Vitamin B12 Rich Foods & Recipes to Boost Your Energy

Vitamin B12 foods are essential for maintaining your energy levels, supporting brain health, and ensuring overall well-being.

This vital nutrient, also known as cobalamin, plays a critical role in red blood cell formation, DNA synthesis, and nerve function.

In this article, we will delve into a variety of vitamin B12 foods that can help you meet your daily nutritional needs.

From rich animal-based sources like meat, fish, and dairy, incorporating these nutrient-dense foods into your diet will ensure you enjoy the many benefits of vitamin B12.

High Vitamin B12 Foods (Per Serving)

If you find yourself falling short of the recommended thiamine intake, it’s time to focus on foods that pack in more vitamin B12 per serving, like:

  • liver
  • oyster
  • mussels
  • tuna
  • heart
  • ribeye filet
  • mackerel
  • lamb chops
  • ground beef
  • salmon
  • lamb roast
  • turkey breast

To help you get started, the infographic below shows the vitamin B12 provided by popular foods in the average serving sizes consumed by our Optimisers.  

Once you’re ready to revitalise your diet with a wider variety of high-thiamine foods, download our printable vitamin B12 food list with more vitamin B12 per serving here.

Vitamin B12 Rich Foods (Per Calorie)

Once you know you’re getting the minimum amount of vitamin B12 your body needs, you can zero in on foods that deliver more thiamine per calorie to increase your satiety and nutrient density, like:

  • kidney
  • liver
  • octopus
  • oyster
  • mussels
  • caviar
  • venison
  • tuna
  • mackerel
  • crab
  • salmon
  • sardines

The infographic below shows popular vitamin B12 rich foods that provide more B12 per calorie.

For more variety, check out our printable list of vitamin B12 rich foods per calorie.

Vitamin B12 Food Chart

Curious about how your favourite foods stack up in the vitamin B12 game?  Dive into our dynamic chart showcasing popular foods, comparing B12 content per calorie and serving.  For an immersive experience, explore the interactive Tableau version of this chart here.

vitamin B12 foods chart

How Much Vitamin B12 Do You Need?

Our satiety analysis reveals that your body craves at least 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 per 2000 calories. However, achieving the Optimal Nutrient Intake of 7.2 mg per 2000 calories from vitamin B12-rich foods aligns with a 14% reduction in energy intake.  

Vitamin B12 Rich Recipes

Elevate your culinary game with our chart, showcasing over 1750 NutriBooster recipes used in our Micros Masterclass containing vitamin B12-rich foods.  We’ve plotted these recipes based on vitamin B12 content versus protein percentage.  The further right you go, the more vitamin B12 you can enjoy with fewer calories.

Dive into the details with our interactive Tableau chart on your computer.  Click on each recipe to uncover its magic and even feast your eyes on mouthwatering pictures!

Vitamin B12 recipe pictures

Benefits of Vitamin B12

  • DNA synthesis: Vitamin B12 is crucial in synthesising the body’s genetic material. It also helps form red blood cells and develop and maintain the nervous system.
  • Red blood cell formation: Vitamin B12 is required to properly form red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the body’s tissues.  A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to a type of anaemia called megaloblastic anaemia.
  • Nervous system function: Vitamin B12 is necessary for functioning of the nervous system.  It helps form myelin, a fatty substance that covers and protects nerve fibres and helps transmit nerve impulses.
  • Energy production: Vitamin B12 is involved in metabolising carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and helps produce energy from food.
  • Cognitive function: Vitamin B12 is essential for cognitive function, including memory, concentration, and mood regulation.
  • Foetal development: Vitamin B12 is important for foetal development during pregnancy, particularly for brain and nervous systems.

