Good Food Sources of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is found in most foods of animal origin, therefore if your doctor tells you that you need to eat more of it, you'll have many foods to choose from. If you are a total vegetarian, you can still meet your needs, but you'll need to take supplements or eat B12-fortified foods.
Vitamin B12 works with folate to make red blood cells. Some types of anemia are associated with a low vitamin B12 intake. B12 is also essential for a healthy nervous system.
Along with folate and vitamin B6, vitamin B12 is helpful in lowering the level of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood by converting it to methionine, another amino acid. It has been hypothesized that at high levels, homocysteine might damage coronary arteries or make it easier for blood clotting cells to clump together and form a clot. This could increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. However, the homocysteine theory has had some setbacks, and there is currently no direct evidence that marginal vitamin B12 intake leads to a greater risk of any cardiovascular problems.
|0-6 months||no RDA; AI = 0.4|
|7-12 months||no RDA; AI = 0.5|
|14 and older||2.4|
There are many food sources of vitamin B12, as outlined in the table below. However, some people may consume enough of this vitamin, but not be able to absorb it all. This tends to occur as part of aging; your body may not be able to absorb vitamin B12 as well as when you were younger. Certain medications, especially those that lower stomach acid, may also interfere with B12 absorption from food. Discuss this with the doctor, and if this is the case, you may need to take a vitamin B12 supplement.
Vitamin B12 content
|Clams, canned, drained||3 ounces||84.1|
|Oysters, Eastern, wild, cooked by moist heat||6 medium oysters||14.7|
|Bluefish, cooked by dry heat||3 ounces||5.3|
|Bass, striped, cooked by dry heat||3 ounces||3.8|
|Salmon, canned with bone||3 ounces||3.7|
|Beef tenderloin lean, broiled||3 ounces||2.2|
|Ground beef, lean, broiled||3 ounces||2.0|
|Cottage cheese, 1% fat||1 cup||1.4|
|Yogurt, lowfat, fruit flavored||1 cup||1.0|
|Milk, 1%||1 cup||0.9|
|Egg, boiled||1 large egg||0.6|
|Pork loin, lean, broiled||3 ounces||0.6|
|Chicken, light meat, skinless, roasted||3 ounces||0.3|
|Turkey, light meat, skinless, roasted||3 ounces||0.3|
Usable vitamin B12 is only found in animal products. Seaweed, algae,and spirulina contain vitamin B12, but in a form that cannot be well absorbed by the body. Fermented plant foods such as tempeh and miso are often said to contain vitamin B12, but in actuality they contain virtually no measurable level of the vitamin.
Therefore, if you are a vegan (a vegetarian who does not eat eggs or dairy products) you will need to eat foods fortified with vitamin B12 or take supplements. Commonly fortified foods include nutritional yeast, some breakfast cereals, soy milk products, and vegetarian burgers. Check the Nutrition Facts label on these foods for the amount of vitamin B12 they contain.
American Dietetic Association
The Vegetarian Resource Group
Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition
Dietitians of Canada
The American Dietetic Association's Complete Food & Nutrition Guide. Chronimed Publishing; 1998.
Bowes and Church's Food Values of Portions Commonly Used. 17th ed. Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins; 1998.
Last reviewed January 2008 by Dianne Scheinberg MS, RD, LDN
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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