Are you often feeling weak, tired, or experiencing loss of appetite?
These are signs of a potential vitamin B12 deficiency (1), (2). Vitamin B12 is important for many functions in the body. A water-soluble vitamin, it’s responsible for red blood cell formation, neurological function, and more (3), (4).
A study by the USDA claims about two-fifths of adults may be low in vitamin B12 (4). Other studies show adults over the age of 60 are the most likely to have low vitamin B12 levels (5), (6).
Vitamin B12 is one of the eight B vitamins necessary for optimal cellular production in the body (6). Vegetarians and vegans are usually at a higher risk because most sources of B12 come from animal foods (7), (8).
Summary: Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin essential for red blood cell formation, neurological function, and much more. Weakness, fatigue, or loss of appetite are common signs of vitamin B12 deficiency. Vegetarian or vegan diets are at higher risk of being deficient in vitamin B12.
Table of Contents
Foods high in vitamin B12
Clams are extremely high in vitamin B12, with 84.1 mcg per serving. That makes up over 3,000 percent of the recommended daily requirement (6).
Plus, move over meat. Clams pack in 22 grams of protein in only 3 ounces. They’re also low in fat and high in vitamin C and vitamin A (9).
With potassium, selenium, zinc, and iron, clams are a key contender with meat for their impressive nutrition profile (10).
Summary: Clams contain 84.1 mcg of vitamin B12 per serving, making them 3,000% of the recommended daily requirement. This excellent source is also packed with potassium, selenium, zinc, iron, vitamins A and C, and protein. Toss clams into some pasta or steam them with light butter and garlic.
2. Beef Liver
Beef liver ranks in a close second to clams when it comes to vitamin B12. It has nearly 3,000 percent of the daily requirement and contains 70.7 mcg per serving (6).
Beef liver has the most vitamins and minerals than any other meat equivalent. It’s not only high in B12, but it’s also full of folate and other essential B vitamins, vitamin A, zinc, selenium, and much more (11), (12), (13), (14).
The nutrients in beef liver help to promote muscle growth, maintain neurological function, and it can help protect against anemia due to its high iron content (6), (15). Eating beef liver is not as common in the U.S. as it is in the U.K. In the U.K., it’s in many dishes from breakfast to dinner. However, portion control is also important for beef liver. You only need a small amount to get your fill of essential nutrients.
Summary: Beef liver is also a rich source of vitamin B12, containing 70.7 mcg per serving which is 3,000% of the daily requirement. It also has other B vitamins, vitamin A, zinc, iron, and selenium. Eating the right portion is important because beef liver is high in cholesterol. Aim for a portion that is about 3 ounces, or the size of your palm.
Rainbow Trout is another healthy fish, full of beneficial vitamin B12, as well as a few other B vitamins (6).
Both farmed and wild trout contain high amounts. One serving of wild trout has more with 5.4 mcg per serving, while farm-raised has 3.5 mcg per serving (6), (17). Trout can be an easy meal that is safe for most people.
Trout has tons of omega-3 fatty acids and essential vitamins and nutrients (18). There is also evidence that including fish in your diet can help lower blood pressure (19).
Summary: Farmed or wild trout is very rich in vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Wild trout contains 5.4 mcg per serving, and farm-raised has 3.5 mcg per serving of vitamin B12. Sauté it with olive oil and vegetables for an easy dinner, put it on the grill, or roast it in an oven.
Salmon contains 4.8 mcg of vitamin B12 per serving, providing approximately 200 percent of the daily requirement (6).
Along with many other types of fish high in omega-3 fats, Salmon has beneficial anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that the omega-3 fats also present in salmon may help reduce the risk of many common and chronic inflammatory diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease (20), (21).
Salmon also contains the antioxidant, astaxanthin (22). This antioxidant may provide many health benefits, including preventing heart disease and diabetes. However, more research on astaxanthin is needed (23). Salmon is also high in potassium, zinc, selenium, and a variety of B vitamins, making it an excellent choice for most diets (18).
You can buy salmon fresh, frozen, or canned for easy consumption. You can treat canned salmon just like tuna. Add some mayo, olive oil, capers, and your favorite leafy green vegetable for a hearty and healthy lunch.
Summary: Salmon is a very nutritious food containing 4.8 mcg of vitamin B12, or 200% of the daily requirement. This anti-inflammatory food is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, helpful for fighting chronic disease, improving heart health, and boosting brain health. Frozen, canned, or fresh salmon are all nutritious options.
Tuna swims in at fifth place for the fish highest in the essential vitamin B12. It has 104 percent of the daily recommended intake at 2.5 mcg per serving (6).
This mostly canned fish is always a delight to many people, and it has been for decades. And, it’s not only because of the taste. Like salmon, tuna contains omega-3 fats that can provide anti-inflammatory benefits (24). Tuna is a wonderful food to incorporate in your diet.
