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B Vitamins for Vegans

Megan Roosevelt

Posted on February 21 2014

Megan Roosevelt, RD, LD, “Healthy Grocery Girl®”

Supplementing is a hot topic! Specifically one of the most popular questions pertaining to a vegan diet is, “Should I take a B12 supplement?” My first suggestion is to always check and see if you are deficient in any nutrient. Visit your primary care provider to complete testing. If you are deficient, than a supplement would be wise. I also recommend striving to improve your diet, and making this the first priority!

Let’s Chat B Vitamins

First of all, why do we need B vitamins?

B Vitamins Support:

  • Forming and maintaining healthy red blood cells and nerve cells
  • To make DNA, the genetic material in our body cells
  • Think of B vitamins as your energy vitamins!

Symptoms of B Vitamin Deficiency are:

  • Anemia which can result in feeling fatigued, difficulty breathing, and poor resistance to infections
  • Nerve damage
  • Constipation, loss of appetite, depression and poor memory

Consuming a diet that includes a variety of foods will generally provide the average healthy person with what they need in terms of the B vitamins.

Helpful foods for a vegan (or anyone!) to put in the grocery cart to cover all the B basics include:

  • Thiamin (B1): brewer’s yeast, whole enriched grains, and nuts
  • Riboflavin (B2): broccoli, green leafy veggies, enriched cereals and products and legumes
  • Niacin (B3): enriched grains/cereals, peanuts, seeds, and legumes
  • Biotin: brewers yeast, peanut butter, legumes, nuts, and whole grains
  • Pantothenic acid (B5): found in almost all foods, in particular; avocado, bran, broccoli, whole grains, legumes, and mushrooms
  • B6: whole grains, legumes, nuts, bananas, and potatoes
  • Folate: lentils, black beans, spinach, broccoli, and sunflower seeds
  • Choline: quinoa and broccoli in particular but found in small amounts in many foods
  • B12: Fortified cereal, brewer’s (nutritional) yeast, you may need to supplement with B12
  • B12 Supplement Sources: When choosing a supplement, it’s important to know that not all supplements or sources of B12 are the same.

When reading the nutrition label here is what to look for…

  • Choose: Methylcobalamin
  • Avoid: Cobalamin  
  • *Cobalamin is not as absorbed into our body and therefore you should not choose it.

Also check for a USP seal, a GMP (Guaranteed Compliance Products), or consumer lab seal to help verify the quality of the supplement. All vitamin supplements should be in a container that is dark or shields the supplement from light. Light will damage the vitamin.

Consuming a B12 supplement is good insurance, however supplements should never replace consuming real whole-foods. We all know that we cannot consume a supplement, yet continue to eat poorly if we want to see results. 

Supplementing Safety Concerns: 

Can you have too much? Although overdose is doable, it’s rare that this may happen with water-soluble vitamins as appose to fat-soluble vitamins. B vitamins are water-soluble which means that our body will not accumulate this vitamin if we consume too much, rather, we pee it out! The vitamins we do need to be more cautious of are the vitamins A, D, E and K, as they are the fat-soluble (storing).

A Few Recommendations! 

  • Deva Vegan Sublingual B12
  • Healthy Grocery Girl Plant Protein Powder contains B vitamins, making it easy to consume in a daily smoothie

*Both recommendations use Methylcobalamin as the B12 source



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