The foods containing vitamin B12 are primarily animal meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. Vegetarians, people who are pregnant or nursing, and others who are at risk of deficiency may need to take supplements.
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that your body can’t make on its own, so you need to get it from your diet or from supplements.
Here are 12 foods rich in vitamin B12 to add to your shopping list.
1. Animal liver and kidneys
Organ meats are some of the most nutrient-packed foods. Liver and kidneys, especially from lamb, are rich in vitamin B12.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of lamb liver provides an incredible 3,571% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin B12 (
While lamb liver is generally higher in vitamin B12 than beef or veal liver, the latter two may still contain about 3,000% of the DV per 3.5 ounces (100 grams) (
Lamb liver is also very high in copper, selenium, and vitamins A and B2 (
Lamb, veal, and beef kidneys are likewise high in vitamin B12. Lamb kidneys provide about 3,000% of the DV per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, plus more than 100% of the DV for vitamin B2 and selenium (
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of lamb, beef, or veal liver contains up to 3,571% of the DV for vitamin B12, while the same serving of kidneys contains up to 3,000% of the DV.
Clams are small, chewy shellfish that are packed with nutrients.
This mollusk is a lean source of protein and contains very high concentrations of vitamin B12. You can get more than 7,000% of the DV in just 20 small clams (190 grams) (
Clams, especially whole baby clams, also provide a great amount of iron, with almost 200% of the DV in a 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving (6).
Plus, clams have been shown to be a good source of antioxidants (
Interestingly, the broth of boiled clams is also high in vitamin B12. Canned clam broth has been shown to provide 113–588% of the DV per 3.5 ounces (100 grams) (
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of clams contains up to 99 mcg of vitamin B12, which is 4,120% of the DV.
Sardines are small, soft-boned saltwater fish. They’re usually sold canned in water, oil, or sauces, though you can also buy them fresh. Sardines are especially nutritious because they contain good amounts of almost every single nutrient.
A 1-cup (150-gram) serving of drained sardines provides 554% of the DV for vitamin B12 (
Furthermore, sardines are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to provide many health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and improving heart health (
One cup (150 grams) of drained sardines contains up to 554% of the DV for vitamin B12.
Beef is an excellent source of vitamin B12.
One grilled flat iron steak (about 190 grams) provides 467% of the DV for vitamin B12 (
Also, the same amount of steak contains reasonable amounts of vitamins B2, B3, and B6, as well as more than 100% of the DVs for selenium and zinc (
If you’re looking for higher concentrations of vitamin B12, it’s recommended to choose low fat cuts of meat. It’s also better to grill or roast it — instead of frying — to preserve the B12 content (
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of beef contains about 5.9 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 245% of the DV.
5. Fortified cereal
This source of vitamin B12 may work well for vegetarians and vegans because it’s synthetically made and not derived from animal sources (
Although not commonly recommended as part of a healthy diet, fortified cereals can be a good source of B vitamins, especially B12. Food fortification is the process of adding nutrients that are not originally in the food.
For instance, Malt-O-Meal Raisin Bran offers up to 62% of the DV for vitamin B12 in 1 cup (59 grams) (
The same serving of this cereal also packs 29% of the DV for vitamin B6 and good amounts of vitamin A, folate, and iron (
Research shows that eating fortified cereals daily helps increase vitamin B12 concentrations (
In fact, one study showed that when participants ate 1 cup (240 mL) of fortified cereal containing 4.8 mcg (200% of the DV) of vitamin B12 daily for 14 weeks, their B12 levels increased significantly (
If you choose to use fortified cereal to increase your vitamin B12 intake, make sure to choose a product that’s low in added sugar and high in fiber or whole grains.
Cereal fortified with vitamin B12 may also help you increase your vitamin B12 levels. One cup (59 grams) of Malt-O-Meal Raisin Bran provides 62% of the DV.
Tuna is a commonly consumed fish and a great source of nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals. It contains high concentrations of vitamin B12, especially in the muscles right beneath the skin, which are known as dark muscles (18).
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked tuna contains 453% of the DV for the vitamin (
This same serving size also packs a good amount of lean protein, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamins A and B3 (
Canned tuna also contains a decent amount of vitamin B12. In fact, a can (142 grams) of light tuna canned in water contains 152% of the DV (
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked tuna provides 10.9 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 453% of the DV.
7. Fortified nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is a good vegan source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. It’s a species of yeast specifically grown to be used as food, not as a leavening agent in bread and beer.
Nutritional yeast does not naturally contain vitamin B12. However, it’s commonly fortified, which makes it a great source of this nutrient.
As with fortified cereals, the vitamin B12 in nutritional yeast is vegan-friendly because it’s synthetic (
Two tablespoons (15 grams) of nutritional yeast may contain up to 733% of the DV for vitamin B12 (
In one study, researchers added nutritional yeast to the diets of raw food vegans and found that it increased vitamin B12 blood levels and helped reduce blood markers of B12 deficiency (
Two tablespoons (15 grams) of nutritional yeast may provide up to 17.6 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 733% of the DV.
