prevention, November 6, 2015; http://www.prevention.com/health/signs-of-b12-deficiency, last accessed February 16, 2017.
Christian Nordqvist, C., “What is Vitamin B12?” Medical News Today, September 1, 2016; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/219822.php, last accessed February 16, 2017.
Wlassoff, V., “Vitamin B12 Deficiency and its Neurological Consequences,” Brain Blogger, July 30, 2014; http://brainblogger.com/2014/07/30/vitamin-b12-deficiency-and-its-neurological-consequences/, last accessed February 16, 2017.