This week I am continuing to look at micronutrients. The next one is Vitamin B12 which is crucial for health but particularly difficult for vegans to consume in their diet as it is found in animal products.This nutrient is needed to help speed up reactions in your body. Deficiency can cause anaemia and nervous system damage. Sub optimum levels are also linked to potential risk of heart disease or pregnancy complications.
Vitamin B12 is made by micro-organisms and isn’t produced by plants. Fortified foods and supplements are the only proven reliable sources for vegans:If aiming to get from food, the vegan society recommends that you should have 3 mcg per day from fortified foods:Vitamin B12 is added to some alternatives to milk products, soy products, vegan spreads, nutritional yeast flakes, yeast extracts and breakfast cereals. You can check the amount per serving on the back of the pack. Aim for a daily intake of at least 3 mcg (micrograms), spread over several sittings. For example if a serving of fortified plant milk contains 1 microgram of B12 per serving then consuming three servings a day will provide adequate vitamin B12. Some of the fortified foods that my son has regularly are Marigold Savoury Engevita yeast flakes, which can be added to soups and casseroles to improve their flavour. A teaspoon contains 2.2 mcg B12. It also contains other B vitamins plus some iron and zinc. 100ml Oatly Oat milk has 0.4 mcg B12, a serving or Cheerios has 2.9 mcg and a teaspoon of Marmite has 0.5mcg.
Some vegans may prefer to supplement. The advice is to take either at least 10mcg daily or at least 2000 mcg weekly.This might seem like a lot of vitamin B12 in comparison to the daily intake of 1.5 mcg recommended for non-vegan adults in the UK. However, these recommendations are safe, and will help to ensure that you are getting enough. Your body absorbs vitamin B12 more efficiently in frequent small amounts, so the less frequently you consume it, the more you need. No upper limits have been set for vitamin B12 intakes because no toxic effects have been identified.There are supplements containing different types of vitamin B12. Cyanocobalamin is recommended, mainly because it is the most stable type. Your body converts it to the two active forms of vitamin B12, which are methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin.
The Vegan Society markets a daily vitamin and mineral supplement designed for vegans called VEG1 providing reliable intakes of vitamins B12 and D, iodine and selenium. You can also get good B12 supplements from Biocare or Higher nature. You may choose to have it in a liquid form or in a complex with the other B vitamins.