It's essential that all vegan diets contain a reliable source of vitamin B12. This nutrient is needed to help speed up reactions in your body, and deficiency can cause anaemia and nervous system damage.
Sources of vitamin B12
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:
- Fortified foods:
- Vitamin B12 is added to some alternatives to milk products, vegan spreads, nutritional yeast flakes, yeast extracts and breakfast cereals
- Eat these foods at least twice a day
- Aim for a daily intake of at least 3mcg (micrograms)
- Supplements: take either at least 10mcg daily or at least 2000mcg weekly
This might seem like a lot of vitamin B12 in comparison to the daily intake of 1.5mcg recommended for 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.
You may notice that 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 VEG 1, providing reliable intakes of vitamins B12 and D, iodine and selenium.
Please discuss supplements with a health professional to help ensure that they are suitable for you.
Want to know more? Here is an open letter about vitamin B12 endorsed by health professionals and vegan organisations.
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