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.
What is vitamin B12?
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 recommended daily intake (RDI) is about 2.4 mcg but slightly higher for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
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 recommended daily intake, your body will save it for future use.
You may develop a vitamin B12 deficiency if your body does not produce enough intrinsic factor, or if you don’t eat enough vitamin-B12-rich foods.
Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal products, especially meat and dairy products. Luckily for those on vegan diets, fortified foods can be good sources of this vitamin, too.
Below are 12 healthy foods that are very high in vitamin B12.
1. Animal liver and kidneys
Organ meats are some of the most nutritious foods out there. The liver and kidneys, especially lamb, are rich in vitamin B12.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of lamb liver provides an incredible 3,571% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin B12.
While lamb liver is generally higher in vitamin B12 than beef or veal liver, the latter two may still contain about 3,000% of the recommended daily intake per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
Lamb’s liver is also very high in copper, selenium, and vitamins A and B2.
Lamb, veal, and beef kidneys are also high in vitamin B12. Lamb’s kidneys provide about 3,000% of the recommended daily intake per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving. They also provide more than 100% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin B2 and selenium.
Summary: A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of lamb, beef, or veal liver contains up to 3,500% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin B12, while the same serving of kidneys contains up to 3,000% of the recommended daily intake.
Clams are small, chewy shellfish that are packed with nutrients.
This mollusk is a lean source of protein and contains very high concentrations of vitamin B12. You can get more than 7,000% of the recommended daily intake in just 20 small clams.
Clams, especially whole baby clams, also provide great amounts of iron, with almost 200% of the recommended daily intake in a 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving of small clams.
Clams have also been shown to be a good source of antioxidants.
Interestingly, the broth of boiled clams is also high in vitamin B12. The canned broth has been shown to provide 113–588% of the recommended daily intake per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
Summary: A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of clams contains up to 99 mcg of vitamin B12, which is 4,120% of the recommended daily intake.
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.
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A 1-cup (150-gram) serving of drained sardines provides 554% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin B12.
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.
Summary: One cup (150 grams) of drained sardines contains up to 500% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin B12.
Beef is an excellent source of vitamin B12.
One grilled flat iron steak (about 190 grams) provides 467% of the recommended daily intake 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 recommended daily intakes for selenium and zinc.
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.
Summary: A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of beef contains about 5.9 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 245% of the recommended daily intake.
5. Fortified cereal
This source of vitamin B12 may work well for vegetarians and vegans, as it’s synthetically made and not derived from animal sources.
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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 offers up to 62% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin B12 in 1 cup (59 grams).
The same serving of this cereal also packs 29% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin B6 and good amounts of vitamin A, folate, and iron.
Research shows that eating fortified cereals daily helps increase vitamin B12 concentrations.
One study showed that when participants ate 1 cup (240 ml) of fortified cereal containing 4.8 mcg (200% of the recommended daily intake) of vitamin B12 daily for 14 weeks, their vitamin B12 levels increased significantly.
Summary: 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 recommended daily intake.
Tuna is a commonly consumed fish and a 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 is known as dark muscles.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked tuna contains 453% of the recommended daily intake for the vitamin.
This same serving size also packs a good amount of lean protein, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamins A and B3.
Canned tuna also contains a decent amount of vitamin B12. A can (165 grams) of light tuna canned in water contains 115% of the recommended daily intake.
Summary: A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked tuna provides 10.9 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 453% of the recommended daily intake.
7. Fortified nutritional yeast
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.
Two tablespoons (15 grams) of nutritional yeast may contain up to 733% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin B12.
One study added nutritional yeast to the diets of raw-food vegans and found it increased vitamin B12 blood levels and helped reduce blood markers of vitamin B12 deficiency.
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Summary: Two tablespoons (15 grams) of nutritional yeast may provide up to 17.6 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 733% of the recommended daily intake.
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 recommended daily intake for vitamin B12 and 1,171 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
Experts recommend that the combined daily intake of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) should be 250–500 mg.
Trout is also a great source of minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, and selenium.
Summary: A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of trout contains 7.5 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 312% of the recommended daily intake.
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 recommended daily intake for vitamin B12.
The same serving size may also provide 4,123 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
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Alongside its high-fat content, salmon offers a high amount of protein, with about 40 grams in a half fillet (178 grams).
Summary: A half fillet (178 grams) of cooked salmon offers more than 200% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin B12.
10. Fortified non-dairy milk
Non-dairy milk is popular among those who want a nutritious vegan replacement for dairy milk.
While soy, almond, and rice milk 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 recommended daily intake for vitamin B12 in 1 cup (240 ml).
For this reason, fortified non-dairy milk could be a great option for those wanting to increase their vitamin B12 intake and avoid deficiency.
Similar to the vitamin B12 in other fortified sources, the vitamin B12 in non-dairy milk is synthetically made, so it’s vegan-friendly.
Summary: One cup (240 ml) of soy milk contains 2.1 mcg of vitamin B12, or 86% of the recommended daily intake.
11. Milk and dairy products
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 recommended daily intake for vitamin B12.
Cheese is also a rich source of vitamin B12. One large slice (22 grams) of Swiss cheese can contain about 28% of the recommended daily intake.
Full-fat plain yogurt can also be a decent source. It has even been shown to help improve vitamin B12 status in people who are deficient in the vitamin.
Interestingly, studies have shown that the body absorbs vitamin B12 in milk and dairy products better than the vitamin B12 in beef, fish, or eggs.
For example, a study in over 5,000 people showed that dairy was more effective than fish at increasing vitamin B12 levels.
Summary: Dairy is a great source of vitamin B12. One cup of whole-fat yogurt provides up to 23% of the recommended daily intake, 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 recommended daily intake for vitamin B12, plus 39% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin B2.
Research has shown that egg yolks have higher levels of vitamin B12 than egg whites, as well as that vitamin B12 in egg yolks is easier to absorb. Therefore, it’s recommended to eat whole eggs instead of just their whites.
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 recommended daily intake in two large eggs.
Summary: Two large eggs (100 grams) contain 1.1 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 46% of the recommended daily intake.
Should you take vitamin B12 supplements?
Vitamin B12 supplements are recommended for people who are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.
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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.
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.
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.
However, not all vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by inadequate dietary intake. It’s sometimes caused by a 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 is 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.
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Summary: 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.