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How to Get B12 as a Vegetarian? Tips for a Balanced Diet

How to Get B12 as a Vegetarian

Did you know that two out of three people who follow a vegetarian diet suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency? Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin is one of nutrients that vegetarian or vegan diet plans often deprive you of. That’s because it is commonly derived only from animal sources, i.e., meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.

Vitamin B12 is crucial for the formation and division of red blood cells and the synthesis of DNA. It protects nerve cells, improves brain health, and boosts sleep, mood, and energy. So, you need to incorporate this vitamin into your diet for your wellbeing.

You might be planning to quit meat soon - or have already adopted a vegetarian lifestyle. Read more about Vitamin B12 and find out how to get the required daily dose of it while on a vegetarian diet.

Key Takeaways

  • Vitamin B12 is essential for brain health, blood cell formation and division, nerve cells, etc.
  • Vitamin B12 is mainly derived from animal-based products, including dairy and eggs, which can be eaten by vegetarians.
  • For a plant-based or vegan diet, the most reliable sources of Vitamin B12 are fortified foods and supplements.

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Related: What Does a Vegetarian Eat for Breakfast? 10 Healthy Ideas

Sources of B12 for Vegetarians

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If you are not a meat eater, you can still include foods that can help you get vitamin B12 and avoid problems like anemia, neurological disorders, depression, sleep issues, etc. Here are some sources of Vitamin B12 that vegetarians can incorporate into their daily plans:

1. Eggs

Vitamin B12 Content - 0.6 mcg (25% of DV - Daily Value)

One hard-boiled egg is a rich source of Vitamin B12, protein, and other micronutrients. You can boil, poach, or scramble eggs and make omelets, quiches, frittatas, or other dishes.

2. Dairy Products

Vitamin B12 Content

** Low-Fat Milk** 1 cup 1.2 mcg 50% of DV
Low-Fat Yogurt 8 oz 1.1 mcg 46% of DV
**Swiss Cheese ** 1 oz 0.9 mcg 38% of DV
Whey Powder 1 tbsp 0.2 mcg 7% of DV

Source: NIH

Dairy products are readily available as great sources of vitamin B12 for a vegetarian. Low-fat variants are healthy Cobalamin sources and are easy to add to any meal of the day.

### 3. Plant Sources

Some vegetables and fruits contain Vitamin B12. But the amount is quite low. Plus, there are very few studies to back their potential as a reliable source of Cobalamin. Nevertheless, you can add the following to your meals, salads, and snacks:

  1. Alfalfa
  2. Apple
  3. Banana
  4. Beet
  5. Blueberry
  6. Butternut Squash
  7. Mushroom (Shiitake mushroom, in particular)
  8. Nori
  9. Orange
  10. Potato

4. Fortified Foods

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Fortification is the process of introducing micronutrients into foods. Fortified foods are among the only vegan Cobalamin-rich foods. They can be easily added to your daily diet. Some popular fortified foods with Vitamin B12 are:

  • Nutritional yeast
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Grains and flour
  • Cooking oil
  • Iodized salt
  • Fruit/vegetable juice
  • Tofu
  • Soy milk
  • Tempeh

Of these, nutritional yeast is popularly used as vegan cheese and sprinkled on salads, curries, pasta, etc. It has the highest Cobalamin amount, as mentioned below:

100% Fortified Nutritional Yeast 1 tbsp 2.4 mcg 100% of DV

Many breakfast cereal varieties can cater to 25% of the Daily Value. The remaining items on the list only have Cobalamin when fortified. So check the amount of Vitamin B12 in any fortified foods marked on the list of nutrients available on the product's packaging.

5. Vitamin Water (Energy Drink)

Vitamin Water is an energy drink that contains vitamin B12. It is considered a healthier choice compared to other energy drinks or soda. However, remember that it is loaded with fructose and sugar - and you should not consume it regularly.

## Vitamin Supplements for Vegetarians

Another sure-shot way to provide your body with sufficient vitamin B12 is by taking vitamin supplements. These supplements are loaded with Cobalamin from microbial sources. You can consult your physician, who can prescribe you the right vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 supplements come in different forms, and you can choose them based on your health conditions, deficiency level, and convenience:

- Oral capsules, pills, or gummies - These are readily available to be consumed by swallowing. But they may adversely affect people with digestive issues. - Sublingual tablets - These are placed under the tongue to be melted. And the nutrient is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. - Intramuscular injections - These are administered by healthcare professionals for fast and effective results if you’re severely deficient. But they are expensive. - Nasal sprays - These supplements are in liquid form and are administered through the nose for quick and safe results.

It is also to be noted that vitamin B12 is available in four forms

  • Methylcobalamin ((MeCbl) - Naturally present in eggs and dairy
  • Adenosylcobalamin (AdCbl) - Present in commercial products
  • Hydroxocobalamin (OHCbl) - Present in commercial products
  • Cyanocobalamin (CNCbl) - Synthetic form present in supplements and fortified foods

While buying supplements, fortified foods, and commercial products with vitamin B12, it is better to be careful about CNCbl. That's because human tissues retain less CNCbl and excrete it quickly through urination. This delivers lower efficiency.

