What Foods Have Vitamin B12 That You Should Eat?

Jun 08, 2022 , Healthy Eating

What Foods Have Vitamin B12 That You Should Eat?

Quick Health Scoop

  • Vitamin B12 is an essential B vitamin that our bodies need every day.
  • B12 helps turn the food you eat into usable energy.
  • There are a variety of foods that contain B12, the most common being animal products (meat, fish, eggs, dairy) along with a few plant-based sources.
  • Vegetarians and vegans that do not consume animal products might want to consider a vitamin B12 supplement.

If you are wondering how to get vitamin B12 naturally, then this is the blog for you! Vitamin B12 is found in many food sources, although most of them are animal-based. If you are vegetarian or vegan, there are foods available that will provide some vitamin B12 for your nutrient needs. However, those who don’t consume animal products, as well as pregnant and lactating women and older adults, should consult with a healthcare provider to determine their vitamin B12 level to check for possible B12 deficiency and see if they are getting enough of this important vitamin.

 

What is the Recommended Vitamin B12 Intake?

Before we dive into what foods have vitamin B12, it’s helpful to know how much B12 you should consume daily. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12 is set by the Food and Nutrition Board at the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies. This recommended daily intake changes by age, so we included a chart so you can find the minimum amount you should consume daily in your diet [1]:

Age Group

Recommended Dietary Allowance

Newborn to 6 months

0.4 mcg

Infants 6 months to 1 year

0.5 mcg

Children 1 to 3 years

0.9 mcg

Children 4 to 8 years

1.2 mcg

Children 9 to 13 years

1.8 mcg

Teens 14 to 18 years

2.4 mcg

Adults 19 years and older

2.4 mcg

Pregnant Women

2.6 mcg

Breastfeeding Women

2.8 mcg

 

Learn More: How Much Folic Acid Should I Take?

 

What Foods Are Highest in Vitamin B12?

Now that we know the amount of vitamin B12 that we should consume in a day, let’s examine a list of foods that naturally contain vitamin B12 from most to least abundant and we’ll compare those amounts to the Daily Value (DV) for B12:

  1. Liver and organ meats. While not appetizing to everyone, animal organ meats (liver, kidneys) are the most nutrient-dense foods. They are not only high in protein but also packed with iron and vitamin B6 (folate). One 3 oz serving of beef liver, for example, contains 70.7 mcg of vitamin B12, which is just under 3000% of the Daily Value (DV) [1].
  2. These small shellfish are known for their chewy texture and are often used in soups and chowders. When eaten cooked and out of the shell, a 3 oz. serving of clams will provide 17 mcg of B12, which is just over 700% Daily Value (DV). Clams are also a good source of iron and antioxidants [1].
  3. Tuna. Tuna is not only a good source of the Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, but it is also high in vitamin B12. One serving (3 oz.) of bluefin tuna will yield about 9.3 mcg at 385% Daily Value (DV) [1]. Canned tuna is also a good option, with one 5 oz can providing 3.65 mcg of vitamin B12, which is still above the Daily Value for this nutrient [2].
  4. Salmon is sometimes thought of as the superfood of the sea. This fatty fish is particularly high in Omega-3s and protein and is versatile enough to go into a variety of dishes. A 3 oz portion of cooked salmon provides about 2.6 mcg of vitamin B12, which meets Daily Value at 108% [1].
  5. Beef. Red meat is a solid choice for vitamin B12, as well as many other types of vitamin B, although it is best consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. For a 3 oz. serving of ground beef (85% lean, 15% fat) you’ll get about 2.4 mcg of B12, which is right at the RDA for those 14 years and older and also at 100% Daily Value [1]. If you were to consume a 3.5 oz serving of a porterhouse steak, then the vitamin B12 level is about 2 mcg [2].
  6. Milk, yogurt & cheese. Dairy products are viable sources of vitamin B12 and a good choice for those Lacto-vegetarians that consume dairy as part of their diet. Even though the suggested serving sizes provide less than the RDA for B12, you can increase your ingestion of this vital nutrient throughout the day to meet your recommended amount. Here’s a quick breakdown of vitamin B12 amounts per serving: one cup of 2% milk contains 1.3 mcg (54% DV), 1.5 oz. of cheddar cheese contains 0.5 mcg (19% DV), and one 6 oz. container of low-fat yogurt contains 1 mcg (43% DV) [1]. There is good news, however. Some studies suggest that our body may absorb vitamin B12 at higher rates from dairy products than from red meat or eggs [3]. Something to consider.
  7. Eggs. The good and bad about relying on eggs for vitamin B12: while they do contain this important B vitamin, it’s mostly found in the egg yolk, and as stated above, the absorption rate by your body is lower than from dairy [3]. One large egg contains 0.5 mcg of vitamin B12 (19% DV) [1].
  8. Turkey & chicken. A 3 oz. serving of turkey breast meat provides 0.3 mcg and one piece of a boneless, skinless chicken breast (6 oz.) also provides 0.3 mcg of vitamin B12 [1, 2]. That’s about 14% of the Daily Value and definitely not as high as beef. However, since it’s recommended to limit your servings of red meat to once or twice a week, including chicken and turkey in your diet can help provide some vitamin B12.

