vegan-b12
  • Alyssa Fontaine, RD
  • Mar 26, 2024

Vegan B12 Supplements

A well-known key concern within a vegan or plant-based diet is vitamin B12 intake. Why? Because B12 is primarily found in animal-based foods or products. Moreover, there are limited sources of vegan B12. Hence, vegan B12 supplements are a good way to ensure B12 needs are met while following a vegan or plant-based balanced diet.

What is B12?

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a B vitamin. It is water soluble and essential to maintain several bodily functions and overall health.

Vitamin B12 is needed for development, red blood cell formation, energy metabolism, DNA synthesis, the central nervous system, cardiovascular health and digestive health. Therefore, a deficiency in B12 can lead to a wide range of health issues.

How much B12 do vegans need per day?

Vegans share the same requirements as omnivores. Therefore, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) applies for vegan as well. Hence, men and women vegan adults require 2.4 mcg of B12 per day

Note: The RDA for pregnant and breastfeeding women are 2.6 mcg and 2.8 mcg of B12 per day. Therefore, the RDA for vegan pregnant and breastfeeding women is also elevated to these values. Moreover, the RDA for younger children will also be different. Refer to the table.

Age (Males and Females)Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) of B12 in mcg
Birth to 6 months0.4 mcg
7 – 12 months0.5 mcg
1 – 3 years old0.9 mcg
4 – 8 years old1.2 mcg
9 – 13 years old1.8 mcg
14+ years old2.4 mcg
14+ year old female and pregnant2.6 mcg
14+ year old female and lactating2.8 mcg
Adapted from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Can vegans get enough B12 naturally?

B12 can be naturally found in animal-based foods, such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. However, There are few natural sources of B12 that are also vegan. 

Vegan B12 sources

Vegan food sources high in B12 mainly include B12-fortified foods, such as:

  • Fortified plant-based milks (soy, almond and/or oat milk)
  • Fortified vegan meat alternatives (soy burger, mock chicken, etc.)
  • Fortified nutritional yeast
  • Fortified vegan cereals

However, these products don’t naturally have B12 in them, which is why they are fortified with B12. This means B12 is added to these products or foods during the manufacturing process. 

Natural and Vegan B12 sources

Natural and vegan sources of B12 are very scarce. Moreover, research on the B12 content in these foods is limited and in its early stage. However, there are a few natural and vegan sources of B12 that have been shown to contain B12, in some instances. Plant sources of B12 include:

  • Certain shiitake mushrooms
  • Certain tempeh
  • Certain algae or seaweed

However, these B12 sources are not considered as reliable sources of B12. Why? Because these foods may sometimes contain B12, but not always. For this reason, it is recommended that nutrition labels are checked to assess their B12 content. Hence, vegans should not rely on natural sources of  vegan B12 to meet their requirements.

Are vegans prone to B12 deficiency?

Yes, they could be. But this doesn’t mean it can’t be prevented through a well-balanced vegan diet. 

Vegans are prone to B12 deficiency only if they don’t consume enough vegan B12 in their diet. However, a B12 deficiency can be easily prevented with B12-fortified foods and B12 supplementation, if needed.

What are the signs for B12 deficiency?

A deficiency in vitamin B12 can develop into a range of signs and symptoms, and their severity may differ. Some indicators and manifestations of B12 deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pale or Jaundiced Skin
  • Mouth Ulcers and Glossitis
  • Numbness and Tingling
  • Balance Problems
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mental fogginess can occur.
  • Blurred or distorted vision
  • Weakness and Muscle Fatigue
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Nausea and Loss of Appetite
  • Constipation or Diarrhea
  • Nail and Hair Changes

Disclaimer: Not all individuals with a B12 deficiency will experience signs or symptoms, let alone all these signs and symptoms. Moreover, the intensity of these symptoms can vary amongst individuals. Furthermore, some of these signs may overlap with those of other medical conditions, making a diagnosis challenging without proper diagnostic assessments.

