How to meet your needs on a plant-based diet.


Vitamin B12, often overlooked but essential, plays a crucial role in many of your body's functions. It's a water-soluble vitamin that's vital for keeping your nervous system healthy and helping your body make red blood cells.

Where Does Vitamin B12 Come From?

Let's set the record straight: Vitamin B12 doesn't derive directly from animals; it actually originates from specific bacteria in the soil and microorganisms in the ocean, both of which play a pivotal role in the production of B12 and influencing its presence in various food sources. While animal products typically boast higher B12 levels due to bacterial accumulation and supplementation, there are many other ways to meet your needs if you follow a plant-based diet.  Seaweed, for example, is an excellent marine-derived B12 source.

Roles of Vitamin B12 in the Body

Vitamin B12 is indispensable for numerous functions in the body.

  • DNA Production: Needed to ensure cells can grow, divide, and function properly.
  • Prevents Anemia: Crucial in generating healthy red blood cells and preventing anemia.
  • Brain Health: Needed for optimal cognitive function and overall brain health.
  • Energy Production: Plays a key role in converting food into energy for the body to utilize.
  • Healthy Development: Vital for the healthy development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord during pregnancy.

Is It Hard To Get Enough?

It’s commonly known that vegans are at a higher risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, interestingly, individuals who consume animal foods can also have low vitamin B12 levels. This happens because the body might not effectively absorb the B12 in the food we eat. The good news is that taking B12 supplements or consuming foods fortified with B12 can substantially reduce the risk of deficiency.

Easy Ways to Get Vitamin B12 on a Plant-Based Diet:

  • Seaweed: Nori (like the one found in Gimme), wakame, or kombu, are types of seaweed that make great plant-based sources of vitamin B12. With seaweed, you can boost your B12 intake, along with other essential nutrients, in a delicious and convenient way.
  • Plant-Based Milk: Many milk alternatives, like almond, soy, oat, and coconut milk are fortified with vitamin B12. Check the labels when purchasing these products to ensure they contain a sufficient amount.
  • Fortified Foods: Look for fortified plant-based foods, such as breakfast cereals, nutritional yeast, and meat substitutes, which are enriched with vitamin B12. These products are readily available in most grocery stores and can be easily incorporated into your daily meals.
  • Supplements: If you are following a strictly vegan diet, consider taking a daily B12 supplement. These supplements are available in various forms, including tablets, capsules, and sublingual (under the tongue) drops, and can provide an easy and reliable way to ensure adequate B12 intake.

Seaweed Benefits as a Source of Vitamin B12

Seaweed snacks are an excellent source of vitamin B12. Research shows that even a small amount—just 4 grams—can give us all the B12 we need for the day. So, if you're on a plant-based diet, seaweed is a great way to make sure you're getting enough of this essential vitamin to stay healthy.

Key Takeaways

However you choose to add Vitamin B12 to your diet, there are many ways to meet your needs without animal products.  Fortified foods are great options and seaweed snacks are an excellent snacking choice – it’s nutrient-rich profile makes it a more wholesome and healthier alternative to regular snacking.  And, it’s incredibly easy to cook with seaweed too - check out a few recipes to get inspired! 


About the Author

Carolina Schneider, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and a writer specializing in plant-based nutrition. Carolina has followed a vegan diet for almost a decade and is passionate about helping others incorporate more plants into their diet. Carolina is the founder of Hungry for Plants, a company dedicated to offering nutrition consulting services to health and wellness brands, primarily in the plant-based food and beverage space.