The Top 10 Foods for Vitamin B-12

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on , Last Updated on

Fish on a place with a slice of an organic lemon. Vitamin B-12 is not produced by plants, animals, or even fungi.

Vitamin B-12 is an essential nutrient that’s involved with a lot of important processes in the human body. [1] Food is the primary source for this nutrient, with supplements being the secondary source for some people. Vitamin B-12 is structurally the largest and most complex of all the vitamins known to man. Interestingly enough, vitamin B-12 is integral to normal energy metabolism in all cells of the body as well as amino acid and fatty acid metabolism. Additionally, B-12 is extremely important in a myriad of other vital physiological processes such as brain function and nervous system health, myelin sheath health, blood formation, bone marrow health, and DNA synthesis/regulation.

A unique essential nutrient, vitamin B-12 isn’t produced by plants, animals, or even fungi, instead being produced only by certain bacteria. Human requirements for vitamin B-12 as set by the Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) are 2-3 micrograms/mcg per day to upwards of 4-7 micrograms/mcg per day. [2] Naturally-occurring sources of Vitamin B-12 are found primarily in foods of animal origin and among fortified foods of vegetarian/vegan origin. If you are a practicing vegan, supplementation may be the best option for you to ensure you receive adequate to optimal daily intake.

Top 10 Food Sources of Vitamin B-12

The majority of food sources for vitamin B-12 come from foods of animal origin, making vegan options somewhat limited. Certain soil bacteria synthesize B-12 and some people believe that eating unwashed vegetables may provide trace amounts of the vitamin. However, most people aren’t too keen on eating dirty vegetables. Further, there is no evidence that suggests soil bacteria generate any forms of B-12 the body can actually use.[3] Ensure you’re getting the B-12 you need with a high-quality supplement, such as VeganSafe™ B-12. It contains the two most bioavailable forms of B-12 to help you maintain your energy levels.

Those of you who eat meat, eggs, and dairy will likely have an easier time getting B-12, but please remember, consuming animal products carries other health concerns. This is particularly true if the animal is raised in a conventional feedlot environment. While we at Global Healing Center always advocate a raw vegan diet, we understand that not everyone will adopt this lifestyle. For you, here are the highest non-vegan sources (and some plant sources) of vitamin B-12:

cooked salmon for vitamin b-12

1. Liver (Beef)

71 mcg per 3-ounce serving
Provides 2951% of DRI
114 calories

2. Mackerel

16 mcg per 3-ounce serving
Provides 667% of DRI
174 calories

3. Sardines

8 mcg per 3-ounce serving (most cans are 3-4 ounces ea.)
Provides 333% of DRI
189 calories

4. Fortified Cereals

5 mcg per cup
Provides 208% of DRI
160 calories

red meat for vitamin b12

5. Red Meat

5 mcg per 3-ounce serving
Provides 208% of DRI
213 calories

6. Salmon

4 mcg per 3-ounce serving
Provides 167% of DRI
119 calories

7. Fortified Soy

2 mcg per 3-ounces serving
Provides 83% of DRI
45 calories

8. Milk

1.2 mcg per cup (8 fluid ounces)
Provides 50% of DRI
83 calories

yogurt for vitamin b12

9. Swiss Cheese

1 mcg per ounce
Provides 42% of DRI
108 calories

10. Yogurt

1 mcg per cup
Provides 42% of DRI
149 calories

The Take Home

The highest levels of B-12 from vegan sources are often in the form of fortified grains, like breakfast cereals. While this can be a great way to receive the vitamin if you are a practicing vegan or vegetarian, most fortified grains are typically refined and sometimes filled with sugar. It is best for vegans and meat eaters alike to supplement with vitamin B-12, as eating meat is not always a guarantee for healthy vitamin B-12 status. A vegan supplement, like VeganSafe™ B-12, could be helpful for maintaining appropriate levels of the nutrient.

GHC youtube Video

Watch an In-Depth Video on
Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin B-12

Video Length: 60 minutes
References (3)
  1. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin B12. NIH Fact Sheet.
  2. Institute of Medicine Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes and its Panel on Folate, Other B Vitamins, and Choline. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. The National Academies.
  3. Victor Herbert, MD, JD. Vitamin B-12: plant sources, requirements, and assay. Am J Clin Nutr. September 1988 vol. 48 no. 3, 852-858.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • What is the practical difference between cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin?

  • Good question, check out this article for more information.

  • Then why did you only mention cyanocobalamin in this article?

  • Janet

    As I age I seem to be having my blood pressure drop in the afternoon. I am ADHD so misplacing things I have done all my life. The afternoon BP drops I haven’t and it makes me dizzy and I get more distracted than I feel comfortable with.
    Is B12 added to my diet a help?

  • Amanda Lee

    I am allergic to cobalt or b12 and my b12 level is 280. …any suggestions as to why am allergic. I have had anaphylaxis twice

  • Wm B

    Why was there no mention of Spirulina as a vegan source for B-12? Sources inform me that Spirulina is natures richest source of vitamin B-12 and 2 to 6 times richer than raw beef liver.
    Just curious.
    Thank you Dr. Group.

  • Kezaki

    I heard that’s not true, it’s just a misconception going around. Spirulina isn’t a good source of B12 and what it does contain isn’t usable to humans.

  • Wm B

    I’ll stick with my highly respectable sources before some vague dismissal from an anonymous source Kezaki, but thanks for your reply.

  • you should ask a real doctor

  • Razzputinn

    No problemo!! A few sardines along with swiss cheese and skim milk is an ideal meal.

  • Wm B

    My Superfood Superstore Organic Spirulina 10g serving has 280% B-12 Daily Rec. so they’re not a reliable source on this.

  • fuzzybunny

    Been told I need to eat more b12 foods as my b12 level is low so this little list will come in handy!

  • Nellie McFarlane De Jong

    I would look into NAET or something similar. I have had reactions to some sources (supplements) of b12, but finally found one my body accepts through Meridian Stress Assessment.

  • Non-animal sources of B12 actually contain B12 analogues called cobamides that block the intake of and increase the need for true B12. — Source: Herbert V. Am J Clin Nutr 1987;46:387-402.

  • What was your source of cobalt? Do you have reactions to 100% food sources such as liver, clams, oysters, etc? Would like to know… thanks!

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