Getting enough vitamin B12 is easy (and delicious!)
Jennifer Messineo, MS, RD
B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in the nervous system and in making DNA and red blood cells. It’s recommended that healthy adults get 2.4 mcg daily and pregnant and lactating women get 2.6 mcg and 2.8 mcg daily. Here are some of the best food sources of vitamin B12.
Get the benefit of an excellent protein and vitamin B12 source without a load of saturated fat by adding this low-fat fish to your menu. Tuna provides 4.9 mcg of vitamin B12 in one can. This mild-flavored fish works well sautéed and flavored with sesame oil and low-sodium soy sauce. Make a refreshing Niçoise salad by topping lettuce with canned tuna, a hard-boiled egg, olives, and fresh lemon juice mixed with olive oil.
Those following a plant-based diet with no animal products have a higher risk of deficiency. Older adults, vegetarians, and infants of vegan women also are at risk of developing B12 deficiency.
The savory and “cheesy” flavor of nutritional yeast makes it a great alternative to parmesan cheese for a plant-based diet. This flaky nutrition powerhouse is similar to brewer’s and baker’s yeast. It’s rich in nutrients that are usually low in vegetarian and vegan diets, providing 8 mcg of vitamin B12 in 20 g (1/4 cup). You can use it as an ingredient in almost any dish or sprinkle it over your favorite vegan meal, such as vegan lasagna for that cheesy flavor.
Not only does 85 g (3 oz) of salmon provide 2.4 mcg B12, but it’s also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon’s intense flavor makes it an easy no-fuss meal to prepare. Top with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon, and seasoning, and roast for 15 minutes. Try Slow-Roasted Salmon with avocado sauce.
Beef has gotten a bad rap over the years as people have become more health-conscious. If beef is still on your menu, you’ll get 2 to 4 mcg of B12 in 100 g (3.5 oz). Beef tops the list of food highest in iron and vitamin B12. Try these BBQ Meatloaves made with grass-fed ground beef and mixed with zucchini and oats for added nutrients.
Plant-based milk is gaining in popularity, but not all milk contains the same nutrients. Cow and goat milk are higher in protein than most plant-based milk and also contains calcium and vitamin D. A cup of milk provides 1.1 mcg of vitamin B12. Organic milk is an excellent alternative if you want the health benefits of milk without the hormones and antibiotics given to cows raised for commercially processed milk.
If you’re looking for a healthy breakfast or snack that contains both carbohydrates and protein, try some plain yogurt topped with granola or fruit. One cup of plain yogurt provides 1.5 mcg vitamin B12 and probiotics for a healthy gut. Prep your breakfast ahead of time with Overnight Yogurt and Oat Muesli for a ready-to-eat meal in the morning.
If you avoid meat and dairy products, fortified cereal can be one of the best sources of vitamin B12, helping you meet your vitamin B12 needs when added to your diet regularly. A bowl of fortified cereal topped with nuts and fruit is a simple and balanced breakfast. If cold cereal doesn’t appeal to you, try adding it to homemade trail mix or as a yogurt topping.
Roasted turkey may not be a quick weekday meal, but you don’t have to save turkey for holidays and special occasions. Instead of roasting a whole turkey to get the benefit of lean meat, try ground turkey as a leaner alternative to ground beef. Ground turkey provides 1.9 mcg B12 in 100 g (3.5 oz).
If you follow a vegan diet, add the aquatic plant Wolffia globosa (Mankai) to your plate. Not only is this a plant source of B12 but it’s also a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids. Mankai provides approximately 2.99 to 3.23 mcg/100 g (dry weight) of B12 and may increase B12 blood serum levels even if you don’t eat meat. Try adding Mankai to a green smoothie on a plant-based diet for added protein and B12.
Shiitake mushrooms provide vitamin D, B12, and iron—the nutrients vegetarians and vegans usually don’t get enough of. The amount of B12 found in 100 g (dry weight) of shiitake mushrooms varies between 1.3 to 12.7 mcg, and vegans and vegetarians can take advantage of the nutrients they provide by including them regularly in meals. Shiitake mushrooms can also adds a meaty texture to meatless meals like chili or enchiladas.