Vegan Foods With Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is extremely important for DNA formation and is needed for the maintenance of nerve cells. Vegans need to regularly meet their vitamin B12 requirements to avoid B12 deficiency, which can lead to conditions such as anemia and nerve damage. The vitamin B12 that vegans need to pay particular attention to is not produced by plants but only by certain bacteria.
Vitamin B12 is sensitive to heat and light. During cooking and storage of food, vitamin B12 is partially degraded and loses its biological activity 1. Therefore, the corresponding foods and vegan products should be stored in a dark, cool place, and consumed quickly without heating if possible.
For the table of vitamin B12-rich foods, click here.
Occurrence of Vitamin B12 in Mushrooms
Dried shiitake mushrooms contain an average of 5.61 μg per 100 g of bioavailable vitamin B12, according to studies 2. They also have a very low amount of inactive vitamin B12 that cannot be utilized by the body. However, to meet the daily B12 requirement of 3 μg, one would need to consume 53.5 g of the more expensive dried mushrooms daily.
Cultivated white button mushrooms also provide bioavailable vitamin B12 to the body 3. Additionally, they should be consumed regularly due to their vitamin D content. Mushrooms can also be eaten raw, by the way.
Chanterelle mushrooms contain higher amounts of available vitamin B12, ranging from 1.32 to 2.08 μg per 100 g of dry weight, and black trumpet mushrooms contain 2.55 to 3.94 μg per 100 g 4 According to the study, other mushroom species containing B12 include the common field mushroom with 1.32 μg, porcini mushroom with 0.33 to 0.39 μg, oyster mushroom with 0.22 μg, and morels with 0.12 μg (all values per 100 g of dry weight). Scientists state that 1 kg of mushrooms results in 100 g of dried mushrooms.
Chlorella and nori seaweed as sources of vitamin B12
According to a 2015 study, dried Chlorella freshwater algae contains high levels of Methylcobalamin (Coenzyme B12), which can be effectively utilized by the body 5. According to the results of another study in 2015, Chlorella also contains bioavailable Vitamin B12, providing a natural source for vegans to obtain B12 6. With a daily intake of 9g of Chlorella over an average period of 60 days, 15 out of 17 vegans and vegetarians with vitamin B12 deficiency (Methylmalonic acid levels above 270 nmol/L) were able to significantly reduce their Methylmalonic acid levels by at least 10%. Homocysteine levels decreased, and plasma Vitamin B12 levels increased.
Even sea lettuce and nori contain available vitamin B12 7 8 9 10. Compared to other plant-based foods, they are the absolute leaders with a vitamin B12 content of 63.58 µg and 32.26 µg per 100 g dry weight.
According to recent findings, Spirulina algae also appear to contain a portion of bioavailable vitamin B12 11 12 13. It has not yet been investigated to what extent consuming Spirulina can meet a part of the vitamin B12 requirement. Previous studies only indicate the presence of inactive pseudovitamin B12 in Spirulina 14 15. Therefore, based on current knowledge, Spirulina is not suitable for ensuring B12 supply.
When it comes to algae, it is important to note their high iodine content. Consuming algae can quickly lead to an excess of iodine, which can have negative health consequences.
The levels of vitamin B12 contained in algae can vary greatly, making it generally unreliable as a source for meeting B12 requirements.
Sea buckthorn contains active vitamin B12
Scientists have successfully determined the precise amount of vitamin B12 present in sea buckthorn using a new testing method. The content is 37 μg per 100 g of dry weight 16. Of this, 98% is bioactive and can be utilized by the body. According to scientists, other foods with significant B12 content include quackgrass with 26 μg and true elecampane with 11 μg per 100 g of dry weight.
Fermented Foods / Beverages
According to studies, tempeh contains vitamin B12 17 18. The addition of specific bacterial strains can further increase the vitamin B12 content 19. There is no reliable information available on a bioavailable vitamin B12 content 20. The same applies to miso 21.
Vitamin B12 has also been found in kombucha drinks 24. It is not clear if this B12 is bioavailable.
Vitamin B12 is added to convenience foods
Vitamin B12 is usually added in the form of cyanocobalamin multivitamin products such as multivitamin juices and plant-based drinks like soy drinks. But B12 is also increasingly present in Yofu, soy pudding, cereal, granola bars, breakfast cereals, meat substitute products, and vegan margarine. Checking the nutritional information of each product provides information about its B12 content.
However, it cannot be guaranteed with certainty that multivitamin juices are vegan. They are often clarified with gelatin (not required to be labeled). To be on the safe side, you can inquire with the manufacturer or choose direct juices.
The frequent consumption of foods fortified with vitamin B12 can contribute to meeting daily requirements.
B12 in bread in the future?
Study results from 2014 show that the production of Vitamin B12-enriched bread using fermented malt extract is possible 25. According to scientists, the loss of B12 during baking averaged 29±12%. For vegans, Vitamin B12-enriched bread could potentially provide a means to meet their daily B12 requirements.
Analogues can impede Vitamin B12 absorption
Sauerkraut, preserved through lacto-fermentation by bacteria, contains B12 analogues. These analogues have a similar chemical structure to Vitamin B12 but cannot be utilized by the body. Analogues can block the receptors in the small intestine, hindering the absorption of genuine Vitamin B12. However, scientific studies often yield conflicting results in this regard.
The majority of edible blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) contain an inactive corrinoid known as pseudovitamin B12 26. However, some microalgae can convert the inactive pseudovitamin into an active cobalamin form 27 28. Numerous algae are available in the market in tablet or powder form. However, studies show that these are supplements with a high content of pseudovitamin B12, which is inactive in the human body 29.
Soil bacteria also produce Vitamin B12
On plant-based foods such as wild herbs, in their uncleaned state, there are often vitamin B12 molecules attached that were formed by microorganisms in the soil when the trace element cobalt was present. However, due to high hygiene standards, there is hardly any B12 left on low-growing plant-based foods. Cleaning the food washes away the B12. So, if you want to obtain B12 through raw food, the plants must not be washed, but this can lead to infections. Additionally, it is not guaranteed that your dietary needs will be met through this type of food intake.
Vitamin B12 as a dietary supplement
Vitamin B12 can also be absorbed by the body sublingually (under the tongue) through the oral mucosa 30. Vitamin B12 supplements are available as effervescent or lozenge tablets, capsules, as well as drops and sprays. However, it is important to ensure that these products are also vegan.