Roles of Vitamin B12 in Your Body 

  • Vitamin B12 is critical for many reactions and crucial for synthesising healthy blood cells and preventing anaemia.
  • Vitamin B12 is essential for cognition and neurological function. Its deficiency has been linked to issues with memory and thought processes. B12 has also been shown to prevent the loss of neurons.
  • Our mitochondria need vitamin B12 to make energy.
  • B12 is one of the most fundamental vitamins for the process of methylation.  Methylation helps produce neurotransmitters important for a happy mood, detoxify the body, and initiate metabolism.
  • The health of the cardiovascular system depends on vitamin B12 to keep inflammatory homocysteine levels in balance.
  • Adequate B12 is vital for skin health, and deficiency has been linked to nail discolouration, hyperpigmentation, vitiligo, and acne.
  • B12 is needed to protect the foetal brain and nervous system, ensure proper development, and prevent congenital disabilities like neural tube defects.
  • Sufficient amounts of B12 have been linked to better bone density, meaning vitamin B12 is vital for the skeletal system.
  • Vitamin B12 is required in conjunction with folate for DNA synthesis.  We also need vitamin B12 to absorb folate.
  • Adequate B12 is vital for healthy hair, skin, and strong nails.
  • Vitamin B12 also contributes to energy production, muscle building, and weight loss by metabolizing carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

What Plant Foods are High in B12?

Because bacteria exclusively produce B12, it is almost solely found in animal foods.  This is because the bacteria in the animal’s intestines synthesise B12, which the animal then absorbs. 

Unfortunately, humans do not operate like animals and must rely on varying animal foods for B12.  Meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and dairy foods are inherently great sources of B12.   Vegetarians can meet their minimum daily B12 requirement with four large eggs.

Are Fruits and Vegetables High in B12?

Given that B12 is either present in animal tissues or produced by bacteria, there is no fruit or vegetable source of vitamin B12.  In addition, while algae contain B12, they are not usable for humans and are, therefore, not considered a B12 food.

How Do Vegetarians Get B12?

Because there are no common vegetable sources, strict vegans must supplement, consume fortified foods, or receive regular Vitamin B12 injections to avoid serious health consequences.

Vegan foods containing B12 are few and far between. Food sources like nutritional yeast can supply some B12, but they might not be reliable. For this reason, it is highly recommended that vegans supplement with vitamin B12 to avoid deficiency.

If you’re a vegetarian, it’s a little easier to get your B12 from food because there are ample amounts of vitamin B12 in dairy.   

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Lower intakes of vitamin B12 are associated with a wide range of conditions, including:

Although vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, it can be stored in the body for up to four years.  This can be bittersweet because a deficiency might not be diagnosed or documented until someone is ‘in too deep’, and the symptoms of B12 deficiency may take some time to reverse.

Because deficiency symptoms of vitamin B12 and folate are so similar, you must ensure you’re consuming enough of both nutrients if you’re experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms.

Factors Increasing Your Risk of B12 Deficiency

The absorption of vitamin B12 mainly depends on the functioning of the gastrointestinal system.  First, stomach acid separates B12 from the protein it’s attached to.  It is then combined with a protein known as ‘intrinsic factor’ where it is absorbed.

If digestion is subpar or impaired, this process doesn’t happen effectively, and even if one consumes enough B12, one could be at risk for B12 deficiency.

Conditions like pernicious anaemia result from what is thought to be an autoimmune reaction against parietal cells that create intrinsic factor.  In this case, someone must take supplemental B12 for the rest of their life.

You may be at risk of B12 deficiency if you:

Vitamin B12 Side Effects and Toxicity

Because vitamin B12 is water-soluble, no toxic or adverse effects have been associated with large intakes of vitamin B12 from food or supplements in healthy people. 

Supplemental doses as high as 2 mg daily by mouth or 1 mg monthly by injection have been used without significant side effects. Because vitamin B12 is low toxic, no tolerable upper intake level has been set for this nutrient.

It is important to note that vitamin B12 is an antagonist of B1, and using B12 increases the demand for folate.  With that being said, it’s essential to consume enough of both B1 and folate if you’re on a plant-based diet and supplementing with high amounts of B12 to avoid deficiencies elsewhere.

Availability of Vitamin B12 in the Food System and Correlation With Obesity

Although we began synthesising B12 in 1970 and now use it to fortify foods, the availability of Vitamin B12 in the food system has decreased substantially since the 1977 US Dietary Guidelines, as shown in the chart below (produced using data from the  USDA Economic Research Service).  As a result, vitamin B12 is a nutrient you may need to pay more attention to ensure you obtain adequate amounts for optimal health. 

