Top 11 foods high in vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin necessary for producing DNA and red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is also critical for healthy nerve and brain function.
Despite B12's critical functions, the body doesn't make it naturally — so you must obtain adequate amounts from foods and supplements. According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended daily intakes (RDI) of vitamin B12 are 2.4 mcg for healthy adults over 14 years old; 2.6 mcg for pregnant women; and 2.8 mcg for breastfeeding mothers. For those at an increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, a practitioner may recommend additional daily amounts. Vitamin B12 is absorbed in the stomach, and any that's not used or excreted is stored in the liver.
So what foods should you eat to meet your vitamin B12 needs? Here are 11 of the best sources:
1. Organ meats
Organ meats such as liver, heart, kidney, brain, tongue and tripe are excellent sources of vitamin B12. Liver is exceptionally high: Beef and veal liver provide 990 percent of the RDI per 3.5-ounce serving. Lamb's liver offers 1,500 percent of the RDI in the same size serving.
The kidneys of lamb, beef and veal are also excellent sources of B12, offering 1,300 percent of the RDI per 3.5-ounce serving. A typical 3-ounce portion of organ meats provides approximately 70 mcg of vitamin B12.
Organ meats also contain other valuable nutrients such as iron, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, and vitamins A, D, E and K. Organ meats are high in cholesterol and saturated fat, so it's important to keep consumption to 10 percent or less of total caloric intake.
2. Beef
Red meats such as steaks, ribs, roasts, hamburger and sausage are great sources of vitamin B12. They contain all eight essential amino acids needed for growth and maintenance, and are among the best complete sources of dietary protein.
One flat iron steak (186 grams) provides 200 percent of the RDI; a 3-ounce portion of beef offers 1.5 mcg. Zinc, iron, selenium, niacin, vitamin B6 and phosphorus are also abundant in beef.
Grilling and roasting preserve higher amounts of B12 than frying. Low-fat cuts of beef are also higher in B12 and other nutrients than high-fat cuts.
3. Salmon
Salmon is packed with heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids and provides 80 percent of the RDI for vitamin B12. A 3-ounce serving of salmon contains 4.9 mcg of B12; one-half of a cooked salmon fillet (178 grams) provides 80 percent of the recommended daily intake. It's low in calories and fat, high in protein, and packed with nutrients thought to help combat dementia and cancer while boosting overall brain health.
4. Trout
Trout is another nutrient-rich cold water fish. It offers 58 percent of the RDI; a 3-ounce serving contains 5.4 mcg of vitamin B12. It's also rich in antioxidants, which protect against cell damage caused by free radicals.
Niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), potassium, phosphorus and selenium round out trout's rich nutritional profile. Of note: Trout provides 12 percent of the RDI for vitamin E, an antioxidant that assists the body in forming red blood cells.
5. Tuna
Water-packed, canned light tuna (3 ounces) provides 4.9 mcg of vitamin B12 and 85 percent of the RDI. One 3.5-ounce serving of fresh tuna contains 160 percent of the recommended allowance. In addition, tuna is full of omega 3 fatty acids, lean protein, selenium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B3 and D.
6. Sardines
Sardines contain 200 percent of the RDI per 150-gram serving. Most commonly canned in water and oil, these little fish are loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin D, calcium, niacin, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus. They're high in sodium and calories, too, but when consumed in healthy amounts, sardines can help reduce inflammation, improve heart health, and slow cell damage.
7. Clams
Low in fat and high in lean protein, 20 small clams offer a staggering 3,300 percent of the RDI for vitamin B12.
Clam broth, even without the clams, contains 2.7 – 14.1 mcg of vitamin B12 per 3.5-ounce serving — 1,600 percent of the RDI. These mighty mollusks also contain additional vitamins and minerals such as niacin, zinc, selenium, iron, antioxidants and magnesium.
8. Fortified cereals
For the healthiest options in fortified cereals, choose varieties that are high in fiber and whole grains, and low in sugar. Multi Grain Cheerios have 21 mcg of B12 in 3/4 cup (100 grams). The same serving size of Malt-O-Meal Fiber Bran Flakes contains 137 percent of the RDI. Instant oatmeal (most varieties and flavors) provides 14 mcg of B12 per serving.
Enjoy a serving of milk or fortified nondairy milk along with your cereal for even more vitamin B12.
9. Fortified nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is different from brewer's yeast. Nutritional yeast is grown on a variety of sources such as blackstrap molasses, whey and sugar beets, while brewer's yeast is grown on hops and is a byproduct of the beer-making process. Nutritional yeast has a savory, nutty, cheese-like flavor you can add to foods. It's gluten-free, dairy-free, contains no sugar, and is low in fat and high in protein.
One-fourth of a cup of nutritional yeast has 17.60 mcg of B12, 8 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber. Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast have 7.8 mcg of B12. Furthermore, it contains thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), B-6, B-3, potassium, calcium and iron. Sprinkle some nutritional yeast on vegetables, pasta and salads for a nutrient-packed punch.
10. Milk and dairy
One cup of whole milk has 18 percent of the RDI for vitamin B12. One slice (28 grams) of Swiss cheese has 16 percent, and two large eggs have 22 percent.
One of the healthiest and highest dairy sources of B12 is 6 ounces of full-fat yogurt, which boasts 23 percent of the RDI. Milk, cheese and yogurt aren't far behaind. Research shows that the body absorbs greater amounts of B12 when consumed in milk and dairy than in red meat, eggs and fish.
11. Fortified nondairy milk
Fortified nondairy milk is an ideal alternative for vegans and those with dietary restrictions, allergies or lactose intolerance. Nondairy milk varieties include almond, soy, coconut, oat, rice and cashew. Although they're not naturally good sources of vitamin B12, fortification makes them adequate substitutes for dairy.
For example, 1 cup (240 ml) of fortified soy milk has 2.6 mg (45 percent RDI) for vitamin B12. One cup of fortified almond milk has 50 percent of the RDI for B12, and enriched coconut milk (8 ounces) provides 25 percent, in addition to calcium, and vitamins A and D.
How to know if you're B12-deficient
Signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency include nervousness, dizziness, numbness and tingling of the fingers and toes. Additional symptoms include weakness, weight loss, mouth and tongue tenderness, and confusion. Severe B12 deficiency can lead to mobility problems and memory loss.
A healthcare provider can check B12 levels with a blood test. Deficiencies are easily treatable with supplements and injections. If you feel you may be deficient in vitamin B12, consult with a practitioner to discuss treatment.
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