Learn More: Tips for Meal Planning to Reach Your Health Goals

 

Vitamin B12 in Fruits and Vegetables

We haven’t forgotten about vegetarians and vegans! Despite what you might have heard, there are some plant-based sources of vitamin B12. However, you’ll see the list is not as long and varied as the animal-based list, which is why supplementing with vitamin B12 may be important for diets that are low in animal products. Read on to see how you can find B12 in the plant world:

  1. Nutritional yeast. You might think of bread when you think of yeast. Nutritional yeast is specially grown to be used as food, not as a leavening agent in bread. This type of yeast is large and flaky with a nutty flavor and is usually used by vegans to mimic the flavor of cheese. Some nutritional yeast products are fortified with a variety of nutrients, including vitamin B12. One-quarter cup (15g) of fortified nutritional yeast can yield between 8.3 to 24 mcg of vitamin B12 depending on the brand. Either way, those amounts are well above the Daily Value [1]. Nutritional yeast can easily be added to potatoes, pasta, and egg dishes, and it even tastes great sprinkled on salads.
  2. Fortified foods. The practice of fortifying foods with added vitamins and minerals began in the early 1900s in the United States (and in other parts of the world) to address identified nutrient deficits in the population [5]. Although a diet heavy in processed foods is not ideal, there are some vegetarian and vegan-friendly foods, such as whole-grain breakfast cereals and non-dairy milk, that are fortified with vitamin B12 along with other vital nutrients like Calcium and vitamin D. Most fortified foods contain up to 25% (0.6 mcg) of the Daily Value for vitamin B12 per serving [1].
  3. Tempeh. This vegan-friendly food is made from fermented soybeans, and its stiff texture makes it an easy meat substitute in a variety of dishes. A one-half cup serving of tempeh provides 0.1 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s only 3% of the Daily Value, however, tempeh is also a good source of protein [1].
  4. Dried shiitake mushrooms. Most mushroom varieties do not contain detectable levels of vitamin B12. However, shiitake mushrooms, when dried, have about 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 for a one-quarter cup serving (50g), which would meet 100% Daily Value [4]. Adding dried mushrooms to soups and stews provides a strong umami flavor. To prepare, soak dried shiitake mushrooms in warm water to soften and then discard the stems.

Learn More: Plant-Based Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians

 

The Bottom Line

Vitamin B12 is an essential B vitamin that your body needs every day. The daily value, as used on food and dietary supplement labels, for vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg for adults, but recommended dietary amounts (RDA) are higher for pregnant and lactating women. Animal-based foods are the most abundant source of vitamin B12, however, some fortified foods and plant-based foods also contain B12. Checking your vitamin B12 level with a healthcare provider is the first step in understanding if you are getting enough of this essential nutrient through your diet alone, and if you need to take a vitamin B12 dietary supplement. Supplementing with vitamin B12 may help reduce fatigue for those low in B12, so it’s a good idea to check your B12 levels with your healthcare provider.

We hope you enjoyed this dive into vitamin B12 foods for you to explore!

If you’re looking to supplement your vitamin B12 intake, Nature Made® has vitamin B12 supplements in a variety of strengths and forms. Or, if you are interested in supplementing other B vitamins, including vitamin B1 (Thiamin), vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), and vitamin B9 (Folic Acid), then you might want to consider a B Complex supplement or a daily multivitamin such as multivitamin gummies. As a reminder, you should check with your healthcare provider before taking a B12 supplement, especially if you think you might have a vitamin b12 deficiency or other vitamin B deficiency, so that you can determine which supplement(s) might be right for you.

Shop Now: Folic Acid Tablets

Learn More About Healthy Diets & Lifestyles:

▲ Approximately 6% of older adults have deficient levels of vitamin B12 and over 20% have low levels [6]


† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


References

  1. National Institutes of Health. “Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin B12.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed on 9 May 2022. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/.
  2. Agricultural Research Service: FoodData Central: Food Search. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed on 9 May 2022. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/
  3. Gille, Doreen, and Alexandra Schmid. “Vitamin B12 in Meat and Dairy Products.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 13 Jan. 2015, https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/73/2/106/1820655.
  4. Watanabe, Fumio, et al. “Vitamin B₁₂-Containing Plant Food Sources for Vegetarians.” Nutrients, MDPI, 5 May 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4042564/.
  5. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Use of Dietary Reference Intakes in Nutrition Labeling. Dietary Reference Intakes: Guiding Principles for Nutrition Labeling and Fortification. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2003. 3, Overview of Food Fortification in the United States and Canada. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK208880/
  6. Porter, Kirsty, et al. “Causes, Consequences and Public Health Implications of Low B-Vitamin Status in Ageing.” Nutrients, MDPI, 16 Nov. 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5133110/.

Authors

Amy Mills Klipstine

NatureMade Sr. Copywriter

Amy has an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles and is a credentialed English teacher, though she left the classroom to write full time. She especially enjoys creating educational content about health, wellness, and nutrition. Her happy place is in the kitchen, and when not writing, you can find her trying out “kid-friendly recipes” and “healthy desserts for chocolate lovers” from her Pinterest board.

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Melissa Dorval Pine, RD

Science and Health Educator

Melissa is a registered dietitian (RD) and works in our Medical and Scientific Communications department as a Science and Health Educator. She has worked for Pharmavite for over 20 years educating consumers, healthcare practitioners, retailers and employees about nutrition, dietary supplements and overall wellness. Prior to joining the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Melissa launched and managed Pharmavite’s Consumer Relations department. Melissa received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science, from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, and completed her dietetic internship at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in East Orange New Jersey.

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