Everything you need to know about Vitamin B12

The vitamin is vital to your blood and brain health. Here’s how to know if you’re getting enough.

It doesn’t take a doctor to know that vitamins do the body good.

In fact, you need many to survive.Vitamin B12 is no exception. The vitamin plays a role in several essential body functions, including blood cell development, nerve function, and your cells ability to make energy.


Without B12, things would go downhill—fast. So, how do you know you’re getting enough? What foods have B12? Do you need a supplement?

Here’s everything you need to know about the vitamin, according to experts.

What does Vitamin B12 do ?

“The water-soluble vitamin B12, sometimes referred to as cobalamin, is crucial for the development of red blood cells as well as the healthy operation of the brain and neurological system,” says Pallini Winnifred, R.D.N., the in-house dietician for FitDominium.

According to the Mayo Clinic, some cases of dementia and low cognitive ability have been linked to deficiencies in vitamin B12. While B12 deficiency is not super common in the United States, it can have some major effects on our health. It can cause severe weakness, nausea, and numbness.

“Without proper B12 intake one can suffer megaloblastic anemia (large blood cells) which results in decreased energy, and weight loss more severe cases of B12 deficiency can lead to permeate nerve damage,” says Marie Lorraine Johnson, M.S., R.D.N., C.P.T.

Do i need a Vitamin B12 supplement ?

A basic blood test from your primary care physician should tell you if your B12 levels are sufficient.

Because the vitamin is mostly present in animal products, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy goods, vegans and vegetarians may need supplementation, says Winnifred. Even if you’re a picky eater and don’t get many of these things in your diet, it might be worth looking into.I

t is a generally safe supplement to take, according to the Mayo Clinic. Even still, talking to your doctor before starting any supplement is always worth the time.

What foods have Vitamin B12 ?

The only place you can find vitamin B12 naturally is in foods from animal origin, such as eggs, seafood, and meat, says Amanda Blechman, R.D., C.D.N., Director of Health and Scientific Affairs at Danone North America.

“However many plant-based foods are now fortified with it, as well,” says Blechman. Good news for the vegetarian and vegan crowds.

One more thing: The recommended daily value of B12 for average healthy adults is 2.4 micrograms per day. If have a partner or friend who pregnant or nursing, they might need a bit more.

Luckily, there’s plenty of foods that can help you hit that recommended value. Here’s a few.

  • Salmon, Clams, And Other Seafood

Fish and shellfish in general are a boon for B12, Blechman says.

“B12 content varies depending on the type of fish, but many contain at least 100 percent of the daily value of B12, if not more,” she says.Clams are “among the greatest B12 meals,” says Winnifred. “They have extraordinarily high B12 concentrations; 100 grams of clams have 84.1 mcg of B12, or more than 1,400 percent of the daily required dose.”

Clams are also a fantastic source of other necessary minerals including iron, zinc, and protein.

Salmon is a common seafood staple, and has plenty of B12 in combo with its other health benefits. Winnifred says that along with plenty of selenium, vitamin D, and protein, salmon has 6 mcg per 100 grams, or more than 200 percent of the daily required amount.

Not a fan of salmon or clams? Some other great seafood options that all pack 100 percent of the daily recommended amount are for B12 are sardines, trout, and tuna, Blechman says.

  • Yogurt

Many people associate B12 with foods you don’t typically want to guzzle down on a daily basis, like organ meats or nutritional yeast. But did you know yogurt is a great option to boost your B12 intake?

“Dairy products in general are typically an excellent source of B12 and yogurt is my favorite due to its versatility,” says Blechman. A normal 6 oz serving of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt contains .8 micrograms of vitamin B12— about 35 percent of the daily value.

“Not only is yogurt easy to incorporate into almost anything you’re cooking or baking, it’s also nutrient-dense (containing high-quality protein, calcium and often vitamin D when fortified) and is associated with a variety of benefits from weight management to heart health,” she says.

  • Fortified Breakfast Cereal

Fortified breakfast cereal has B12 added to it during the production process. So, of course, it’s a great source of B12. Some brands have up to 6mcg, which is 200 percent of the recommended daily value.

“For vegans and vegetarians, fortified cereals are an easy and delicious method to up their B12 consumption and make sure they are getting enough of this crucial ingredient,” Winnifred says. “According to research in the Nutrition Journal, eating fortified cereals can assist vegans and vegetarians have higher B12.”

  • Eggs

Already loading up on eggs for your post-workout protein? It’s a good move for your B12 levels, too.

“On average, one large egg contains about .5 micrograms of B12. It may not sound like much, but it’s actually more than 20 percent of the daily recommended intake,” says Blechman. “Plus they’re included in a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet so they provide a high-quality protein source for veggie lovers who may be abstaining from meat and fish.”

If you’re going to use eggs to get your B12 in, make sure you eat the whole egg. Most of the B12 is found in the yolk, says Johnson.

  • Nutritional Yeast

Another great options for vegetarians and vegans.

Nutritional yeast fortified with B12 is one of the best ways to add cobalamin to their diet, says Johnson.

Adding nutritional yeast into a diet can “dramatically decrease the risk of developing a B12 deficiency,” she says. Though it varies by brand, ¼ cup of nutritional yeast can provide around 8.3 mcg of B12, 350 percent of one’s daily needs.

Of course, if you’re adding nutritional yeast to pasta, a vinaigrette, or sprinkling it on popcorn, you’ll only use a tablespoon or two at most.

  • Fortified Soy Beverages

Soymilk is often fortified with B12 and can be a great alternative for people who don’t consume dairy,” says Blechman. “Just be sure to check the label—since fortification is voluntary and up to the discretion of the company producing the item, not all varieties are fortified and, if they are, exact B12 content can vary greatly across brands.”

Throw some into your morning fortified cereal, and you’ll be set on B12 for the day.

  • Beef Liver

Alright organ meat fans (if you’re out there), this one’s for you.

“Beef liver, which is a type of organ meat popularly consumed in many cultures, is another excellent source of vitamin B12,” says Winnifred. “The remarkable 72 mcg of B12 in a 3-ounce meal of beef liver is more than 1,200 percent of the daily recommended amount.”

It’s worth noting that beef liver is also a great source of iron, vitamin A, and folate, amongst other crucial vitamins and minerals. Might be worth the grueling reminder that you’re eating, well … liver.

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