A Guide to Foods High in B12
The B vitamins play important roles in your body, and B-12 is no exception. This essential vitamin helps keep the body’s nerves and blood cells healthy. So what can you eat to make sure you’re getting enough B-12 in your diet?
The recommended daily intake of vitamin B-12 is 2.4 micrograms (abbreviated as mcg or µg) for adults. Some of the best sources of B-12 come from animal products, but there are a few vegan-friendly foods high in B-12 too. Add these foods to your grocery list to help boost your B-12 intake.
Foods high in B-12 include crab, mollusks (like oysters and mussels), and especially clams. A 3-ounce serving of cooked clams will give you a whopping 84 mcg — that’s 35 times the recommended intake of 2.4 mcg!
Not only does fish provide protein and healthy fats, it’s also a solid source of B-12 — so whip up some healthy fish tacos or your favorite seafood recipe, like this healthy sesame salmon recipe. These types of fish are particularly high in B-12:
- Canned light tuna (2.2 mcg in 3 ounces, drained)
- Mackerel (16 mcg in a 3-ounce fillet)
- Herring (11 mcg in a 3-ounce fillet)
- Salmon (2.7 mcg in a 3-ounce fillet)
- Sardines (7.6 mcg in 3 ounces, drained)
4. Fortified Cereal
Many cereals are fortified with B-12, which is an easy way to put a dent in your daily intake, especially if you don’t eat meat. A cup of Cheerios, for example, has 1.9 mcg of B-12.
A cup of whole milk contains 1.1 mcg of B-12. Substitute fortified almond milk for an even bigger B-12 boost — a cup of fortified soy milk contains 2.62 mcg (be sure to choose unsweetened). Not all dairy-free milk alternatives are fortified, so check the label.
8. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is an awesome way to add B-12 to a vegan diet. Bob’s Red Mill Nutritional Yeast, for example, contains 17.6 mcg of B-12 per 1/4 cup serving. Not sure how to use nutritional yeast? Try sprinkling it on popcorn or stirring it into risotto. Vegans should still consider supplementing, because it’s pretty tough to eat enough “nootch” to cover your daily B-12 needs, says Adrienne Youdim, MD, a physician nutrition specialist in Beverly Hills, CA. And not all brands are fortified, so check the label.
A skinless chicken drumstick contains 0.39 mcg, and a cup of diced chicken breast contains 0.45 mcg — both of which can help you reach your daily B-12 goal. (Here’s how to master the art of baking the perfect juicy chicken breast.)
Are You Getting Enough B12?
- Loss of appetite
- Tingling in the hands and feet
- Balance issues
However, the trouble isn’t usually a lack of B-12 in our diet. “The standard American diet already includes high amounts of animal-based protein, making vitamin B-12 deficiency rare,” says Krista Maguire, RD, CSSD, and nutrition manager at Openfit. “However, for some people — especially as you age — there are issues with B-12 absorption, which would require supplementation.”
Do You Need a B12 Supplement?
Before you decide on your own whether you need to take a B-12 supplement, be sure to get your levels checked by a medical professional. With a methylmalonic acid test, your doctor can diagnose a vitamin B-12 deficiency even if it’s early or mild, Maguire says.
There are a few factors that can keep you from obtaining — or absorbing — enough vitamin B-12:
- A vegan diet. Many of the best sources of B-12 are animal products, so vegans may have a hard time eating enough B-12 without consuming supplements or fortified foods, Maguire says.
- A vegetarian diet (sometimes). If your vegetarian diet includes eggs and milk products, you can typically get enough B-12 from those, says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, a nutritionist based in New York. Ditto if you’re pescatarian. But strict vegetarians should keep an eye on their B-12 intake.
- Certain medications. Certain medications, including those that help balance blood sugar levels and prescription antacids, can potentially impact B-12 levels, Youdim says.
- Pernicious anemia. People with this condition can’t absorb enough B-12 from food.
- Age. Research suggests the older you are, the higher your risk for a B-12 deficiency.
- Alcohol intake. Research also suggests regular alcohol consumption may also be linked to lower B-12 levels as you age.
If you’re not getting enough B-12, you may want to consider a supplement, but talk to your doctor first. “Supplements can be highly effective in providing B-12 in those who do not get it from food,” Youdim says.