Benefits of vitamin B12 and vitamin B12 foods are vast and include boosting energy, reducing depression, decreasing sugar cravings and lowering neurological degeneration. This is definitely a B vitamin (one of eight) that you don’t want to fall short on for so many reasons.
How can you get B12 in your diet? Consume naturally high-vitamin B12 foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products.
Are you ready for some of my top healthy picks when it comes to foods high in B12?
Top Vitamin B12 Foods
Here are just some of the vitamin B12 foods you can consume on a regular basis to make sure you get enough of this essential vitamin in your diet:
1. Beef Liver
- 3 oz. (85 g) cooked beef liver contains 81.6 mcg of vitamin B12 (3400% DV*)
The top benefit of eating liver is its very high B12 content. All it takes is one ounce of beef liver to get well over most people’s daily requirements for B12.
Just always make sure to purchase beef liver of the highest quality. That means liver that’s organic from grass-fed and pasture-raised cows.
Consuming beef liver can help prevent pernicious anemia because not only is it high in vitamin B12, but it’s also high in iron and and folate. These are three nutrients that can aid in a natural recovery from anemia.
2. Nutritional Yeast
- 2 tablespoon serving of nutritional yeast (9 g) contains 14 mcg of vitamin B12 (583% DV)
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan looking for a way to get more B12 in your diet, nutritional yeast is a great option. It’s typically fortified with B12 and other B vitamins.
Nutritional yeast is also considered a complete protein since it contains at least nine of the 18 amino acids that the human body is unable to produce.
3. Atlantic Mackerel
- 4 oz. (112 g) serving of raw Atlantic mackerel contains 16.1 mcg of vitamin B12 (269% DV)
Atlantic mackerel (not king mackerel) makes the list of healthiest fish because not only is it super high in B12, but it’s also loaded with omega-3s, low in mercury and is rated a top fish pick for health as well as sustainability.
- 3.75 oz. can (92 g) of Atlantic sardines contains 8.2 mcg of vitamin B12 (137% DV)
Sardines are very high in vitamin B12, and they’re also impressively high in something else vital to human health: omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that the omega-3s contained in sardines nutrition can have all kinds of major health benefits, including boosting heart health, decreasing inflammation and helping asthma.
5. Grass-Fed Beef
- 4 oz. grass-fed strip steak (113 g) contains 1.44 mcg of vitamin B12 (60% DV)
Grass-fed beef is not just a top choice when it comes to vitamin B12 food sources — it’s also one of the best animal sources of protein. Compared to grain-fed beef, it’s a much healthier choice.
Research indicates that grass-fed beef is higher in precursors for vitamin A, vitamin E and cancer-fighting antioxidants compared to grain-fed beef.
- 3 oz. (85 g) of lamb contains 2.7 mcg of vitamin B12 (45% DV)
Lamb is not eaten as much in the U.S. as it is in many other countries, but it definitely has impressive nutrition content. It’s one of the top vitamin B12 foods, and it’s also very rich in protein, iron, selenium and zinc.
Selenium and zinc are two major immune-boosting nutrients.
7. Wild-Caught Salmon
- 3 oz. serving (85 g) of cooked wild-caught salmon contains 2.6 mcg of vitamin B12 (43% DV)
Wild-caught salmon is one of the healthiest and most nutritious protein sources. Of course, you need to choose wild and not farmed to make the most of this fish when it comes to your health.
Wild-caught salmon is packed with vitamin B12 as well as vitamin D, which is another common vitamin deficiency these days.
Research has demonstrated that 800 to 5,000 international units of vitamin D per day can improve musculoskeletal health, naturally slow aging of the skeletal structure, and reduce the rate of fractures and falls in older adults who are over 65.
- 2 large eggs contains 0.89 mcg of vitamin B12 (37% DV)
Eggs are a great non-meat source of vitamin B12. They also contain choline, which our livers depend on to function properly.
Research has found a correlation between low choline levels and liver dysfunction and possibly a higher risk of cancer formation.
