How do I get enough B vitamins if I'm a vegetarian?

Dr. Vonda Wright, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Vegetarian diets can provide the requirements for most B vitamins. Depending on the type of vegetarian diet, however, riboflavin and vitamin B12 are potential exceptions. Vitamin B12 has been studied for its effect on vegetarian athletic performance because of its function in maintaining the blood and nervous systems. In fact, injections of B12 are still used by some athletes and coaches because of the belief that it increases oxygen delivery, which in turn will enhance endurance. Since cobalamin -- the active form of B12 -- is found exclusively in animal products, vegan athletes need to regularly consume B12-fortified foods, which include nutritional yeast and those brands of soymilk, breakfast cereals, and meat analogs that are fortified with B12. Vegetarians who consume eggs, cheese, milk, or yogurt receive an ample supply of this vitamin.

Several studies have suggested that riboflavin needs may be increased in people with borderline riboflavin status who are beginning an exercise program. Since riboflavin intakes are reportedly low in some vegans, active vegetarians who avoid dairy products should learn the plant sources of riboflavin to ensure adequate intake. Plant sources of riboflavin include whole grain cereals, soybeans, dark green leafy vegetables, avocados, nuts, and sea vegetables.
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Ximena Jimenez
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To ensure that you obtain enough B vitamins from your vegetarian diet, include fortified cereals, fortified soy beverages and soy products, whey powder and a B12 supplement.
Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics

A vegetarian diet that is well balanced and varied should adequately meet your B vitamin needs. Since vitamin B12 is predominantly found in animal products, if you are following a vegan diet you might need a supplement if you are not getting adequate B12 from fortified cereal, dairy alternative beverages.

  • B1 is found in rice, beans, nuts, enriched breads
  • B2 is found in dark green leafy vegetables, almonds, avocados
  • B3 is found in fortified grain products, peanuts
  • B6 is found in bananas, avocados and eggs
  • B7 is found in bananas, peanuts, grapefruit
  • B9 is found in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, peanuts
  • B12 is found in fortified cereals and dairy alternatives (soymilk, rice milk, etc.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.