Hence, if you suspect that you might be experiencing a B12 deficiency, seek medical guidance and undergo blood tests to assess your B12 levels. This way, early identification and management of a B12 deficiency can occur.

Note: A vegan registered dietitian can propose suitable interventions to a B12 deficiency, which may involve B12 supplementation or dietary modifications.

How tired can low B12 make you?

The degree or severity of fatigue can vary from person to person and may depend on the extent of the deficiency. 

Some individuals with a mild B12 deficiency may feel only a little more tired, while others may feel significantly more tired. Moreover, in some cases, the fatigue felt with a low B12 can be very debilitating and it may interfere with their daily activities.

What to do? It is important to address a low B12 right away to alleviate fatigue and prevent further health complications. If low B12 is suspected, consult with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian.

What is the best way to take vegan B12?

Ideally, the best way to take vegan B12 is through B12-fortified foods or vegan B12 supplements. However, the choice of which one to take depends on individual preference and needs.

How can I increase my B12 absorption naturally? 

Vegan foods that are high in B12 and come from nature are not very common. So, the best solution depends on whether you lack B12 or not.

If you don’t have a B12 problem: You can eat natural foods with lots of B12. Try adding shiitake mushrooms and certain algae or seaweed to your meals.

But if you do have a B12 problem: Just relying on natural foods might not be the best or quickest way to fix it. While these foods help, they might not give you the fast and steady boost of B12 you need to recover.

If you think you have a B12 issue or have received a B12 diagnosis, seek out plant-based nutrition services through vegan registered dietitians (RDs). RD’s can give you personal advice on how to deal with your specific situation and improve your B12 levels.

What foods should be avoided if you have B12 deficiency? 

Certain foods of dietary habits are known to decrease or block B12 absorption. Therefore, if you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, it’s important to minimize these foods and habits that can further contribute to the deficiency. This includes:

  1. Eating a lot of fiber: If you eat too much fiber, it can stop your body from soaking up B12. Fiber is generally good for you, but you need to balance it with B12-rich foods or supplements if necessary.
  2. Getting too much zinc: If you take a lot of zinc, like through supplements, it can make it harder for your body to take in B12.
  3. Having a lot of tannins: Tannins are in tea and red wines and can block B12 if you have them in large amounts.
  4. Taking certain medicines: Some drugs can mess with your B12. Examples are proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), H2 blockers, and metformin.
  5. Drinking too much alcohol: If you drink too much alcohol, it can harm your stomach lining and make it tough for your body to absorb B12.

What is the best way to take vegan B12 supplements?

When it comes to selecting the right form of vegan B12 supplements, it’s important to understand the available options and their absorption mechanisms. 

Available forms of B12 supplement: There are several available forms of vegan B12 supplements on the market. Each form has its own different absorption mechanism. Therefore, not all available forms of vegan B12 supplements have equal absorption efficiency.

  1. Sprays, drops, and liquids: These sublingual forms of B12 are often believed to enhance B12 absorption rates. However, studies have shown sublingual forms to just be as equally effective as injections or oral forms of B12.

That being said, these forms typically do not contain more additives or fillers. Therefore, they are often the preferred form of B12, especially for individuals looking to minimize their intake of unnecessary additives or who have difficulties chewing or swallowing.

  1. Gummies, Capsules, & Tablets: They must go through the digest system and have a comparable absorption rate than sprays, drops or liquid forms of B12 supplements. However, they may contain more additives than other available forms.
  1. Injections: They are used to treat significant deficiencies, since B12 is injected directly into the bloodstream. There is no absorption needing to take place, the B12 taken by injection is what is then found within the bloodstream.

Should vegans take B12 supplements?

B12 supplements are a great way to meet B12 requirements whilst following a vegan or plant-based diet. However, if you prefer to avoid supplementation, it is possible to meet your need through regular intake of B12-fortified foods. That being said, B12 supplements are an easy and efficient way to ensure adequate B12 intake for vegans.

Are there any side effects of taking vitamin B12?

