Top 12 Foods That Are High in Vitamin B12
Medically reviewed by Atli Arnarson BSc, PhD — Written by Arlene Semeco, MS, RD on February 24, 2021
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that your body can’t make on its own, so you need to get it from your diet or supplements.
Vegetarians, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and others at risk of deficiency may want to track their diets closely to make sure they’re getting enough.
This article lists 12 foods rich in vitamin B12 to add to your shopping list.
This water-soluble vitamin has many essential functions in your body.
It’s necessary for keeping your nerves healthy and supporting the production of DNA and red blood cells, as well as maintaining normal brain function.
The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) is about 2.4 mcg but slightly higher for pregnant or breastfeeding women (1Trusted Source).
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 into your blood and cells.
Your body stores excess vitamin B12 in the liver, so if you consume more than the RDI, your body will save it for future use.
Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal products, especially meat and dairy products. Luckily for those on vegans diets, fortified foods can be good sources of this vitamin, too (1Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
Below are 12 healthy foods that are very high in vitamin B12.
Organ meats are some of the most nutritious foods out there. Liver and kidneys, especially from lamb, are rich in vitamin B12.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of lamb liver provides an incredible 3,571% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin B12 (4Trusted Source).
Lamb liver is also very high in copper, selenium, and vitamins A and B2 (4Trusted Source).
Lamb, veal, and beef kidneys are also high in vitamin B12. Lamb kidneys provide about 3,000% of the DV per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving. They also provide more than 100% of the DV for vitamin B2 and selenium (7Trusted Source).
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of lamb, beef, or veal liver contains up to 3,500% of the DV for vitamin B12, while the same serving of kidneys contains up to 3,000% of the DV.
Clams are small, chewy shellfish that are packed with nutrients.
Clams, especially whole baby clams, also provide great amounts of iron, with almost 200% of the DV in a 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving of small clams (9).
Clams have also been shown to be a good source of antioxidants (10Trusted Source).
Interestingly, the broth of boiled clams is also high in vitamin B12. Canned broth has been shown to provide 113–588% of the DV per 3.5 ounces (100 grams) (11Trusted Source).
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of clams contains up to 99 mcg of vitamin B12, which is 4,120% of the DV.
Sardines are small, soft-boned saltwater fish. They’re usually sold canned in water, oil, or sauces, though you can also buy them fresh.
Sardines are super nutritious because they contain virtually every single nutrient in good amounts.
A 1-cup (150-gram) serving of drained sardines provides 554% of the DV for vitamin B12 (11Trusted Source).
Furthermore, 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 (12Trusted Source).
One cup (150 grams) of drained sardines contains up to 500% of the DV for vitamin B12.
Beef is an excellent source of vitamin B12.
One grilled flat iron steak (about 190 grams) provides 467% of the DV for vitamin B12 ().
Also, the same amount of steak contains reasonable amounts of vitamins B2, B3, and B6, as well as more than 100% of the DVs for selenium and zinc (13Trusted Source).
If you’re looking for higher concentrations of vitamin B12, it’s recommended to choose from low fat cuts of meat. It’s also better to grill or roast it instead of frying. This helps preserve the vitamin B12 content (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of beef contains about 5.9 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 245% of the DV.
This source of vitamin B12 may work well for vegetarians and vegans, as it’s synthetically made and not derived from animal sources (16Trusted Source).
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 instance, Malt-O-Meal Raisin Bran offer up to 62% of the DV for vitamin B12 in 1 cup (59 grams) (17Trusted Source).
The same serving of this cereal also packs 29% of the DV for vitamin B6 and good amounts of vitamin A, folate, and iron (17Trusted Source).
In fact, one study showed that when participants ate 1 cup (240 ml) of fortified cereal containing 4.8 mcg (200% of the DV) of vitamin B12 daily for 14 weeks, their vitamin B12 levels increased significantly (18Trusted Source).
If you choose to use fortified cereal to increase your vitamin B12 intake, make sure to choose a brand low in added sugar and high in fiber or whole grains.
Cereal fortified with vitamin B12 may also help you increase your vitamin B12 levels. One cup (59 grams) of Malt-O-Meal Raisin Bran provides 62% of the DV.
Tuna is a commonly consumed fish and great source of nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Tuna contains high concentrations of vitamin B12, especially in the muscles right beneath the skin, which are known as dark muscles (20).
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked tuna contains 453% of the DV for the vitamin (21Trusted Source).
Canned tuna also contains a decent amount of vitamin B12. In fact, a can (165 grams) of light tuna canned in water contains 115% of the DV (22).
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked tuna provides 10.9 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 453% of the DV.
Nutritional yeast is a good vegan source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.
It’s a species of yeast especially grown to be used as food, not as a leavening agent in bread and beer.
Vitamin B12 is not naturally present in nutritional yeast. However, it’s commonly fortified, making it a great source of vitamin B12.
