not had a regular source of vitamin B 12 for some time, we recommend taking 2,000 micrograms every day for two weeks before beginning the regular supplementation schedule as follows. To meet your vitamin B 12 requirements on a vegan diet do any one of the following: • Consume two servings per day of fortified foods providing 1.5 to 2.5 micrograms of vitamin B 12 each. • Take a daily vitamin B 12 supplement of at least 25 micrograms (25 to 100 micrograms is a good range). • Take a supplement of 1,000 micrograms of vitamin B 12 three times a week.
GETTING B 12 FROM FORTIFIED FOODS Plant foods are reliable sources of active vitamin B 12 only if they are fortified with the vitamin. On food labels, the Daily Value for vitamin B 12 is 6 micrograms. So if a food provides 25 percent of the Daily Value, it contains 1.5 micrograms. Nutritional yeast is a popular choice with many vegans. Its cheesyyeasty flavor is great mixed into bean and grain dishes or sprinkled over popcorn. Nutritional yeast is grown on a nutrient-rich culture and contains only the nutrients that are in that culture. So don’t assume that every type of nutritional yeast is a good source of vitamin B 12 . Red Star brand Vegetarian Support Formula is a good vitamin B 12 –rich choice that is widely available, often in the bulk food section of natural foods markets. Brewer’s yeast is a by-product of beer making and is not a good source of vitamin B 12 . Neither is the active yeast used in bread making. VITAMIN B 12 CONTENT OF FORTIFIED VEGAN FOODS
Food Vitamin B12 Content (µg) Nutritional yeast, Vegetarian Support Formula, 1 tablespoon 4.0 Veggie “meat” analogues, fortified 1.0–3.0 (varies by brand) Soymilk, fortified, 1 cup 1.2–2.9 (varies by brand) Protein bar, fortified 1.0–2.0 (varies by brand) Marmite yeast extract, 1 teaspoon 0.9
VITAMIN B 12 FACTS • The vitamin B 12 in supplements comes from bacterial cultures never from animal products.
• B 12 pills should be chewed or allowed to dissolve under the tongue. • Seaweed (e.g., algae, nori, spirulina), brewer’s yeast, tempeh, or “living” vitamin supplements that use plants as a source of B 12 don’t contain any vitamin B 12 or have only inactive analogues. • Neither rainwater nor organically grown, unwashed vegetables are a reliable source of vitamin B 12 . • If you rely on fortified food sources of vitamin B 12 , it is best to have at least two fortified food sources on hand in case a particular batch of a food contains vitamin B 12 that is somehow damaged. Do not rely solely on one type of fortified food. • About 2 percent of older people can’t absorb B 12 . This disease is called pernicious anemia . Being vegan has nothing to do with this condition, but if you are supplementing regularly with vitamin B 12 and still suspect that you have symptoms of vitamin B 12 deficiency, such as extreme fatigue or neurological problems, then by all means get your B 12 levels tested. Pernicious anemia is treated with vitamin B 12 injections.
IS A VEGAN DIET NATURAL? It wouldn’t be right to ignore the four-hundred-pound gorilla in the room, so let’s ask the obvious question: Since vitamin B 12 is not found in plant foods and vegans must take supplements, doesn’t that make a vegan diet unnatural? Many vegans have bent over backwards to convince themselves and others that humans evolved as vegans and that supplemental vitamin B 12 is only needed because we have moved so far away from our natural environment. But there is a tremendous amount of evidence that humans evolved eating some animal products. While B 12 is not needed in large amounts, it may take more than can be picked up from unwashed produce to sustain optimal levels. That’s especially true during pregnancy and lactation, when a woman needs to consume enough B 12 for her own needs and to pass on to her baby.
In fact, adding small amounts of animal products to the diet has been shown not to cure B 12