Vitamin B-12 supplements are typically deemed safe. Although the suggested daily intake for adults is 2.4 micrograms, consuming much higher doses is not harmful. However, individual reactions to higher doses of B12 can vary. Therefore, certain negative effects may still be seen in some individuals or cases with excessive B12 supplementation.

Side effects that could be observed: Most available forms of vegan B12 supplements are safe, even at doses way above requirements. On occasion, most commonly seen with injections of B12, 

  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Tingling sensation in hands and feet
  • Skin rashes
  • Itchiness
  • Pulmonary edema (rare)
  • Congestive heart failure (rare)

Allergic reactions that could be observed: Allergic reactions and anaphylaxis to B12 supplements are rare. However, it can occur in some individual and symptoms include:

  • Swelling of the face, tongue, and throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing

How often should vegans take B12?

Vegans should be consuming B12 on a daily basis to meet their requirements. Therefore, supplementation can be taken every day or twice per week.

What dosage of B12 should vegans take?

The dosage of vegan B12 supplements depends on the individual’s age, sexe and situation (pregnant, lactating, or not). Moreover, dosage also depends on how often the individual plans to take supplements. Do they prefer to take vegan B12 supplements once per day or twice per week?

Dosage for once per day: The minimum dosage for those taking daily vegan B12 supplements is 25 mcg, which can be found in most multivitamin supplements. However, a daily dosage anywhere between 25 to 250 mcg is enough to meet and surpass the requirements.

Dosage for twice per week: Taking anywhere between 1000 to 5000 mcg of vegan B12 in supplement form is enough to meet and surpass the requirment.

Age of individual(Males + Females)Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) of B12 in mcgDose for a once per day intake*Dose for a twice per week intake**
Birth to 6 months0.4 mcgIt is recommended to consult with a registered dietitian or pediatrician to determine the appropriate B12 supplement dosage for children.
7 – 12 months0.5 mcg
1 – 3 years old0.9 mcg
4 – 8 years old1.2 mcg
9 – 13 years old1.8 mcg
14+ years old2.4 mcg25 – 250 mcg1000 – 5000 mcg
14+ year old female and pregnant2.6 mcg25 – 250 mcg1000 – 5000 mcg
14+ year old female and lactating2.8 mcg25 – 250 mcg1000 – 5000 mcg
Adapted from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Davis, Brenda. (2014). Becoming vegan : the complete reference to plant-based nutrition. Summertown, Tennessee: Book Publishing Company.

*No adverse effects are shown in research with doses higher than the ones recommended for a once per day intake of supplements. What is recommended is the minimum needed to meet the requirement.

**5000 mcg is considered safe to consume. However, it is important to note that 5000 mcg of B12 is a much higher dose than the RDA set for ALL individuals. Therefore, although harmful, it is unnecessary to consume such a high dose of B12.

Is it OK to take 1000 mcg of B12 a day?

Yes! Your body will retain only the amount of B12 it needs to function. Therefore, 1000 mcg/day and even 5000 mcg/day of B12 is safe to consume. No adverse effects are shown in research with these doses. 

For this reason, there is no defined Upper Level (UL) determined for B12. Hence, reasonably high doses of B12 is generally considered safe for most individuals.

What type of B12 is best for vegans?

In choosing the best vegan B12 supplement, we know the best physical form of B12 supplement to be sprays, drops and liquids. However, there is also the chemical form of vitamin B12 to consider. There a four different types of vitamin B12:

  1. Methylcobalamin: Active form of B12
  2. Adenosylcobalamin: Active form of B12
  3. Hydroxocobalamin: Inactive form of B12
  4. Cyanocobalamin: Inactive form of B12

Between these four different chemical forms of B12, research has shown no difference in absorption or B12 bioavailability. Therefore, good vegan B12 supplements can be made using any chemical form. You can choose whichever you prefer.

However, the most common form of vegan B12 found in supplements is cyanocobalamin. Why? Because, although all four compounds can be degraded by UV rays and light, cyanocobalamin is the most stable compound out of the four. 