But some types of tuna are also high in mercury. The amount of mercury varies based on the variety of tuna (25). To avoid too much mercury buildup in your body, keep your tuna intake to around one to two times a week (26). Pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and children should be additionally cautious about how much mercury they consume, and avoid tuna varieties high in mercury (27).
Summary: Tuna contains 2.5 mcg of vitamin B12 per serving, over 100% of the daily recommended intake. It is also rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and anti-inflammatory properties. Some types are high in mercury, so avoid consuming it more than two times per week. Tuna can be easily tossed into salads, on sandwiches, or eaten plain with crackers as a snack.
Just like beef liver, beef meat is also is high in vitamin B12.
One serving of sirloin beef contains 1.4 mcg of vitamin B12 (6). That makes up 58 percent of the recommended intake.
You don’t have to eat red meat daily to get adequate levels of vitamin B12. Eating a variety of healthy foods will provide a variety of health benefits . Practice portion control when it comes to red meat because too much of a good thing can lead to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and hypertension (28)
Summary: Beef meat is also rich in vitamin B12. In 3 ounces, there is 1.4 mcg of vitamin B12, making it an excellent choice. Consume the right portion of red meat due to its higher cholesterol levels. A good serving of beef is about the size of your palm. Instead of making meat the star of your meal, make it more of a side and pair it with a lot of vegetables and fiber-rich foods.
7. Nutritional Yeast
Do you like to add a cheesy flavor to your meals, but you can’t have dairy?
Nutritional yeast may just be your new kitchen staple.
This convenient fortified seasoning has 100 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin B12 (6). It’s a great choice among vegans and vegetarians or anyone who reacts poorly to dairy consumption.
Add some nutritional yeast to most meals for a cheesy alternative. You can make a vegan cheese with cashews, nutritional yeast, and water. Simple soak your cashews, then blend them with everything else, and add some salt and pepper to season. You’ll have vegan ricotta cheese in no time.
Summary: Nutritional yeast is the perfect kitchen staple, especially for those who follow vegan or vegetarian diets. Nutritional yeast is very high in vitamin B12, and also contains some protein. It is known for its cheesy flavor, and makes a perfect cheese alternative for vegans or vegetarians. Sprinkle some over popcorn for a tasty, nutritious treat.
Eggs are another protein high in vitamin B12. Just one egg has 0.6 mcg of vitamin B12, making it 25 percent of the daily recommended intake (6).
Egg yolks are full of nutrition besides that, too. They have vitamin D, B vitamins, vitamin A, C, calcium, and iron (29). Eggs are a great way to get a fair amount of nutrition without sacrificing the flavor.
Too many eggs, like most foods, isn’t a good idea for ideal health and wellbeing. Limit your egg intake to 1-2 a day to get all the health benefits (30).
Summary: Eggs are also rich in vitamin B12, with about 0.6 mcg per egg. Eat the whole egg to make sure you’re getting the vitamin D, B vitamins, vitamin A, calcium, and iron they contain. A good portion is 1-2 eggs per day.
While chicken only has 0.3 mcg of vitamin B12 per serving, it still makes up 13 percent of the daily recommended amount (6).
Chicken is meat low in fat and rich in protein (31). It helps promote more muscle mass, energy, and more (32). It also has iron, zinc, and essential amino acids for human health (33).
You can buy chicken canned, fresh, or frozen for easy eating.
Summary: Chicken is a perfect high protein, low fat meat option that contains 13% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin B12. It is also rich in iron, zinc, and essential amino acids. Chicken is easy to sauté, bake, broil, or grill for a quick dinner idea.
Many types of dairy are rich in B vitamins, like yogurt, milk, and cheese.
If you can digest and easily process dairy, these foods are great to add to your diet. Just an ounce of swiss cheese has 0.9 mcg of vitamin B12, and one cup of low-fat milk has 1.2 mcg per serving. One serving of milk makes up 50 percent of the daily recommended requirement of B12 (6).
Summary: Dairy foods including yogurt, milk, and cheese are rich in vitamin B12. If you have difficulty digesting dairy, stick with other vitamin B12-rich foods. If you can digest it just fine, vary your dairy intake throughout the day. Good options to try are swiss cheese, low-fat milk, Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese.
Breakfast cereals come fortified with about 25 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin B12 (6).
Although cereals often come fortified with vitamins, some varieties may also contain high amounts of sugar (34), (35). Check the label of your breakfast cereal for added sugars. If a breakfast cereal contains high amounts of added sugars, consider consuming it in moderation.
Summary: Breakfast cereals contain 25% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin B12. Some cereals are full of sugar, so check the label before purchasing. Aim for a breakfast cereal without sugar added as an ingredient, or stick with the plain flavors as much as possible.
Vitamin B12 is just one of eight essential nutrients needed for cellular health including neurological function, energy production, nerve functioning, and more (6).
Many foods contain vitamin B12. Speak with your doctor if you think you might be low in this critical vitamin.