Vitamin B12 helps to provide a stronger immune system, improve nerve function, and more. However, getting enough vitamin B12 takes more effort.
It’s fairly easy to get most B vitamins by eating a variety of plant-based food and whole grains. But, for many of us, getting the recommended dietary amounts of vitamin B12 in our diets requires some added attention.
Vitamin B12 Foods
Vitamin B12 helps our bodies produce red blood cells and DNA. This essential vitamin also supports our immune systems and promotes healthy nerve function. But, people who choose not to eat meat or dairy products may find it difficult to get the recommended dietary amounts (RDAs) of vitamin B12.
Recommended dietary amounts for vitamin B12 are 2.4 micrograms daily for ages 14 years and older, 2.6 micrograms daily for pregnant females, and 2.8 micrograms daily for breastfeeding mothers. People 50 years and older should meet the RDAs by eating foods reinforced with B12 or by taking a vitamin B12 dietary supplement.
Additionally, individuals with digestive issues — like celiac disease — and adults older than 50, are also at a greater risk for deficiency due to absorption problems. Absorption difficulties can cause weakness, fatigue, and lightheaded symptoms.
The following is a list of 10 foods that can help you achieve a B12-rich diet:
- Crab — Crabmeat contains vitamins A, B, and C, as well as magnesium and zinc. A single can of blue crab meat has 4.7 mg, or 58 percent of your recommended dietary amounts (RDAs) of zinc. Add crabmeat to seafood chowder, mix it into your salad, or prepare crab cakes as an appetizer. Three ounces of crabmeat is equal to 10.3 mcg of vitamin B12, or 171 percent of your daily value (DV).
- Yogurt — Yogurt is a great source of protein, magnesium, and calcium. It’s also a good source for vitamin B12. Eight ounces of low-fat yogurt has 1.1 mcg of B12, or 18 percent DV. Studies show that eating it regularly could prevent diabetes and prevent high blood pressure. Thanks to plenty of beneficial probiotics, yogurt is also a great digestive aid — balancing the microflora in your gut and easing irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, or IBS — an intestinal disorder causing pain in the belly, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. It’s best to choose nonfat or low-fat organic yogurt varieties. Mix yogurt with nuts, fruit, herbs, and oats. You can make smoothies with yogurt, as well.
- Clams — Clams have the highest concentration of vitamin B12 of any food. There’s 84.1 mcg of vitamin B12 in three ounces of cooked clams — 1,402 percent of your daily value (DV). Additionally, three ounces of fresh or canned clams contain 534 mg of potassium. Clams are mouth-watering in pasta dishes or stews — like Manhattan clam chowder or Cioppino. Steam a batch of clams until the shells crack open, or boil them for about five minutes after shells open.
- Oysters — Oysters contain more zinc than any other food. Six raw oysters have 32 mg of zinc – 400 percent of your recommended dietary amounts (RDA). Zinc supports your immune system by helping fight off colds. This essential mineral can encourage testosterone production, which may improve libido and help women’s ovaries stay healthy. Enjoy oysters as an appetizer or in a seafood stew. Three ounces of cooked oysters has 21.84 mcg of vitamin B12 – 364 percent DV.
- Eggs — Eggs are a great source of vitamin D and protein — important for helping your body absorb calcium and maintain strong bones. You can have them scrambled, poached, hard-boiled, or soft-boiled. Have an egg omelet with vegetables, avocado, and fresh fruit. Create an egg salad with chopped vegetables, pesto, and quinoa. Keep an eye on portion sizes. One egg yolk contains about 60 percent of your daily allotment of dietary cholesterol. One large hard-boiled egg has .6 mcg, or 10 percent of your B12 daily value.
- Trout — Trout are fatty fish — a great source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which help to promote brain function and fight inflammation. There’s 5.4 mcg of B12 in 3 ounces of wild rainbow trout – 90 percent DV. Trout is delicious when it’s grilled with a little extra virgin olive oil. Serve it with garlic-sautéed spinach and a baked sweet potato.
- Milk — Milk is a good source of calcium and vitamin D. Additionally, one cup of low-fat milk has 1.2 mcg of vitamin B12 – 18 percent DV. Milk may also help some women avoid PMS symptoms, according to a University of Massachusetts at Amherst study. Another study found that women who consumed more than one serving of high-fat dairy daily were 25 percent less likely to experience ovulation problems than those who did not. There is a variety of healthy ways to include milk into your diet. Consider making a smoothie with milk, almond butter, frozen fruit, cinnamon, and ginger.
- Mussels — Mussels are also a good source of protein, potassium, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids. You can steam them as an appetizer, or serve in a seafood stew. There’s 20.4 mcg of B12 in 3 ounces of cooked mussels – 338 percent of your daily value.
- Salmon — Salmon is a rich source of protein and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, one 3-ounce salmon fillet contains more than 100 percent of your daily value (DV) of vitamin D. In addition, 3 ounces of cooked sockeye salmon has 4.8 mcg of vitamin B12, 80 percent of your daily value. To maximize the many health benefits found in salmon, experts recommend baking it in the oven or grilling it instead of eating it fried, dried, or salted.
- Turkey — One serving of lean turkey has nearly half your RDA of selenium, a trace mineral that bolsters immune function. Oven roasted turkey breast is great on a garden salad with Brussels sprouts. Cook very lean ground turkey in a marinara sauce and served it over spaghetti squash. Choose white turkey meat — like the breast. Pass over the skin; it contains more saturated fat. Three ounces of turkey has .3 mcg of B12 — 5 percent DV.
The Human Body Absorbs and Stores
You may have noticed; vitamin B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin commonly found in a variety of foods — like fish, shellfish, meat, eggs, and dairy products.
Vitamin B12 is important in DNA synthesis. This essential vitamin is bound to the protein in some of the food we consume. During digestion, acid in the stomach releases B12 from protein. Once it is released, B12 combines with a substance called intrinsic factor (IF) before it is absorbed into the bloodstream.
The Mayo Clinic notes the human body stores several years’ worth of vitamin B12 in the liver — so low levels in the body are rare. However, decreases in vitamin B12 levels are more common in the elderly, HIV-infected persons, and vegetarians.
Inability to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestinal tract can cause a type of anemia called pernicious anemia. Fever and symptoms of “excessive sweating” have been reported with anemia due to low levels of vitamin B12; however, these are treated with vitamin B12.
Another source of vitamin B12 is dietary supplements. But be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There’s no guarantee of the strength, purity, or safety of these products — and the effects on a person may vary.
If you decide to take vitamin B12 dietary supplements, you should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other medication, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.