6 Best Vegan B12 Supplements

In search for the best vegan B12 supplements, several critical factors come into play. We’ve examined a range of B12 supplement options based on the following criteria: 

1. Quality and bioavailability of B12

2. Affordability

3. Accessibility (readily available on Amazon Canada and USA)

4. Appropriate dosage

5. Ethical considerations as a vegan product

This guide has got you covered with the top choices that meet these essential criteria. This way, you can choose a vegan B12 supplement fit for your dietary and ethical preferences, as well as individual needs.

Vegan B12 SupplementBioavailability* of B12Affordability (cost/serving)AccessibilityDosing
Organic Whole Food B12 Vitamin Spray by Garden of LifeLiquid form product. Therefore, the B12 is highly bioavailable.0.21 CAD$ 0.12 US$Found on Canada and the United States amazon website.500 mcg per spray. To be taken once per day.
Organic Vitamin B12 Drops by Why Not NaturalLiquid form product. Therefore, the B12 is highly bioavailable.0.19 – 0.37 CAD $ per serving
0.18 – 0.37 US$ per serving
Found on Canada and the United States amazon website.2500 mcg for 0.5 ml OR 5000 mcg for 1 ml. To be used twice per week.
Vegan Vitamin B12 & D3 Gummies by HerbaLandMust pass through the digestive system, therefore it is less fast acting as supplements in liquid forms. However, the B12 is still readily bioavailable.0.19 CAD$ per servingAvailable on Amazon Canada.850 mcg per gummy. To be taken once per day.
Natural Flavor Vitamin B12 Gummies by LifeableMust pass through the digestive system, therefore it is less fast acting as supplements in liquid forms. However, the B12 is still readily bioavailable.0.23 US$ per servingAvailable on Amazon US.1000 mcg per gummy. Could be taken once per day as 1000 mcg of B12 per day  is safe OR it could be taken twice per week.
Vegan Vitamin B12 Dissolvable Tablets by Deva VeganMust pass through the digestive system, therefore it is less fast acting as supplements in liquid forms. However, the B12 is still readily bioavailable.0.23 US$ per servingAvailable on Amazon US.1000 mcg per tablet. Could be taken once per day as 1000 mcg of B12 per day  is safe OR it could be taken twice per week.
Organic Vegan B12 Capsules with Spirulina by NatureloMust pass through the digestive system, therefore it is less fast acting as supplements in liquid forms. However, the B12 is still readily bioavailable.0.27 CAD$ per servingAvailable on Amazon Canada.1000 mcg per tablet. Could be taken once per day as 1000 mcg of B12 per day  is safe OR it could be taken twice per week.

* Between the four different chemical forms of B12, research has shown no difference in absorption. Therefore, good vegan B12 supplements can be made using any of the following four chemical forms: Methylcobalamin, Adenosylcobalamin, Hydroxocobalamin, and Cyanocobalamin.

(1) Organic Whole Food B12 Vitamin Spray by Garden of Life

Price: 29.99 CAD$, 17.44 US$

Total servings: 140

Cost per serving: 0.21 CAD$, 0.12 US$

The Garden of Life Vegan B12 spray is one of the best vegan B12 supplements on the market. This product is affordable and accessible both in Canada and the United States through amazon. In addition, this vegan certified B12 supplement is easy to use, tastes like raspberries and has a high absorption rate, as it’s in a liquid form.

One spray or serving will get you 500 mcg of B12 from methylcobalamin, as well as 2 mg of a mix of organic whole foods (fruits, veggies, and herbs). Plus, one bottle gives you about 140 servings, which means, if it is used daily, it can still last you for nearly 5 months.

(2) Organic Vitamin B12 Drops by Why Not Natural

Price: 22.47 CAD$, 21.97 US$

Total servings: 60 servings if 1 ml is consumed for 5000 mcg, 120 servings is 0.50 ml is consumed for 2500 mcg 

Cost per serving: $CAD 0.19 – 0.37 per serving, $US 0.18 – 0.37 per serving

Why Not Natural’s organic Vitamin B12 Drops offer a simple way to get your daily B12 needs. This item is the most affordable and easy to find in both Canada and the United States on Amazon. Moreover, it’s a vegan-approved B12 supplement, it has a cherry flavor with no added sugars, and can be readily absorbed well because it comes in a liquid form.

