Vitamin B12 is a vital vitamin that helps the body produce red blood cells, synthesize DNA and ensure proper nerve function. When you do not have enough of this vitamin, you may experience anemia, weakness, fatigue, numbness, dizziness, cognitive issues, loss of appetite, digestive problems and oral problems. Those who are elderly, have gastrointestinal disorders and follow a vegan diet are at an increased risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B12 is found in animal products, including meat, dairy and eggs. Unfortunately, it does not occur naturally in any plants. Eating fortified foods and taking a vitamin B12 supplement will help you get the amount of this all-important nutrient. Let's take a look at which foods will help you get enough vitamin B12 without eating meat.
1. Barley grass – Barley grass contains a plethora of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, magnesium and iron. It has been used for centuries as a food as well as a natural remedy to aid in inflammation, blood issues and liver problems.
2. Fortified breakfast cereals – Fortified cereals that are low in sugar, such as Kashi Heart to Heart and Cheerios, contain 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin B12. These cereals do not have to be reserved for breakfast. You can enjoy a snack of fortified breakfast cereal throughout the day to help keep your vitamin B12 levels in check.
3. Fortified soymilk – Although soybeans do not naturally contain vitamin B12, many soymilk products are fortified with this vitamin to help strict vegetarians and vegans receive the recommended daily value of vitamin B12. Look for an unsweetened fortified soymilk that provides the recommended amount of vitamin B12 in one cup of fortified soymilk.
4. Kombucha – Kombucha is a beverage made by fermenting tea with bacteria and yeast cultures. These cultures create a nutritional powerhouse for those who do not consume animal products. It contains high levels of B vitamins, including vitamin B12. Because kombucha is a liquid, you can easily absorb the vitamin B12 in this delicious fermented tea.
5. Nori – Nori is purple seaweed sheets used to make sushi rolls. According to the National Institutes of Health, in order to maximize the vitamin B12 contained in nori, one must not season and toast the nori as the toasting process destroys it. The study went on to determine that Korean purple seaweed is an excellent source of active vitamin B12 for strict vegetarians and vegans who do not consume any type of animal products.
6. Nutritional yeast – Nutritional yeast looks and tastes similar to Parmesan cheese; however, it does not contain any animal products. It can be sprinkled over salads, added to soups or used as a garnish over roasted vegetables or popcorn.
7. Probiotics – Did you know that increasing the beneficial bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract can help increase your vitamin B12 levels? The bacteria in probiotics can actually produce the vitamin B12 that your body needs for healthy blood cells, DNA synthesis and healthy nerves. Taking a probiotic supplement increases the beneficial bacteria in the body. When probiotics are combined with vegan approved vitamin B12 supplements and fermented foods, you can lower the risk of its deficiency.
8. Shiitake mushrooms – The National Institutes of Health reports that vitamin B12 is found in shiitake mushrooms. In order to get the daily recommended allowance, a vegan would need to eat 50 grams of dried shiitake mushrooms. Many people will think it is impossible to eat this amount of mushrooms each day; however, adding it to soups, salads and stuffing can help fulfill your vitamin B12 requirements.
9. Spirulina – Spirulina is an algae that contains methylcobalamin, the biologically active form of vitamin B12. Because it is easily absorbed, it can provide vegans and strict vegetarians with the vitamin B12 that they need for optimal health.
10. Tempeh – Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. The microorganisms found in tempeh naturally produce vitamin B12. It is important to remember that not all brands of tempeh will contain vitamin B12 producing microorganisms; therefore, it is essential that you read labels closely. Although finding a product that produces this vitamin will increase your vitamin B12 and fiber, you should not rely on it solely.
Vitamin B12 occurs naturally in animal products like meats, eggs and dairy products. Those who follow a vegan diet will need to find ways to ensure they are getting the recommended daily amount of this vitamin without eating meat. Along with taking a B-12 supplement, vegans can get this important nutrient by consuming fortified foods, probiotics and fermented foods.