Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble micronutrient that is essential for human body functions. Unlike the other vitamins, vitamin B12 requirement per day is comparatively low. Vitamin B12 foods that you consume should contain the sufficient average intake of B12 for a healthy individual which is 2.4 mcg approximately. However, this amount is slightly higher for pregnant and lactating mothers.
Vitamin B12 helps human for DNA health, red blood cell production, as well as proper function of nerve cells.
Vitamin B12 foods
Most common natural sources of Vitamin B12 are animal products such as fish, clams, meat, eggs and milk. So, if you consume a balanced diet including these animal products, you can fulfill your Vitamin B12 requirement without effort.
But, unfortunately for vegans and vegetarians’ plant-based foods do not contain B12. However, fortified foods like breakfast cereals, plant milks, and some nutritional yeast contain vitamin B12 in amounts sufficient to fulfil the daily requirements. Other than that, certain dietary supplements also contain vitamin B12. So, vegetarians and vegans need to pay extra attention to make sure they are getting enough B12 intake in order to avoid B12 deficiency.
Sources of Vitamin B12 for vegetarians and lacto-ovo vegetarians
Vitamin B12 foods are limited for vegans. While foods fortified with Vitamin B12 contains a sufficient amounts of it, there are certain other foods which contains small amounts of Vitamin B12 naturally. Here are some foods which vegans can easily incorporate into their diet to fulfill vitamin B12 requirement.
1. Nutritional Yeast
It is made by taking yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and culturing it for a few days before deactivating it. Nutritional yeast can be found in powder, granule or flake forms. It has a cheesy flavor, most closely resembling parmesan cheese. One tablespoon of 100% fortified nutritional yeast provides 2.4mcg of vitamin B12. Nutritional yeast is the most cost-effective dietary source of vitamin B12 and it has a long shelf life even if it’s stored at room temperature. Some European countries call it ‘laver’.
Mushrooms can also provide a significant amount of vitamin B12. Some mushrooms like shiitake (Lentinula edodes), Black trumpet (Craterellus cornucopioides), golden chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius), porcini mushrooms (Boletus sp.), parasol mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera) oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) and black morels (Morchella conica) contain vitamin B12.
Dried shiitake mushrooms are the best source of vitamin B12 as it contains an average 5.61 mcg per 100 grams. Black trumpet and golden chanterelle contain 1.09-2.65 mcg per 100 grams. Other mushrooms contain a maximum of 0.09 mcg per 100 grams.
Researches state 50g of dried shiitake mushrooms could provide the RDA of 2.4 micrograms. But it is advisable to consider twice before taking that much of mushrooms per day since it could create stomach aches and digestive discomfort for some peoples.
3. Nori/ Seaweed
Nori is popular in most Asian diets. It is the Japanese name for dried edible seaweed sheets (dried purple leave). This is available in different qualities and grades ranging from very cheap to very expensive and from raw to toasted. You will need to toast it if you buy raw varieties of nori. Although nori is rich in vitamins and minerals, it contains comparatively lower amount of Vitamin B12.
4. Non-dairy milk (Almond milk & Soy milk)
Almond milk is a plant-based alternative to cow’s milk. It is a drink which is made from grounds almond and water. Some brands of almond milk are fortified with vitamin B12.
Normally one cup of fortified soy milk contains 1-3 grams of vitamin B12. But be sure to check the nutritional label when buying the products since vitamin content may differ with the brands.
Tempeh is a soy product that is made from fermented soybeans. A bacterial species produces a little amount of Vitamin B12 during the fermentation process when making the tempeh. The USDA nutrient database reports that 100 grams of tempeh contains 0.08mcg of vitamin B12.
Eggs are naturally high in vitamin B12. Compared to milk and meat, eggs are the most concentrated source of vitamin B12. Egg yolk have higher vitamin B12 than egg white. In addition, human body can easily absorb the form of Vitamin B12 that is available in the egg yolk. Two large eggs (100 grams) contain approximately 46% of the daily value of vitamin B12.
Caviar (Fish eggs) is a good sources of vitamin B12 and it can provide 10 times more of this vitamin than chicken eggs. Duck eggs contain vitamin B12, but it is also very high in cholesterol. Apart from that, Quail eggs also contain a tiny amount of vitamin B12.
7. Milk and dairy products
Cheese and non-fat yoghurt are rich in vitamin B12. One cup (240ml) of each contains 58% of recommended dietary allowance. Non-fat milk provides 1.2mcg of vitamin B12 per cup and a cup of whole milk contain 1.1mcg of vitamin B12.
Studies have shown that the human body can absorb the vitamin B12 in milk and dairy products better than vitamin B12 in egg, fish or beef.