Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, is an essential nutrient. It is not stored in the body, so you need to consume it regularly.
While many plant foods contain the vitamin, the amount is usually rather small. For that reason, vegans have an increased risk of vitamin B2 deficiency.
Thus, in this post, we take a look at the best vegan sources, what common deficiency symptoms are, and how you can make sure you meet the need.
What are the functions and benefits of vitamin B2?
The vitamin participates in the immune system and is essential for energy production as well as tissue growth.
Further, it is a part of coenzymes, protects nerve cells, and serves as an antioxidant.
Do vegans have a v itamin B2 deficiency?
Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this question. Some studies (f.e. the EPIC-Oxford study) could not find a deficiency in vegans. However, others have shown that vegans don’t meet the recommended intake.
Since the study results are contradictory, it’s a good idea to incorporate vitamin B2-rich foods into your diet regularly.
Moreover, pregnant women should be particularly careful about their riboflavin intake because a deficiency can cause developmental disorders and malformations in the child.
Studies are unclear whether vegans meet the vitamin B2 need or not. Thus, it’s is recommended to incorporate riboflavin rich foods into your diet regularly.
How much vitamin B2 should you consume daily?
The general recommendation is that women should consume at least 1.1 mg/day and men at least 1.4 mg/day. The actual need, however, can be higher because it depends on the number of calories you consume daily.
You can calculate your individual requirement. For every 1000 calories you consume, you should take in at least 0.6 mg of vitamin B2.
So if you eat 2000 calories in a day as a woman, you also need to consume 1.2 mg Vitamin B2.
Important note: It is vital that you consume the minimum required intake stated above even if the calculated need based on your caloric intake is less.
Also, factors such as stress and physical activity can increase demand.
Further, the vitamin B2 requirement varies throughout different life stages as well as dependent on gender.
Therefore, you find a detailed list of the daily recommended intake in the table below.
|Age||Recommended daily intake (minimum)|
|0-4 months||0,3 mg/day|
|4-12 months||0,4 mg /day|
|1-4 years||0,7 mg/day|
|4-7 years||0,8 mg/day|
|7-10 years||1,0 mg/day (m), 0,9 mg /day (w)|
|10-13 years||1,1 mg/day (m), 1,0 mg/day (w)|
|13-15 years||1,4 mg/day (m), 1,1 mg/day (w)|
|15-19 years||1,6 mg/day (m), 1,2 mg/day (w)|
|19-51 years||1,4 mg/day (m), 1,1 mg/day (w)|
|51 years and older||1,3 mg/day (m), 1,0 mg/day (w)|
|Pregnant women (2nd/3rd Trimester)||1,3 mg/day / 1,4 mg/day|
|Breastfeeding women||1,4 mg/day|
Generally, women should consume at least 1.1 mg riboflavin a day, and men at least 1.4 mg/day. You can calculate your individual need (0.6 mg vitamin B2/1000 calories consumed) but should never go below the above-stated amount.
How can vegans meet the vitamin B2 requirement?
In addition to a healthy vegan diet, you should make vitamin B2-rich foods a regular part of your meals.
Furthermore, by sprouting grains and legumes, you can increase the B2 content of those foods and thus further support meeting the required intake.
In addition, store foods that are a good source of vitamin B2 in the dark because the vitamin is sensitive to light.
Moreover, you should prefer cooking methods such as steaming and sauteing over boiling because vitamin B2 is water-soluble and leaks into the cooking water. If you don’t use the water afterward, then the vitamin is lost.
Aside from that, vitamin B2 is insensitive to heat.
You can meet the riboflavin need by regularly incorporating vitamin B2 rich foods into your diet. By sprouting legumes and grains, as well as using cooking and storing methods that preserve the vitamin, you can further make sure you get enough vitamin B2.
What foods are high in riboflavin?
The best vegan sources are almonds, tempeh, mushrooms, and nutritional yeast.
Green vegetables (such as broccoli, kale, and spinach), legumes, whole grains, avocados, apples, asparagus, oatmeal, nuts, and seeds are also good sources.
Moreover, some vegan products, such as plant milk, are enriched with the vitamin, which can help meet the need.
The best vegan vitamin B2 sources are almonds, tempeh, mushrooms, and nutritional yeast. Green vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, among others, are also good sources.
Do animal products contain vitamin B2?
Yes, the vitamin is available in animal products.
How can you increase Vitamin B2 absorption?
Generally, the vitamin is absorbed well.
However, factors such as trauma, alcohol abuse, or certain medications (e.g., antidepressants, oral contraceptives) may reduce the absorption rate, resulting in increased demand.
How can you check if you get enough vitamin B2?
There are a few ways to test if you meet the riboflavin need.
The first option is to check the amount that is present in the blood serum (standard value: 70-100 μg/dl).
Another possibility is to test how much riboflavin is excreted in a 24-hour urine sample (standard value: 80-120 μg riboflavin / g creatinine)
Furthermore, you can measure the enzyme activity of glutathione reductase in red blood cells. A stimulation of less than 20% is considered normal.
A blood test or urine sample can tell you how well you are supplied with vitamin B2.
What are the symptoms of vitamin B2 deficiency?
In general, riboflavin deficiency is very rare in industrialized nations. If it occurs, then the cause is usually alcohol abuse.
Moreover, a severe chronic deficiency rarely occurs by itself, but rather in conjunction with other insufficiencies, such as those of B-vitamins (B1, B6, B9) or protein.
Common symptoms of vitamin B2 deficiency are:
- Torn corners of the mouth
- Increased homocysteine level
- Inflammation of the mouth / mucous membrane areas
- Vision problems
- Seborrheic dermatitis (scaly, inflammatory rash)
- Nerve dysfunction
- Anemia — and thus symptoms of anemia, like fatigue, general weakness, paleness
Is it harmful to take in too much vitamin B2?
No, it is not. When you consume too much, the excess riboflavin is excreted.
What is your favorite vegan vitamin B2 source?