The 12 best foods that are rich in vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that your body can not produce on its own, so you need to get it from your diet or supplements.

Vegetarians, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and others at high risk of deficiency may want to monitor their diets to make sure they are getting enough.

This article lists 12 foods rich in vitamin B12 to add to your shopping list.

What is vitamin B12?

Foods with vitamin B12

This water soluble vitamin has many essential functions in your body.

It is necessary to keep your nerves healthy and to support the production of DNA and red blood cells, as well as to maintain normal brain function.

The recommended daily intake (RDI) is approximately 2.4 mcg, but slightly higher for pregnant or breastfeeding women (1).

Vitamin B12 is absorbed in the stomach with the help of a protein called intrinsic factor. This substance binds to the vitamin B12 molecule and facilitates its absorption in blood and cells.

Your body stores excess vitamin B12 in the liver, so if it consumes more than RDI, your body will store it for future use.

You can develop a deficiency of vitamin B12 if your body does not produce enough intrinsic factor or if you do not eat enough foods rich in vitamin B12 (2).

Vitamin B12 is found mainly in products of animal origin, especially in meat and dairy products. Fortunately for vegan diets, fortified foods can also be a good source of this vitamin (1, 3).

Below are 12 healthy foods that are very high in vitamin B12.

1. Liver and kidneys of animals.

Organ meats are some of the most nutritious foods out there. The liver and kidneys, especially lamb, are rich in vitamin B12.

A 3.5-oz. (100-gram) serving of lamb liver provides an incredible 1,500% of the RDI for vitamin B12 (4).

While lamb liver is richer in vitamin B12 than in beef or veal liver, the latter two contain approximately 990% of the RDI per 3.5 ounces (100 grams) (5, 6).

Lamb liver is also very high in copper, selenium and vitamins A and B2 (4).

The kidneys of lamb, veal and beef are also high in vitamin B12, and provide approximately 1,300% of the RDI for each 3.5-oz. (100-gram) serving. They also provide more than 100% of the RDI for vitamin B2 and selenium (7).

Summary A 3.5-oz. (100-gram) serving of lamb, veal or veal liver contains up to 1,500% of the IDR for vitamin B12, while the same portion of kidneys contains up to 1,300% of the IDR.

2. Clams

Clams are small, chewy seafood that is full of nutrients.

This mollusk is a lean source of protein and contains very high concentrations of vitamin B12. You can get more than 3,300% of the RDI in only 20 small clams (8).

Clams, especially whole clams, also provide large amounts of iron, with almost 300% of the RDI in 20 small clams (9).

Clams have also proven to be a good source of antioxidants (10).

Interestingly, the boiled clam broth is also high in vitamin B12. It has been shown that canned broth provides 2.7-14.1 mcg of vitamin B12 per 3.5 ounces (100 grams) (11).

Summary A 3.5-oz. (100-gram) serving of clams contains up to 99 mcg of vitamin B12, which is 1,600% of the RDI.

3. Sardines

Sardines are small saltwater fish with soft bones. Generally, they are sold canned in water, oil or sauces, although you can also buy them fresh.

Sardines are super nutritious because they contain practically all the nutrients in good quantities.

A one-cup serving (150 grams) of drained sardines provides more than twice the RDI for vitamin B12 (11).

In addition, sardines are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to provide many health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and improving heart health (12).

Summary One cup (150 grams) of drained sardines contains up to 200% of the IDR for vitamin B12.

4. beef

Beef is an excellent source of vitamin B12.

A grilled flat iron steak (approximately 186 grams) provides almost 200% of the RDI for vitamin B12 (13).

In addition, the same amount of fillet contains reasonable amounts of vitamins B2, B3 and B6, as well as more than 100% of the RDI for selenium and zinc (13).

If you are looking for higher concentrations of vitamin B12, it is recommended to choose low-fat cuts of meat. It is also better to roast or roast it instead of frying it. This helps to preserve the vitamin B12 content (14, 15).