As with fortified cereals, the vitamin B12 in nutritional yeast is vegan-friendly because it’s synthetically made (16Trusted Source).
Two tablespoons (15 grams) of nutritional yeast may contain up to 733% of the DV for vitamin B12 (23Trusted Source).
Two tablespoons (15 grams) of nutritional yeast may provide up to 17.6 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 733% of the DV.
Rainbow trout is considered to be one of the healthiest fish.
This freshwater species is a great source of protein, healthy fats, and B vitamins.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of trout fillet offers about 312% of the DV for vitamin B12 and 1,171 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (25Trusted Source).
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of trout contains 7.5 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 312% of the DV.
Salmon is well known for having one of the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. However, it’s also an excellent source of B vitamins.
A half fillet (178 grams) of cooked salmon can pack 208% of the DV for vitamin B12 (27Trusted Source).
The same serving size may also provide 4,123 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (27Trusted Source).
Alongside its high fat content, salmon offers a high amount of protein, with about 40 grams in a half fillet (178 grams) (27Trusted Source).
A half fillet (178 grams) of cooked salmon offers more than 200% of the DV for vitamin B12.
Nondairy milk is popular among those who want a nutritious vegan replacement for dairy milk.
While soy, almond, and rice milks are not naturally high in vitamin B12, they are usually fortified, making them an excellent source of this vitamin.
One example is soy milk, which can provide up to 86% of the DV for vitamin B12 in 1 cup (240 ml) (28Trusted Source).
For this reason, fortified nondairy milks could be a great option for those wanting to increase their vitamin B12 intake and avoid deficiency (29).
Similarly to the vitamin B12 in other fortified sources, the vitamin B12 in nondairy milk is synthetically made, so it’s vegan-friendly (16Trusted Source).
One cup (240 ml) of soy milk contains 2.1 mcg of vitamin B12, or 86% of the DV.
Milk and dairy products like yogurt and cheese are great sources of protein and several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12.
One cup (240 ml) of whole milk supplies 46% of the DV for vitamin B12 (30Trusted Source).
Cheese is also a rich source of vitamin B12. One large slice (22 grams) of Swiss cheese can contain about 28% of the DV (31Trusted Source).
For example, a study in over 5,000 people showed that dairy was more effective than fish at increasing vitamin B12 levels (36Trusted Source).
Dairy is a great source of vitamin B12. One cup of whole or full fat yogurt provides up to 23% of the RDI, and one slice (28 grams) of Swiss cheese contains 16%.
Eggs are a great source of complete protein and B vitamins, especially B2 and B12.
Two large eggs (100 grams) supply about 46% of the DV for vitamin B12, plus 39% of the DV for vitamin B2 (37Trusted Source).
Research has shown that egg yolks have higher levels of vitamin B12 than egg whites, as well as that the vitamin B12 in egg yolks is easier to absorb. Therefore, it’s recommended to eat whole eggs instead of just their whites (38Trusted Source).
In addition to getting a good dose of vitamin B12, you’ll get a healthy amount of vitamin D. Eggs are one of the few foods that naturally contain it, with 11% of the DV in two large eggs (37Trusted Source).
Two large eggs (100 grams) contain 1.1 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 46% of the DV.
Vitamin B12 supplements are recommended for people who are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Those include older adults, pregnant or breastfeeding women, vegetarians and vegans, individuals with intestinal problems, and those who have had stomach surgery.
As with the vitamin B12 in fortified sources, the vitamin B12 in supplements is synthetically made, so it’s vegan-friendly (16Trusted Source).
Vitamin B12 supplements can be found in many forms. You can swallow, chew, or drink them, or place them under your tongue. Your healthcare provider can also inject you with vitamin B12.
Research has shown that vitamin B12 taken by mouth and muscular injection are equally effective at restoring vitamin B12 levels in people who are deficient in the vitamin (39Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source, 41Trusted Source).
In fact, a study found that people with low levels of vitamin B12 replenished their stores after 90 days of either supplements or injections of vitamin B12 (40Trusted Source).
However, not all vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by inadequate dietary intake. It’s sometimes caused by lack of intrinsic factor, a protein that is necessary for the efficient absorption of vitamin B12.
Lack of intrinsic factor is most common in older people and usually associated with an autoimmune disease known as pernicious anemia.
The most common treatment for pernicious anemia is lifelong vitamin B12 injections, but small amounts of vitamin B12 are absorbed without intrinsic factor. One review concluded that taking 1,000 mcg daily is an effective alternative to injections (41Trusted Source).
Vitamin B12 supplements are recommended for people who avoid animal products or with impaired absorption. They can be found in different forms, and dosages range anywhere from 150–2,000 mcg.
Vitamin B12 is a key nutrient that your body needs for many essential functions.
It can be found in large amounts 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 may considerably improve your overall health.
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