Why You Should Consider Taking B12 Supplements If You Follow A Plant-Based Diet

Health experts advocate a plant-based diet because it helps you to lose and maintain a healthy weight while fighting off chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and cognitive decline (via Healthline). Focusing on minimally-processed foods and avoiding animal products is also good for the environment because the reduction in greenhouse gasses and less reliance on factory farming create a smaller carbon footprint.

One main problem with plant-based diets is that plants can't make vitamin B12, according to News Medical Life Sciences. Although some plant-based diets allow some animal products, vegans and vegetarians are typically deficient in vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is essential for the body to build blood cells and brain tissue, and a B12 deficiency can have symptoms of depression, labored breathing, muscle fatigue, and weakness. Vegan and vegetarian diets have also been linked to neurological disorders. According to a 2022 article in the European Journal of Nutrition, you should monitor your B12 levels if you follow a plant-based diet and don't take supplements.

Maintaining your B12 levels on a plant-based diet

A 2016 paper from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics supports a plant-based diet when it's well-planned. The group suggests adding a B12 supplement or finding foods that are fortified with B12. If you choose to take a vitamin B12 supplement, make sure you take it with food to be sure it's properly absorbed, according to a 2022 article in the European Journal of Nutrition. Aim for 2.4 micrograms (mcg) for adults (via WebMD). If you're not a vegan or vegetarian, you can supplement your plant-based diet with locally-sourced or organic dairy and poultry to get some B12 (via Healthline). If you eat beef, choose grass-fed brands. Seafood lovers should opt for sustainable fisheries.

Although a plant-based diet might make you deficient in vitamin B12, celiac disease and drinking heavy amounts of alcohol can block the absorption of this and other nutrients, according to WebMD. Check your heartburn and diabetes medications as well because they also might interfere with your body absorbing B12.