We all know vitamin B12 is pivotal to mental and physical health. It boosts the synthesis of DNA and red blood cells, strengthens your immune system, and promotes healthy nerve function. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anemia, fatigue, mania, and depression. Long-term deficiency can cause permanent damage to the brain and the central nervous system.1
How Much Vitamin B12 Should You Take Daily?
Your body needs only 2.4 mcg B12 daily, but it can absorb only about 56% of a 1 mcg oral dose.
Though vitamin B12 is found naturally only in animal sources, some vegan food sources like fortified grains and breakfast cereals also contain high amounts of it.
Though the recommended dietary allowance is 2.4 mcg for everyone above 14 (2.6 mcg and 2.8 mcg for pregnant and lactating women respectively), B12 is not entirely absorbed by the body. The rate of absorption depends on the production of the gastric intrinsic factor (GIF) in the stomach, which must bind to vitamin B12 for it to be absorbed. In a normal healthy adult, about 56% of 1 mcg B12 (taken orally) is absorbed. But if you have more B12 than GIF, the rate of absorption falls drastically.2 This is why you should spread your B12 foods across meals. Excess B12 is rarely a pressing problem.
Vegetarians, Moms-To-Be, And The Elderly Should Take More B12
If you are a vegetarian or pregnant, aim for 6 to 30 mcg B12 spread across several meals through the day. If you are above 50, take 100–400 mcg supplements.
You would ideally get enough B12 from varied animal sources through the day, but if you are a vegetarian or need more B12 because of either pregnancy or breastfeeding, aim for 6 to 30 mcg spread across several meals a day. Since the absorption rate falls with age, people above 50 should take 100–400 mcg supplements.3 That way, even with low absorption rate, you would have enough to avert deficiency.
Here’s a list of foods containing vitamin B12, both meat and non-meat sources, and the quantity present in each. All nutritional values have been derived from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.
Vitamin B12 Foods For Non-Vegetarians
1. Shellfish: Clams, Oysters, And Mussels
Every 75 g (2.5 oz) clams contains 74.2 mcg B12. Apart from clams, other shellfish such as eastern wild oysters (26 mcg) and mussels (18 mcg) contain a high amount of vitamin B12.
2. Liver: Beef, Pork, And Chicken
Every 75 g cooked, braised, beef liver contains 52.9 mcg B12. An equal serving of pork liver yields 15.9 mcg B12, while the same quantity of chicken liver contains 12.6 mcg. Other liver variants include pork liverwurst sausage (10.1 mcg) and goose liver pate (7.05 mcg).
3. Fish: Mackerel, Herring, Tuna, Sardine, Trout, And Salmon
Every 75 g serving of cooked Atlantic mackerel gives 14.3 mcg B12, while an equal serving of king mackerel yeilds 13.5 mcg. Other fish rich in vitamin B12 are Atlantic herring (9.8 mcg), fresh bluefin tuna (8.2 mcg), sardines canned in oil (6.7 mcg), cooked trout (5.6 mcg), and salmon. Every 3 oz serving of smoked chinook salmon contains 2.8 mcg, while an equal amount of wild Atlantic salmon contains 2.6 mcg B12.
4. Crustaceans: Crabs, Lobsters, Crayfish, And Shrimps
A 75 g crab serving carries almost 8.6 mcg of B12. Other crustaceans such as spiny lobsters (3 mcg), crayfish (2.32 mcg), and shrimps (1.1 mcg) too are good sources of vitamin B12.
5. Red Meat: Beef
Every 75 g ground beef contains 2.4–2.7 mcg of B12. Besides beef, lamb is also a great source of B12.
6. Eggs: Goose, Duck, Chicken, And Quail
Goose eggs have the highest amount vitamin B12, with 1 egg containing 7.3 mcg vitamin B12. It is followed by duck eggs, with 1 egg containing 3.8 mcg. One chicken egg contains about 0.6 mcg B12, while 1 quail egg contains 0.1 mcg.
Vitamin B12 Foods For Vegetarians
1. Fortified Silken Tofu
Although fortified products contain B12, be aware that they contain refined sugar. A 250 ml (1 cup) of silken tofu contains 1.0 mcg B12.
2. Cheese: Swiss, Gietost, Parmesan, Feta, Gouda, And Mozzarella
Cheese, which is made from milk, has a substantial amount of vitamin B12. While 1 oz Swiss cheese holds 0.9 mcg, equal amount of gietost has 0.7 mcg, Parmesan has 0.6 mcg, feta and fontina both have 0.5 mcg, Gouda and Camembert have 0.4 mcg, and mozzarella and blue cheese contain 0.3 mcg.
3. Milk: Skim And Whole
Both whole milk and low-fat milk contain significant amounts of B12. A cup (250 ml) of skim milk carries 1.3 mcg B12, while 1 cup of 3.25% fat milk has 1.1 mcg.
Yogurt is a particularly good source of vitamin B-12. It also contains protein, potassium, calcium, B vitamins, and vitamin D. Each 8 oz serving of plain low-fat yogurt has 1.3 mcg of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 Foods For Vegans
Recent research has found traces of vitamin B12 in the outer skin of white button mushrooms4 and in Korean purple laver, which is commonly called nori.5 The other vegan options include fortified cereals and rice and nut milk. Read more.
1. High-Fiber Bran Flakes
Vegans find it challenging to locate vitamin B12-rich foods. But fortified breakfast cereals are a good option. Bran is rich in dietary fiber and essential fatty acids. It contains significant quantities of starch, protein, vitamins, and dietary minerals. An ounce (28 g) of high-fiber bran flakes contain 7.9 mcg of vitamin B12.
2. Fortified Yeast Extract Spreads
Fortified yeast extract spreads are gaining popularity across the United States and Europe. These contain protein and B12. Many brands of yeast extract spreads are available in super markets and the exact quantity of B12 can vary from brand to brand. Generally, a teaspoon of yeast extract spread contains 0.03 mcg of vitamin B12. However, there’s a debate raging on whether yeast extract
So, whether you eat meat or are a vegetarian, take your pick from the delicious list above and include vitamin B12 in your daily diet to ensure a healthy body and mind.
References [ + ]
|1, 2.||↑||Vitamin B12 Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health.|
|3.||↑||Vitamin B12. The Linus Pauling Institute.|
|4.||↑||Koyyalamudi, Sundar Rao, Sang-Chul Jeong, Kai Yip Cho, and Gerald Pang. “Vitamin B12 is the active corrinoid produced in cultivated white button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus).” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry57, no. 14 (2009): 6327-6333.|
|5.||↑||Miyamoto, Emi, Yukinori Yabuta, Chung Shil Kwak, Toshiki Enomoto, and Fumio Watanabe. “Characterization of vitamin B12 compounds from Korean purple laver (Porphyra sp.) products.”Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 57, no. 7 (2009): 2793-2796.|