Foods Containing Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is found naturally only in foods of animal origin – shellfish like oysters and clams; red meat; beef, pork, and chicken liver; fish like mackerel, herring, and tuna; and goose, duck, and chicken eggs. If you're a vegetarian, have silken tofu, Swiss cheese, milk, and yogurt. Make sure you have at least 6 mcg B12 a day. Vegan sources include fortified bran flakes and yeast extract. If you are above 50, take 100–400 mcg supplement.
Although a healthy adult needs just 2.4 mcg vitamin B12 a day, vitamin B12 deficiency is a common ailment, affecting about 15% of the adult population.1 Most healthy adults usually get enough vitamin B12 from their diet, unless they follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. This is because most of the food sources of vitamin B12 come from animals. The food sources include organ meat, dairy products, and shell fish. Vegetarians who eat eggs and dairy may still get enough B12 to avert deficiency, but vegans have very limited options apart from fortified foods and supplements.
Symptoms Of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
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.2
You may experience sudden bouts of dizziness, forgetfulness and an inability to think clearly, pins and needles and muscle weakness all over the body, and a weak vision. Here’s a complete list of symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. Interestingly, if you recently turned vegetarian or vegan, your liver would have enough B12 stored to last you another 3 to 5 years.3 This is why signs of anemia show up 3 to 5 years after the deficiency begins.
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 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. Your stomach has to secrete a protein called gastric intrinsic factor (GIF) for the vitamin to be absorbed. In a 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.4 This is why you should spread your B12 foods across meals through the day, balancing the ratio of the vitamin and GIF.
Vegetarians, Moms-To-Be, And The Elderly Should Take More B12
If you are a vegetarian or are expecting a baby, 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. Vegan lactating mothers should be especially careful about consuming enough B12 to avert deficiency in their babies.
Since the absorption rate falls with age, people above 50 should take 100–400 mcg supplements.5 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.
6 Non-Veg Foods Containing Vitamin B12
1. Shellfish: Clams, Oysters, And Mussels
Every 75 g (2.5 oz) clams contains 74.2 mcg B12. Apart from clams, the same amount of shellfish like eastern wild oysters (26 mcg) and mussels (18 mcg) contain a significant amount of vitamin B12. People who are allergic to the other type of shellfish like crabs and shrimps can still tolerate some of these.
2. Liver: Beef, Pork, And Chicken
Every 75 g cooked and 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. The omega-3 fatty acids in these fish also have tremendous benefits for almost every part of the body.
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 large chicken egg contains about 0.45 mcg B12, while 1 quail egg contains 0.1 mcg. Most of the vitamin is concentrated in the yolk, but you can find some in the egg white too. But if you are concerned about your heart health, have just 1 egg a day or remove the yolk if you want to eat more eggs. Have some fish and milk too.
4 Vegetarian Foods Containing Vitamin B12
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.
3 Vegan Foods Containing Vitamin B12
1. White Button Mushrooms And Nori
Recent research has found traces of vitamin B12 in the outer skin of white button mushrooms6 and in Korean purple laver, which is commonly called nori.7
2. High-Fiber Fortified 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.
3. 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 is a reliable source of B12. It is possible that yeast contains the inactive form of B12, which can actually hinder absorption. Here are a few more vitamin B12 options for vegans.
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. Do remember though, that the major cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in adults who eat a healthy B12-rich diet is poor absorption of this vitamin.
Poor absorption can be caused by poor production of the gastric intrinsic factor. But the production of GIF may be impaired if you are aging, have chronic diseases like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and pernicious anemia, have been taking antacids consistently, or have had a stomach surgery for weight loss. In such cases, it is important to treat the underlying condition first. You may even be given vitamin B12 shots to overcome the deficiency.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Vitamin B12 Fact Sheet for Consumers. National Institutes of Health.|
|2, 4.||↑||Vitamin B12 Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health.|
|3.||↑||Vitamin B12. The MSD Manual.|
|5.||↑||Vitamin B12. The Linus Pauling Institute.|
|6.||↑||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.|
|7.||↑||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.|