Summary A 3.5-oz. (100-gram) serving of beef contains approximately 6.2 mcg of vitamin B12. That's 102% of the RDI.

5. Fortified cereal

This source of vitamin B12 can work well for vegetarians and vegans, since it is made synthetically and does not come from animal sources (16).

Although not commonly recommended as part of a healthy diet, fortified cereals can be a good source of B vitamins, especially B12. Food fortification is the process of adding nutrients that are not originally in the food.

For example, high-fiber bran flakes of Malt-O-Meal offer up to 137% of the RDI for vitamin B12 in 3/4 cup (29 grams) (17).

The same portion of this cereal also contains 140% of the RDI for vitamin B6 and good amounts of vitamins A, C and E (17).

Research shows that eating fortified cereals daily helps increase vitamin B12 levels (18, 19).

In fact, one study showed that when participants ate one cup (240 ml) of fortified cereal containing 4.8 mcg of vitamin B12 per day for 14 weeks, their vitamin B12 levels increased significantly (18).

If you choose to use fortified cereal to increase your intake of vitamin B12, be sure to choose a brand low in added sugar and high in fiber or whole grains.

Summary Cereals fortified with vitamin B12 can also help you increase your B12 levels. A 3/4 cup (29 gram) serving of Malt-O-Meal High Fiber Bran Flakes provides 137% of the RDI.

6. Tuna

Tuna is a fish of frequent consumption and a great source of nutrients, which includes proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Tuna contains high concentrations of vitamin B12, especially in the muscles under the skin, known as dark muscles (20).

A portion of 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of fresh tuna contains almost 160% of the RDI for the vitamin (21).

This same serving size also contains a good amount of lean proteins, phosphorus, selenium and vitamins A and B3 (22).

Canned tuna also contains a decent amount of vitamin B12. In fact, a can (165 grams) of light tuna packed in water contains 85% of the IDR (23).

Summary A 3.5-ounce serving of cooked tuna provides 9.4 mcg of vitamin B12. That's 157% of the RDI.

7. Fortified Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a good vegan source of protein, vitamins and minerals.

It is a kind of yeast specially grown to be used as food, not as a fermentation agent in bread and beer.

Vitamin B12 is not present naturally in nutritional yeast. However, it is commonly fortified, which makes it a great source of vitamin B12.

As with fortified cereals, vitamin B12 in nutritional yeast is suitable for vegans because it is made synthetically (16).

Two tablespoons (16 grams) of nutritional yeast contain up to 130% of the RDI for vitamin B12 (24).

One study added nutritional yeast to vegan diets of raw foods and found that it increased blood levels of vitamin B12 and helped reduce blood markers of vitamin B12 deficiency (25).

Summary Two tablespoons (16 grams) of nutritional yeast provide 7.8 mcg of vitamin B12. That's 130% of the RDI.

8. trout

The rainbow trout is considered one of the healthiest fish that exist.

This species of fresh water is a great source of protein, healthy fats and B vitamins.

A 3.5-oz. (100-gram) serving of trout fillet offers approximately 125% of the IDR for vitamin B12 and more than 1,300 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (26).

The RDI for omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) combined is 250 to 500 mg (27).

Trout is also a great source of minerals such as manganese, phosphorus and selenium (26).

Summary A 3.5-oz (100-gram) trout serving contains 7.5 mcg of vitamin B12. That's 125% of the RDI.

9. salmon

Salmon is well known for having one of the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. However, it is also an excellent source of B vitamins.

A half fillet (178 grams) of cooked salmon may contain more than 80% of the RDI for vitamin B12 (28).

The same serving size also provides an incredible 4.023 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (28).

In addition to its high fat content, salmon offers a large amount of protein, with approximately 40 grams in a half fillet (178 grams) (28).

Summary A half fillet (178 grams) of cooked salmon offers more than 80% of the IDR for vitamin B12.

10. Fortified milk from Nondairy

Nondairy milk is popular among those who want a nutritious vegan substitute for milk milk.

While soy milks, almonds and rice are not naturally rich in vitamin B12, they are usually fortified, which makes them an excellent source of this vitamin.

