The Facts of Vitamin B12: How to Get B12 on a Plant Based Diet

How to get B12 on a plant based diet

The one issue people on a plant based diet face is the lack of B12 from their food, in today’s society B12 is naturally found in animal products, such as meat, fish, eggs, chicken, and milk and is generally not present in plant foods.

But a new recent study has found that since 2004 9.7 Million Americans have turned to a plant based diet, that is a 300% increase and is equivalent to 3% of the US population.

But this trend is also prevalent in other countries as according to the Vegan Society, and based on a 2018 study, there are now approximately 600,000 vegans in the UK. So how are all these people obtaining their B12?

First, let’s break things down.

Plant based breakdown:

According to the Cambridge dictionary plant based is a diet ‘consisting or made entirely of plants or mainly of plants’

The diet can consist of fruit, vegetables, plants, seeds, nuts, grains and it refrains from including any animal products or by products, this includes the exclusion of all forms of dairy, eggs and even honey.

Veganism refers to a person who is plant based but they also do not wear or use and form of animal products which includes products tested on animals also

B12 breakdown:

B12 is a nutrient that plays an essential role in the production and formation of your red blood cells and DNA, as well as the proper functioning of your nervous system, If sufficient B12 is not absorbed in the digestive system, it can sometimes lead to a condition called pernicious anaemia, which is a form of megaloblastic anemia (which can make people tired and weak).

So the lack of B12 can affect the quality of red blood cells being produced, leading to reduced overall function and could lead to long term nerve damage.

B12 origins:

There is a misconception that B12 comes from eating animals, well that may be the case for humans, but B12 is actually a bacteria based, and it is synthesized by bacteria and is typically found in dirt and soil Before our drinking water and fruits started to become fortified, we used to obtain all of our B12 from the bacteria in dirt. And this is exactly how the animals you eat obtain their B12.

How much B12 do you need:

The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends a daily dosage of 2.4 micrograms per day for ages 14 years and older, and 2.6 micrograms for pregnant and breastfeeding females, But according to renowned plant based advocate and critical care physician Dr Milton Mills MD states that 1 micro gram a day of B12 is sufficient.

Plant based B12 Sources:

Fortified Cereal

Cereal isn’t usually known for being healthy but consuming cereal fortified with B12 can actually help increase our B12 levels.

In one study, volunteers were given one cup of cereal (240ml) of fortified cereal, which contained 4.8 micro grams of B12 each day for a span of 14 weeks, they concluded that ‘in this relatively healthy group of volunteers, consumption of 1 cup fortified breakfast cereal daily significantly increased B vitamin.

Nutritional Yeast

B12 is not naturally prevalent in nutritional yeast so please check labeling accordingly but 2 tablespoons (16 grams) of fortified nutritional yeast provide can 7.8 micrograms of vitamin B12. That IS 130% of the RDI. One study added nutritional yeast to the diets of raw-food vegans and found it increased vitamin B12 blood levels and helped reduce blood markers of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Non Dairy Milk

Soy milk can actually increase your recommended daily intake (RDI), as one cup (240 ml) of milk contains 2.6 mcg of vitamin B12, this increases your intake by 45 percent.


Oddly enough and you either love it or hate it but this spread is jam packed with vitamin B12 A 4g serving will give you 0.6 micrograms of B12 It is essential to read the labels on all of these foods, as some may not be fortified with vitamin B12.

Other sources

B12 also can be used in the form of a daily spray tablets, capsules with injections also readily available.

Potential new source:

Recent Breakthrough In 2018, scientists at the University of Kent, led by Professor Martin Warren, ‘has proved that common garden cress can indeed take up cobalamin’ (also known as B12) By fortifying the cress’ growth medium with B12, they found that the vitamin went up through the stems and ended up in the leaves. Before this discovery it was thought that plants did and could not produce B12.

And researchers at Parabel, Say They Have Discovered Vitamin B12 In Water Lentils.

The US-based producer of plant protein ingredients, say their duckweed (water lentils), which are similar to water lilies, has approximately 750 percent of the RDV of vitamin B12.

These breakthroughs could signal new plant based B12 sources being readily available, thus giving those deficient in B12 more options.


Whether you are vegan or not, B12 deficiency is not rare and is very common. as research from 2008 conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Tufts University, stated that 40% of the US population is deficient in vitamin B12.

Dr. David Rosenblatt, co author on a study from 2012, published in the journal Nature Genetics, stated that they ‘found that a second transport protein was involved in the uptake of the vitamin into the cells, thus providing evidence of another cause of hereditary vitamin B12 deficiency.

“It is also the first description of a new genetic disease associated with how vitamin B12 is handled by the body.”

If this gene, if not functioning properly, then it would affect the upkeep of the B12 transportation process and lead to deficiency.

Adults over the age of 50 are typically advised to take supplemental B12 as their absorption levels diminish (due to a drop in acid production in the stomach), and even for the meat eaters who are younger in age, the B12 in meat is actually bound to animal protein thus making it difficult to absorb, so an alternative source easier to absorb may be better suited.

So lacking B12 is not just a plant based and vegan problem but is also a problem for meat eaters alike, so whatever your dietary needs may be supplementing B12 would seem to be beneficial for all


Mehmet Edip
Mehmet Edip is a fitness writer, actor, and model who has worked in the industry for over 8 years. He focuses on achieving his physique through an all natural plant-based diet and shares his insight via his workout & nutrition guides.