9. Cottage Cheese
- 4 oz. (113 g) of 2 percent milk-fat cottage cheese contains 0.53 mcg of vitamin B12 (22% DV)
10. Feta Cheese
- 1 oz. serving of feta cheese (28.4 g) contains 0.5 mcg of vitamin B12 (21% DV)
Feta cheese is a great source of vitamin B12 and many other nutrients, such as riboflavin (vitamin B2) and calcium. Traditionally, feta cheese is made from sheep’s milk or a mix of sheep’s and goat’s milk.
If you can find feta cheese made from raw sheep/goat milk, the nutrition and health benefits are even better. Its high riboflavin content is excellent for headache sufferers, since studies have shown that riboflavin can significantly reduce the frequency of headaches, including migraines.
*Daily Value: Percentages are based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day.
If you still want to up your dietary B12 levels, you can take vitamin B12 supplements, in addition to getting these forms of B12 from vitamin B12 foods. Some types of vitamin B12 supplements available include:
- intramuscular vitamin B12
- cyanocobalamin (a manmade form of B12)
- multivitamin containing B12
It’s important to make sure you get enough B vitamins in your diet, especially if you are a vegan or vegetarian. Fortified foods help increase vitamin B levels in people who don’t eat animal products, and some plant-based foods are naturally high in the nutrient.
Some of the best vitamin B12 foods for people on a vegan or plant-based diet include:
Although eating fortified foods like cereal products isn’t considered part of a whole food, healthy diet because they contain refined and processed grains, for people following a vegan or vegetarian diet, it’s a good way to maintain healthy B12 levels.
There are healthier breakfast cereals on the market, like those made with whole grains, no added sugars and no harmful ingredients. Adding a serving to your plant-based yogurt, açaí bowl or morning smoothie is a great way to get these fortified foods into your diet.
Nutritional yeast is considered one of the best sources of vitamin B12, and it happens to be vegan and vegetarian. Nutritional yeast is also an excellent source of vitamin B6, thiamine, riboflavin, folate and zinc.
It can be added to rice, pastas, soups and salads for a nutritional punch without the need for animal products.
Fortified, plant-based milks help increase vitamin B12 intake, even if you choose not to consume dairy products. Many non-dairy milks, like almond, oat and coconut milks, are fortified foods with vitamin B12.
Adding these milk products to smoothies, coffee and baked goods is a great for people on a vegan or plant-based diet to increase their vitamin B12 levels.
Vitamin B12 Foods to Avoid
Although the vitamin B12 levels in these foods are high, they are not considered healthy and should actually be avoided.
Fortified foods that contain refined carbohydrates, added sugars and artificial ingredients are not healthy sources of vitamin B12 and should be consumed sparingly.
These foods include:
- Fruit juices
- Processed meats (like ham cold cuts)
- Margarine or spreads high in trans fats
- Unhealthy fish (tilapia, Atlantic cod, Atlantic flat fish and farmed salmon)
Do You Need to Supplement?
The current daily recommended value for vitamin B12 (based on a 2,000 daily calorie intake for adults and children 4 years of age or older) is six micrograms per day. Are you getting enough vitamin B12 from foods alone?
Whether or not you need vitamin B12 supplements depends on a few factors, including your diet, general health status and if you’re deficient in the nutrient.
Who may benefit from taking vitamin B12 supplements?
- Adults over 50
- People with digestive disorders that impair nutrient absorption
- People who don’t eat animal products
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Those with a history of heavy smoking, alcoholism and long-term antibiotic use
- People on stomach acid-controlling medications
Why is it so important to maintain healthy levels of vitamin B12? The nutrient has many health benefits, and a deficiency can cause serious problems.
Here’s a quick recap of the many benefits of vitamin B12:
- Possible cancer preventer
- Boosts brain health
- May prevent depression
- Anemia prevention
- Encourages optimal energy levels
- Fights heart disease
- The best way to get enough vitamin B12 is through a healthy diet whenever possible. This isn’t such a hard task once you know what foods contain this essential vitamin.
- The top foods high in vitamin B12 include beef liver, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, lamb, wild-caught salmon, nutritional yeast, feta cheese, grass-fed beef, cottage cheese and eggs.
- As you can see, there are a lot of tasty options when it comes to foods high in B12. For people who are not able to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets, there are supplements available as well.