The foods we eat are important. The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ has often been used forever in an attempt to get picky children to try new vegetables and healthy snacks. Making sure that you get the most out of your nutrition is essential, and Vitamin B12 is one of the most vital nutrients that the human body needs. Vitamin B12 is needed for making red blood cells, keeping your nervous system healthy, helping to release energy obtained from food, and enabling the use of folate (a different kind of B vitamin). Deficiency of this vital vitamin can cause lethargy, osteoporosis, fatigue, dementia, weight loss, constipation, tingling and numbness, memory problems, and mouth ulcers, amongst other things.
Pernicious anaemia can also result from a lack of Vitamin B12. For people who don’t eat animal products, it can be difficult to get all the Vitamin B12 we need from our diet alone. Plant-based foods containing B12 are usually fortified as naturally occurring B12 has been diminished by certain agricultural processes and practices. This is why many plant-based products are fortified with B12. You can find out more about what B12 is and what it does by reading this article.
A lot of people believe that meat and dairy are the only ways to get Vitamin B12, but that’s not entirely true. A lot of animals are supplemented with B12 to ensure that the ‘end product’ contains higher levels of B12. If you’re looking to cut down on animal products, but want to ensure that you’re not missing out on B12, here are some plant-based sources you can look to:
Fortified Cereals: Many plant-based cereals are fortified with B12 as a way to incorporate more of this essential nutrient into our diets, plant-based or not! A bowl of cereal with a fortified plant-milk can see you on your way to reaching your daily vitamin goals by breakfast!
Yeast, and Yeast Extract: Another favourite breakfast in my house is toast smothered in a certain well known brand of yeast extract, occasionally with some peanut butter thrown in for good measure. Yeast extract contains naturally occurring B12, and is quite often fortified with a little more. If yeast extract isn’t your thing, then you might want to think about nutritional yeast! This amazing product might look a little like fish food, but it adds a wonderful cheesy, nutty flavour to dishes, while also giving you a good boost of nutrition. I like adding it to popcorn for a really savoury flavour.
Tofu and Tempeh: These are absolute staples of a plant-based diet, and they can be a great source of B12. The levels of B12 does differ between brands, depending on the levels of fortification, so do check your product packaging to make sure you’re getting B12 in your tofu. Plus, it’s so very versatile. I could go on about tofu for a long time. Tempeh too, to be honest, but let’s move on, shall we?!
Fortified plant milks and spreads: Many plant-based milks, drinks and spreads are fortified with B12. Choosing your plant milk and spreads based on their nutritional value can mean a good boost to your daily vitamin intake.
Nori: Now, this is one that I was completely unaware of! Studies have suggested that nori, a type of sea vegetable which you’ll be familiar with if you eat sushi, might be the most suitable source of Vitamin B12 for people who don’t eat animal products. Not only does it contain B12, it also contains other nutrients that are minimal in a plant-based diet, such as iron and certain fatty acids. All the more reason to go for vegan sushi!
A note on supplementation: Whilst this article gives an indication of the plant-based products you can use to boost your Vitamin B12 intake, you would have to eat a lot of them to achieve the recommended daily amount. For a lot of us, supplementation is a great way to ensure that we meet our daily requirements. This can be in multinutrient form, it can come in greens powders, or in liquid supplementation. For me, I love the flavour of Vivo Life’s Vegan B12 liquid supplement, mainly because it reminds me of orange candy!