Rainbow trout is considered one of the healthiest fish. This freshwater species is a great source of protein, healthy fats, and B vitamins.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of trout fillet offers about 312% of the DV for vitamin B12 and 1,171 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (
For adults, experts recommend a combined daily intake of 1,100–1,600 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (
Trout is also a great source of minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, and selenium (
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of trout contains 7.5 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 312% of the DV.
Salmon is well known for having one of the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also an excellent source of B vitamins.
A half fillet (178 grams) of cooked salmon can pack 208% of the DV for vitamin B12 (
The same serving may also provide 4,123 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (
Alongside its high fat content, this fish offers a high amount of protein, with about 40 grams in a half fillet (178 grams) (
A half fillet (178 grams) of cooked salmon offers more than 200% of the DV for vitamin B12.
10. Fortified nondairy milk
Nondairy milk is popular among those who want a nutritious vegan replacement for dairy milk.
While soy, almond, and rice milks are not naturally high in vitamin B12, they are usually fortified, which makes them an excellent source of this vitamin.
One example is soy milk, which provides up to 86% of the DV for vitamin B12 in 1 cup (240 mL) (
As such, fortified nondairy milks make a great option for those who want to increase their B12 intake and avoid deficiency (27).
Like the B12 in other fortified sources, the B12 in nondairy milk is synthetic, so it’s vegan-friendly (
One cup (240 ml) of soy milk contains 2.1 mcg of vitamin B12, or 86% of the DV.
11. Milk and dairy products
Milk and other dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese, are great sources of protein and several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12.
One cup (240 ml) of whole milk supplies 46% of the DV for vitamin B12 (
Cheese is also a rich source of vitamin B12. One large slice (22 grams) of Swiss cheese contains about 28% of the DV (
Full-fat plain yogurt may also be a decent source. It has even been shown to help improve vitamin B12 status in people who are deficient in this vitamin (
Interestingly, studies have found that your body absorbs the vitamin B12 in milk and dairy products better than the vitamin B12 in beef, fish, or eggs (32,
Dairy is a great source of vitamin B12. One cup (240 mL) of whole milk provides 46% of the DV, and one slice (22 grams) of Swiss cheese contains 28%.
Eggs are a great source of complete protein and B vitamins, especially B2 and B12.
Two large eggs (100 grams) supply about 46% of the DV for vitamin B12, plus 39% of the DV for vitamin B2 (
Research has shown that egg yolks have higher levels of vitamin B12 than egg whites. The B12 in egg yolks is also easier to absorb. Therefore, it’s recommended to eat whole eggs instead of just their whites (
In addition to getting a good dose of vitamin B12, you’ll get a healthy amount of vitamin D. Eggs are one of the few foods that naturally contain it, with 11% of the DV in two large eggs (
Two large eggs (100 grams) contain 1.1 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 46% of the DV.
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin with many essential functions in your body.
It’s necessary for keeping your nerves healthy and supporting the production of DNA and red blood cells, as well as maintaining normal brain function.
The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) is about 2.4 mcg but slightly higher for those who are pregnant or nursing (32).
Vitamin B12 is absorbed in your stomach with the help of a protein called intrinsic factor. This substance binds to the vitamin B12 molecule and helps your blood and cells absorb it.
Excess vitamin B12 is stored in your liver. If you consume more than the RDI, your body saves it for future use.
What is vitamin B12 deficiency?
You may develop a vitamin B12 deficiency if your body doesn’t produce enough intrinsic factor or if you don’t eat enough vitamin B12-rich foods (
Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal products, especially meat and dairy products. However, for those eating vegan diets, fortified foods can be good sources of this vitamin (
Vitamin B12 supplements are recommended for people who are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, including older adults, those who are pregnant or nursing, vegetarians and vegans, those with intestinal problems, and those who have had stomach surgery.
Like the vitamin B12 in fortified sources, the B12 in supplements is synthetic, so it’s vegan-friendly (
Vitamin B12 supplements can be found in many forms. You can swallow, chew, or drink them or place them under your tongue. A healthcare professional can also inject you with vitamin B12.
Research has shown that vitamin B12 taken by mouth and muscular injection are equally effective at restoring B12 levels in people with a deficiency (
In fact, one study found that people with low levels of vitamin B12 replenished their stores after 90 days of either supplements or injections (
However, vitamin B12 deficiency is not always caused by inadequate dietary intake. It’s sometimes caused by lack of intrinsic factor.
Lack of intrinsic factor is most common in older people and usually associated with an autoimmune disease called pernicious anemia.
The most common treatment for pernicious anemia is lifelong vitamin B12 injections, but small amounts of vitamin B12 are absorbed without intrinsic factor. One review concluded that taking 1,000 mcg daily is an effective alternative to injections (
Vitamin B12 is a key nutrient that your body needs for many essential functions.
It’s found in large amounts in animal products, fortified foods, and dietary supplements. Some of the richest sources are liver, beef, sardines, clams, and dairy products.
Whether you want to increase your vitamin stores or prevent deficiency, eating these foods may considerably improve your overall health.
Just one thing
Try this today: Liquid vitamin B12 supplements are one good option if you’re not getting enough B12 from your diet.