Plus, CNCbl is attached to the cyanide group, which can be a matter of concern, especially for smokers. If you smoke regularly, the thiocyanate level in your blood can interfere with CNCbl’s metabolism and lead to cyanide buildup in your body over time

## How to Ensure Adequate B12 Intake for Healthy Living

The recommended daily requirement of vitamin B12 is as follows:

Babies (6 months or less) 0.4 mcg per day
Infants (7-12 months) 0.5 mcg per day
Toddlers (1-3 years) 0.9 mcg per day
Children (4-8 years) 1.2 mcg per day
Pre-Teen Childen (9-13 years) 1.8 mcg per day
Teenagers (14 years and above) 2.4 mcg per day
Pregnant Individuals 2.6 mcg per day
Lactating Individuals 2.8 mcg per day

You can ensure the above by consuming fortified foods, dairy, and eggs multiple times daily. You can also add vitamin B12 supplements to meet your daily or weekly requirements. For that, you must consult a doctor who will likely recommend a test.

While the serum B12 test is most commonly used for screening vitamin B12 deficiency, it may not be adequate. Studies show that its rate of identifying deficiency cases is low. Other screening tests include Plasma tHcy, Plasma MMA, and Urinary MMA.

If these tests reveal high values of the above, they indicate Cobalamin deficiency. You may need to get tested regularly to monitor the Cobalamin level in your body and how dietary changes affect it. You may also need a folate test to check for anemia.

Related: Going Green: Vegan Vs Vegetarian Vs Pescetarian

How to Get B12 as a Vegetarian FAQs

Q: How do you get vitamin B12 naturally?

A: If you want to consume vitamin B12 from natural sources, you should add more foods of animal origin to your diet. Meat, fish, eggs, and dairy are the best sources of vitamin B12. Additionally, you can pick fortified foods that contain added vitamin B12.

Q: What are the B12 deficiency symptoms among vegans?

A: The symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are tiredness, weakness, constipation, and nausea. Serious and long-term symptoms are numbness and tingling sensations in hands and feet, balance problems, memory issues, and depression. Vegans are more prone to vitamin B12 deficiency as this vitamin is primarily present in animal sources.

Q: What are the common vitamin B12 myths about vegan diet plans?

A: Many self-proclaimed experts claim that vegans get vitamin B12 through the natural bacteria in the mouth and don’t need supplements. They promote that B12 can come from soil if you don’t wash your veggies. But these are myths. If you follow a vegan diet, add supplements and fortified foods to your diet.

Q: What foods are high in B12 for vegetarians?

A: If you follow a vegetarian diet and eat foods sourced from animals, dairy and eggs are excellent sources of vitamin B12. So make sure to add these to your diet to get B12 naturally. Fortified foods are also good for a vegetarian diet. You can also eat some veggies like nori sheets and shiitake mushrooms.

Q: What vitamin B12-rich vegetables and fruits should you eat?

A: Vitamin B12-rich vegetables include alfalfa, beet, butternut squash, nori, potato, and shiitake mushrooms. Fruits with vitamin B12 include apple, banana, blueberry, and orange. These fruits and vegetables naturally contain small amounts of vitamin B12.

Q: What foods should you add to your vitamin B12 foods list?

A: Foods rich in vitamin B12 are animal meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. If you are a vegetarian, you can only consume eggs and dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. If you follow a vegan diet, you must add fortified foods like cereals, soy milk, etc. Here’s a list that you can use before you go shopping.

Q: Is there vitamin B12 in nuts and seeds?

A: No, there is no vitamin B12 in nuts and seeds. Very few plant-based foods contain B12 naturally, and the few fruits and vegetables that do have it contain extremely low amounts. However, nuts and seeds are rich in many other nutrients essential for your body.

Q: Can you get B12 as a vegetarian?

A: As a vegetarian, you can get vitamin B12 from eggs and dairy products. Fortified foods formulated with added vitamin B12 are also essential additions to a vegetarian diet plan. While some vegetables and fruits have small amounts of this vitamin, you should consume them, as well.

Q: How can I increase my B12 naturally?

A: If you want to increase your vitamin B12 naturally, you should add more animal-sourced foods to your daily meals. When you are on a vegetarian diet with no animal proteins, you should try to include milk and eggs. Apart from these, supplements and fortified foods are your purely vegetarian B12 sources.

Q: How can vegans get B12 naturally?

A: For vegans, getting vitamin B12 naturally can be quite challenging. That’s because there are only a few, usually, high-protein vegetables and fruits with this vitamin, and the quantity is very low. Vegans need B12 supplements and fortified foods to get enough Cobalamin.

Related: What Is Lacto-Vegetarian? Diet, Benefits & Meal Plans

Final Words: Improve Your Vitamin B12 Intake Before It’s Late

Vitamin B12 deficiency usually leads to tingling, difficulties in walking, weakness, sweating, blurred vision, and other symptoms. But if you are a vegetarian or have just become vegan, it is best not to wait for such symptoms to develop.

Instead, start making changes to your life immediately. Talk to your physician to find the right dose of Cobalamin that you need. Then, consult a nutritionist to know which foods and supplements you must consume to maintain a healthy vitamin B12 level.