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. Most healthy adults usually get enough vitamin B12 from their diet; however, those following a vegetarian or vegan diet may not get sufficient amounts. The other cause of a B12 deficiency is malabsorption due to alcoholism, long-term use of antacids, gastric disorders, or pernicious anemia.
While those with a B12 malabsorption may or may not require B12 supplements, here’s a list of foods for those who aren’t getting enough B12 in their diet. We have listed both meat and non-meat sources as well as the quantity of vitamin B12 present in each. All nutritional values have been derived from the United States Department of Agriculture.
1. Shellfish: Clams, Oysters, And Mussels
Every 75 g (2.5 oz) clams contains 74.2 mcg of 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 types of shellfish like crabs and shrimps can still tolerate some of these.
2. Liver: Beef, Pork, And Chicken
While organ meat does contain high amounts of B12, folate, and preformed vitamin A, eat it sparingly. Avoid it entirely when pregnant. The excess vitamin A in organ meat is potentially harmful.
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
Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel are also rich in omega-3 fats that have a range of health benefits.
Every 75 g serving of cooked Atlantic mackerel gives 14.3 mcg B12, while an equal serving of king mackerel yields 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. About 85 g of cooked lamb has about 2.2 mcg of B12.
6. Eggs: Goose, Duck, Chicken, And Quail
Of all eggs, goose eggs have the highest amount vitamin B12, with each 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.
7. Cheese: Swiss, Geitost, 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, an equal amount of geitost 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. Additionally, cottage cheese contains 1.1-1.5 mcg of B12. Vegans can opt for fortified silken tofu, instead, which contains 1 mcg B12.
8. 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. Vegans can opt for fortified plant-based soy, oat, almond, cashew, or flaxseed milk instead.
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.
10. White Button Mushrooms
Recent research has found traces of vitamin B12 in the outer skin of white button mushrooms.3 One cup of raw white mushrooms can give you up to 0.03 mcg of the vitamin. Hence, while white button mushrooms might not be the primary source of the vitamin, you could incorporate them into your diet to vary your sources. However, you need to be especially careful since cooking destroys the water-soluble B vitamins. The best way to retain the B12 content is to steam the mushrooms.
11. Fortified Cereals
Vegans or even vegetarians with lactose intolerance 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 contains 7.9 mcg of vitamin B12.
12. Nutritional Yeast
Depending on the brand, nutritional yeast packs up to 24 mcg of vitamin B12 per tablespoon, making it one of the most reliable sources of the vitamin for vegans. It is also rich in vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6. Easy ways to use nutritional yeast include sprinkling it over popcorn, adding it to pasta sauces, or stirring it into soups.
13. Fortified Yeast Extract Spread
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 supermarkets 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.
You Need Just 2.4 mcg Vitamin B12 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, pregnant and lactating women are advised to consume 6–30 mcg of the vitamin spread across several meals a day. Vegan lactating mothers should be especially careful about consuming enough B12 to avert deficiency in their babies.
Take Supplements If You Suffer From B12 Malabsorption
The major cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in adults who eat a healthy B12-rich diet is poor absorption whether due to low levels of stomach acid or poor production of the gastric intrinsic factor, the protein that facilitates the absorption of B12 molecules. Stomach acid secretion decreases with age, which is why people above 50 should take 100–400 mcg supplements. The production of the intrinsic factor 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.