A 1ml drop has 5000 mcg of B12. However, you can easily measure and take a 0.5ml drop, using the dropper, for a smaller dose of 2500 mcg. Therefore, each bottle has enough for 60 to 120 servings, depending on how much you take.

This supplement can be used twice a week at either 2500 mcg or 5000 mcg. Hence, this bottle can last you anywhere from 7 and a half months to 15 months.

(3) Vegan Vitamin B12 & D3 Gummies by HerbaLand

Price: 17.09 CAD$

Total servings: 90 servings

Cost per serving: 0.19 CAD$ per serving

Herbaland’s Vitamin B12 & D3 gummies stand as a favored supplement for kids or anyone who wants to make taking supplements fun. These raspberry flavoured gummies provide a daily or bi-weekly dose of B12 and a bonus serving of vitamin D. Moreover, Herbaland is a Canadian based company that is environmentally friendly, affordable and easily accessible on Amazon Canada.

Every gummy holds 850 mcg of B12, taken from cyanocobalamin, and 25 mcg of D3, sourced from lichen. In one bottle, you’ll find 90 gummies. This is enough to last for three months, if taken daily, or 11 months, if taken bi-weekly.

(4) Natural Flavor Vitamin B12 Gummies by Lifeable

Price: 20.49 US$ 

Total servings: 90 servings

Cost per serving: 0.23 US$ per serving

The Natural Flavor Vitamin B12 Gummies by Lifeable are sugar-free strawberry-flavored gummies. They are vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, and tree nut-free, appealing to a wide range of dietary preferences or limitations. Moreover, this brand is easily accessible and affordable on Amazon US.

These gummies are enriched with 1000 mcg of B12 Cyanocobalamin per serving. This provides a daily or bi-weekly dose of B12. Moreover, they come in a bottle with 90 gummies, which provides 45 servings. Hence, this product could last 1 month and a half, if taken daily, or 5 months and a half, if taken twice a week.

(5) Vegan Vitamin B12 Dissolvable Tablets by Deva Vegan

Price: 20.49 US$ 

Total servings: 90 servings

Cost per serving: 0.23 US$ per serving

Deva Vegan’s Vitamin B12 Dissolvable Tablets offer a daily or bi-weekly dose of B12 and are available on Amazon US. These tablets provide 1000 mcg of B12 in the absorbable form of Methylcobalamin. They are easy to take tablets that can be dissolved in the mouth or chewed, making them accessible for individuals who struggle with swallowing pills. Furthermore, these B12 tablets contain B6 and Folic Acid, adding to their nutritional value. 

Moreover, in one bottle, there are 90 tablets, which is enough to last for 3 months, if taken daily, or 11 months, if taken twice a week.

(6) Organic Vegan B12 Capsules with Spirulina by Naturelo

Price: 24.26 CAD$ 

Total servings: 90 servings

Cost per serving: 0.27 CAD$ per serving

Naturelo’s Organic Vegan B12 Capsules is an affordable Canadian brand of supplements. This one in particular is easily accessible on Amazon Canada

These capsules contain organic Spirulina, a nutrient-rich plant, which adds onto the supplement’s nutritional value. Moreover, Naturelo ensures premium quality with their Non-GMO, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Vegan & Vegetarian formula, free from artificial coloring, flavoring, or preservatives.

These capsules provide a potent 1000 mcg dose of vitamin B12 in the form of methylcobalamin. Furthermore, in one bottle, there are 90 capsules, which is enough to last for 3 months, if taken daily, or 11 months, if taken twice a week.

For more information on the process and fees of consulting with a plant-based registered dietitian, visit our website: https://plantbasedrds.com/ and contact us.

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