An example is soy milk, which can provide up to 45% of the RDI for vitamin B12 in one cup (240 ml) (29).

For this reason, non-dairy fortified milks could be an excellent option for those who wish to increase their intake of vitamin B12 and avoid deficiency (30).

Like vitamin B12 in other fortified sources, vitamin B12 in non-milk milk is made synthetically, making it suitable for vegetarians (16).

Summary One cup (240 ml) of soy milk contains 2.6 mcg of vitamin B12, or 45% of the IDR.

11. Milk and dairy products

Milk and dairy products such as yogurt and cheese are excellent sources of protein and several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12.

One cup (240 ml) of whole milk supplies 18% of the IDR for vitamin B12 (31).

Among all types of cheeses, Swiss cheese has been shown to have the highest vitamin B12 content. One ounce (30 grams) of Swiss cheese may contain approximately 16% of the RDI (32).

Natural yogurt filled with fat can also be a decent source. It has even been shown to help improve the status of vitamin B12 in people with vitamin B12 deficiency (33, 34).

Interestingly, studies have shown that the body absorbs vitamin B12 in milk and milk products better than vitamin B12 in beef, fish or eggs (35, 36, 37).

For example, a study of more than 5,000 people showed that dairy products were more effective than fish in increasing levels of vitamin B12 (37).

Summary Dairy products are a great source of vitamin B12. One cup of whole or full yogurt provides up to 23% RDI, and one slice (28 grams) of Swiss cheese contains 16%.

12. Eggs

Eggs are a great source of complete proteins and B vitamins, especially B2 and B12.

Two large eggs (100 grams) provide approximately 22% of the RDI for vitamin B12, plus 28% of the RDI for vitamin B2 (38).

Research has shown that egg yolks have higher levels of vitamin B12 than egg whites, and that vitamin B12 in egg yolks is easier to absorb. Therefore, it is recommended to eat whole eggs instead of white ones (39).

In addition to getting a good dose of vitamin B12, you will get a healthy amount of vitamin D. Eggs are one of the few foods that naturally contain it, with 9% of RDI in two large eggs (38).

Summary Two large eggs (100 grams) contain 1.3 mcg of vitamin B12. That's 28% of the RDI.

Should you take vitamin B12 supplements?

Vitamin B12 supplements are recommended for people at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.

These include older adults, pregnant or lactating women, vegetarians and vegans, people with intestinal problems and people who have undergone stomach surgery.

As with vitamin B12 in fortified sources, vitamin B12 in supplements is manufactured synthetically, making it suitable for vegetarians (16).

Vitamin B12 supplements can be found in many forms. You can swallow them, chew them, drink them or inject them, or place them under your tongue.

Research has shown that vitamin B12 taken orally and muscle injected are equally effective in restoring vitamin B12 levels in people with vitamin B12 deficiency (40, 41, 42).

In fact, one study found that people with low levels of vitamin B12 replenished their stores after 90 days of vitamin B12 supplements or injections (41).

However, not all vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by inadequate dietary intake. Sometimes it is caused by the lack of intrinsic factor, a protein that is necessary for the efficient absorption of vitamin B12.

Lack of intrinsic factor is more common in older people and is usually associated with an autoimmune disease known as pernicious anemia.

Injections of vitamin B12 for life are the most common treatment for pernicious anemia. But small amounts of vitamin B12 are absorbed without intrinsic factor. One review concluded that taking 1,000 g per day is an effective alternative to injections (42).

Summary Vitamin B12 supplements are recommended for people who avoid products of animal origin or who have a poor absorption. They can be found in different forms, and the doses vary from 150 to 2,000 mcg.

The bottom line

Vitamin B12 is a key nutrient that your body needs for many essential functions.

It can be found in large quantities in animal products, fortified foods and dietary supplements. Some of the richest sources are liver, beef, sardines, clams and dairy products.

Whether you want to increase your vitamin stores or prevent deficiency, eating these foods can greatly improve your overall health.

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