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Vitamin B12: Health Benefits and Best Foods With B12

Vitamin B-12, or Cobalamin, is the largest and most complex vitamin currently known to man. A slight deficiency of vitamin B-12 can lead to anemia, fatigue, mania, and depression, while a long term deficiency can cause permanent damage to the brain and central nervous system. Vitamin B12 can only be manufactured by bacteria and can only be found naturally in animal products, however, synthetic forms are widely available and added to many foods like cereals.

Vitamin B12 can be consumed in large doses because excess is excreted by the body or stored in the liver for use when supplies are scarce. Stores of B12 can last for up to a year.

Health benefits of B-12

Consuming vitamin B-12 is essential to your diet. Vitamin B-12 contributes to vital functions in your body, including:

  • forming and dividing red blood cells
  • protecting your nervous system
  • synthesizing your DNA
  • giving your body energy

You don’t need a lot of vitamin B-12 to maintain these important body functions. Your daily intake of vitamin B-12 should be around 2.4 micrograms per day if you’re an adult. Children require less vitamin B-12. For example, an infant between 7 and 12 months requires only .5 micrograms per day. A child between 4 and 8 years old needs only 1.2 micrograms per day.

Risks and complications

Common complications and conditions caused by a deficiency of B-12 include anemia, neurological disorders, and the inability for cells to divide.

If you do not have enough vitamin B-12 in your body, you may also experience the following symptoms:

  • nerve damage
  • fatigue
  • tingling of hands and feet
  • numbness
  • weakness
  • blurred vision
  • fever
  • excessive sweating
  • walking difficulties
  • digestive problems
  • sore tongue

If you experience these symptoms, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may need to perform some texts to determine if your B-12 levels are normal.

List of Foods High in Vitamin B12

For a healthy body, you’ve got to get your vitamin Bs. And although it’s pretty easy to get most B vitamins by eating a balanced diet containing lots of produce and whole grains, vitamin B12 is another story. Vitamin B12—which helps your body produce DNA and red blood cells, supports your immune system, and encourages healthy nerve function—is found naturally only in animal sources. That means people who don’t eat meat or dairy can have trouble reaching the daily recommended 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B12 (2.6 mcg if you’re pregnant and and 2.8 mcg if you’re breastfeeding). People with digestive issues like celiac disease and adults older than 50 are also at risk for deficiency due to absorption problems, which can cause weakness, fatigue, and lightheadedness. (So if you eat these foods and still have symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, see your doctor.) But most often you will be on your way to a B12-rich diet if you eat at least some of these foods:


  • Vitamin B12: 84.1 mcg in 3 ounces of cooked clams (1,402% of your DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 21.84 mcg in 3 ounces of cooked oysters (364% DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 20.4 mcg in 3 ounces of cooked muscles (338% DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 10.3 mcg in 3 ounces (171% DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 7.6 mcg in 3 ounces (126% DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 5.4 mcg in 3 ounces of wild rainbow trout (90% DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 4.8 mcg in 3 ounces of cooked sockeye salmon (80% DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 2.5 mcg in 3 ounces of light, canned tuna fish (42% DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 1.8 mcg in 3 ounces of cooked haddock (30% DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 1.3 mcg in 3 ounces of broiled top loin sirloin (23% DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 1.2 mcg in 1 cup of low-fat milk (18% DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 1.1 mcg in 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt (18% DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 0.6 mcg in one large hard-boiled egg (10% DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 0.3 mcg in 3 ounces of roasted chicken breast (5% DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 0.3 mcg in 3 ounces (5% DV)

Top vitamin B-12 foods for vegetarians

Vegetarians have several options for sources of B-12. These include dairy products, eggs, and certain fortified foods. Vitamin B-12 can even be found in certain mushrooms and algae. The vitamin is absorbed into the body slowly. Consuming it throughout your day is the best way to make sure it breaks down properly.

Dairy products

One of the simplest ways to consume adequate vitamin B-12 when you are vegetarian is to eat dairy products:

  • Eight ounces of yogurt can provide 1.1 micrograms of B-12.
  • One cup of low-fat milk yields 1.2 micrograms of B-12.
  • One ounce of Swiss cheese provides 0.9 micrograms of B-12.

These foods can be consumed at any time of day and are readily available. You could try having yogurt with your breakfast, milk as a midday drink or with your breakfast cereal, and a few slices of cheese for a snack.

Fortified Cereals

  • Vitamin B12: 6.1 mcg in 1 cup (102% DV)

Fortified Fruit and Vegetables Juices

  • Vitamin B12: 6.0 mcg in 1 cup (100% DV)

Fortified Soymilk

  • Vitamin B12: 3.0 mcg in 1 cup (50% DV)

Fortified Tofu

  • Vitamin B12: 2.4 mcg in 100 g (40% DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 1.1 mcg in 1 cup of low-fat yogurt (18% DV)


  • Vitamin B12: 1.2 mcg in 1 cup of low-fat milk (18% DV)

Cheese (Swiss Cheese)

  • Vitamin B12: 3.1 mcg in 100 g (51% DV)

Vitamin Water

  • Vitamin B12: 0.6 mcg in 1 cup (10% DV)

Whole Eggs

  • Vitamin B12: 0.6 mcg in one large hard-boiled egg (10% DV)

Whey Powder

  • Vitamin B12: 2.4 mcg in 100 g (51% DV)

Vegetarians and vegans should always be mindful of their B-12 intake. This is a vitamin that is very important to the body and may be lacking in those who do not eat meat. You can get vitamin B-12 from animal-derived foods like dairy and eggs or from fortified foods. Mushrooms and algae can even cover your B-12 intake on some occasions.

Make sure you discuss ways to add B-12 into your diet with your doctor and get your levels monitored regularly to maintain optimal health. You may decide that a supplement is necessary to ensure you get enough vitamin B-12 into your system.

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