Availability of Vitamin B12 in the Food System and Correlation With Obesity

Interestingly, the decrease in vitamin B12 in the food system has correlated strongly with increased obesity rates.

Synergistic Nutrients

Vitamin B12 works synergistically with vitamins A, B1, B2, B5, B6, C, E, biotin, calcium, cobalt, copper, folate, iron, methionine, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphate, and selenium.

These are the nutrients that the body needs alongside B12 to execute its involved functions.  For this reason, it is best to consume vitamin B12 from food with the entire spectrum of these nutrients.

Bioavailability

The bioavailability of vitamin B12 decreases significantly with an increased intake. Therefore, although it may seem paradoxical, your body needs to absorb less B12 as it refills its stores and consumes more foods containing this nutrient.

As you can’t stock up on vitamin B12 because it is water-soluble and not stored in fat, you need to consume foods that contain it regularly. 

The bioavailability of vitamin B12 from animal products ranges from 42 to 66%.  Interestingly, vitamin B12 in eggs seems to be poorly absorbed in amounts less than 9%.

The official Dietary Reference Intake is based on the assumption that healthy adults with normal gastrointestinal function absorb 50% of their dietary vitamin B12.

Some plant foods, such as seaweed, contain substantial amounts of vitamin B12.  However, the edible blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) used for human supplements predominantly contain pseudo vitamin B12, which is inactive in humans.

The bacteria residing in the human gut produce B12.  However, it is made in the lower intestine, where it cannot be absorbed for use in our body.

B12 has been measured in some plant-based foods.  However, this is typically due to using “night soil” or human faeces to fertilise gardens.  As a result, the B12-producing bacteria from their stools are consumed along with the plants.  As you can imagine, this can have more negative health implications than benefits.

Processing Losses

Vitamin B12 is unstable in the presence of heat, light, acid, and alkali. Food losses due to these factors range from 10 to 90%, which does not consider the loss of B12 during absorption. Hence, it is important to consume fresh foods regularly to optimise their B12 contents. 

Normal Ranges of B12 in the Blood

The normal range for vitamin B12 in the blood is between 200 and 900 nanograms per millilitre (ng/mL).  People at the lower end of this range may require follow-up testing, especially if they are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above.  

Vitamin B12 levels are considered low if they are below 200 ng/mL. This suggests a vitamin B12 deficiency, pernicious anaemia, or an overactive thyroid.

Those with deficient Vitamin B12 levels often experience neurological symptoms and fatigue.

An abnormally high vitamin B12 status is anything over 900 ng/mL.  This result indicates that your body cannot clear B12 effectively and may suggest liver or kidney problems, issues with methylation, diabetes, or certain forms of leukemia.

How Can I Calculate if I am Getting Enough Vitamin B12? 

Curious about your Vitamin B12 intake?  Take our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge and discover if you’re hitting the Vitamin B12 sweet spot in your diet.

After just one week of tracking your daily meals with Cronometer, Nutrient Optimiser will unveil a personalised roadmap, your guide to a healthier, more nutrient-rich lifestyle. 

You’ll receive a curated list of foods and tantalising NutriBooster recipes that not only fill your Vitamin B12 gaps but also ensure you’re not missing out on critical nutrients.

Ready to unlock your nutrient potential?  Join the challenge and journey towards a brighter, healthier you!

Nutrient Density Starter Pack

Ready to supercharge your nutrition?  Get our Nutrient Density Starter Pack – your all-access pass to a healthier, more vibrant you!

In our quest to make Nutritional Optimization a breeze, we’re thrilled to offer you this treasure trove of tools and resources when you join our vibrant Optimising Nutrition Community:

  • Food Lists: Discover our carefully crafted lists optimised for each essential nutrient, tailored to your goals, preferences, and unique conditions.
  • The Healthiest Meal Plan in the World: Peek into a week of mouthwatering, nutrient-dense meals that’ll satisfy and energise you.
  • Recipes: Download delectable samples from our NutriBooster recipe books, designed to elevate your nutrition while tantalising your taste buds.
  • 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge: Unearth your priority nutrients and pinpoint the foods and meals that pack a nutrient punch so you can kickstart your journey to better health.

Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to transform your nutrition effortlessly.  Join our community and unlock your path to a healthier, more vibrant you!”

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