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What Are Plant Food Sources of Vitamin B12?

Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on November 24, 2021

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is an important nutrient that strengthens your body's blood cells. It also nourishes your nerve cells and helps keep them healthy.

B12 also assists in the formation of DNA. 

Vitamin B12 can also help prevent several blood conditions, such as megaloblastic anemia, a condition that makes you feel tired and weak all the time. All of this makes vitamin B12 a crucial element in your diet.

Bodily processes aided by the presence of B12 include:

  • Red blood cells formation and division
  • Nervous system protection
  • DNA synthesis
  • Nourishment of the body

Animal products, including dairy products, are the primary source of vitamin B12.  Plants can also be a source of vitamin B12, giving vegetarians plenty of options.

What Are Plant Food Sources of Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 from plants is available from a variety of sources, including nutritional yeast, fortified foods, cereals, mushrooms, and some algae. These vegetarian sources of vitamin B12 are an excellent way for vegans to include the nutrient in their diets.

Fortified Foods

Cereals are a fortified food rich in vitamin B12 and can give you a filling and energizing start to the day. 

Most cereals contain 25% of the Suggested Daily Value (DV) of B12 per serving, but some may have a little more or less than that. You can read the labels of different brands and buy your preferred one. 

Fortified foods provide you with the right amount of daily nutrient intake. They have high bioavailability, which means your body can digest these foods more easily.

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a common source of vitamin B12 for vegans and vegetarians. People eat it as a go-to food that pairs well with a variety of other foods. 

It has a rich combination of cheesy and nutty flavors and adds a flavorful touch to a wide range of meals. You can add nutritional yeast to your cooked meals or even just sprinkle it over a snack.

If you want to try new things with nutritional yeast, you can:

  • Sprinkle it on salads, popcorn, eggs, and tofu.
  • Mix it into cheese sauces or soups.
  • Add it into mashed potatoes or pasta dishes.
  • Stir it in curries.

One tablespoon of 100%-fortified nutritional yeast contains 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B12 (equal to 100% of the DV).

Seaweed/Nori

Seaweed is an alga rich in vitamin B12. It's a common food in Asian countries. It's a key ingredient of sushi and can be eaten separately as well.

Eating 4 grams (g) of dried nori would meet your daily vitamin B12 needs. 

Nori is available in most Asian food markets. You can also order it online.

Shiitake mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are another source of vitamin B12 in plants, but they have a relatively lower vitamin B12 content than other foods. Due to this, you may need to supplement them with other sources of B12.

You'd need to eat about 50 grams of dried shitake mushroom to fulfill your daily vitamin B12 needs.

If you can't eat mushrooms by themselves, you can add them to your everyday cooking for healthy meals. They can enhance the taste and nutritional content of your food. 

Remember to always check the labels or packaging of the foods you buy, as some of these foods may not always have vitamin B12

What Is the Recommended Vitamin B12 Dosage?

According to the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin B-12 is:

  • Babies aged below six months: 0.4 micrograms (mcg) per day
  • Infants aged 7 to 12 months: 0.5 micrograms (mcg) per day
  • Toddlers aged 1 to 3 years: 0.9 micrograms (mcg) per day
  • Children aged 4 to 8 years: 1.2 micrograms (mcg) per day
  • Children aged 9 to 13 years: 1.8 micrograms (mcg) per day
  • Teenagers and adults: 2.4 micrograms (mcg) per day
  • Pregnant women: 2.6 micrograms (mcg) per day
  • Breastfeeding women: 2.8 micrograms (mcg) per day

Why Is Vitamin B12 Important?

A lack of vitamin B-12 can lead to severe consequences. It can cause several health conditions, including:

  • Fatigue, dizziness, weakness
  • Tinnitus (hissing sounds in the ears)
  • Fever
  • Tingling sensations in the hands and feet
  • Sore tongue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Numbness
  • Nerve damage
  • Cloudy vision
  • Frequent sweating
  • Digestive issues
  • Breathlessness
  • Depression, mood swings
  • Memory decline
  • Pale skin

If you have any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with a doctor. They will do some tests to see whether you have a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Show Sources

SOURCES:
Mayo Clinic: "Vitamin B-12."
NHS: "Vitamin B12 or Folate Deficiency Anaemia."
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin B12 - Consumer," "Vitamin B12 - Health Professional."
Nutrients: "Vitamin B12-Containing Plant Food Sources for Vegetarians."

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