Vitamin B12

Young women's version of this guide

Composition with dietary supplement capsules and containersWhy is Vitamin B12 important?

Vitamin B12 is needed to keep your blood cells healthy and is used by the body to make proteins like hormones and enzymes needed for digestion. Most people can easily get all the vitamin B12 they need from food. However, some groups of people, such as vegans, have to work harder to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets. Over time, not getting enough vitamin B12 from food can cause anemia (a condition that makes it harder for your red blood cells to work well). Without enough vitamin B12, someone may feel tired, weak, or confused and may ave low appetite or numbing in hands and feet.

How much Vitamin B12 do I need every day?

The amount of vitamin B12 you need each day, or recommended daily allowance (RDA), depends on your age. If you are 9 to 13 years old, you need 1.8 micrograms each day. If you are 14 years old or older, you need 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 each day.

What foods are good sources for Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal products and is also added to certain foods. Good sources of vitamin B12 include:

  • Fish and seafood
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Fortified foods such as cereals, soy milk, and meat substitutes

Vegans (vegetarians who do not to eat any animal products, such as milk or eggs) have to work harder to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets. If you are a vegan, you should take a vitamin supplement or eat fortified foods (foods that have vitamin B12 added). Check food labels to find products that are fortified with vitamin B12 such as:

  • Breakfast cereals
  • Cereal bars
  • Soy milk
  • Some meat substitutes

Nutritional yeast is a product that some vegans choose to cook with; it is seasoning fortified with vitamin B12 and can be found at some specialty grocery stores or online.

The tables below list some sources of vitamin B12, their serving size, and the micrograms of vitamin B12 per serving.

Dairy ProductsServing SizeMicrograms of B12 per Serving
Cow’s Milk1 cup1.2
Swiss Cheese1 ounce (usually about 1 slice)0.9
Ricotta Cheese½ cup0.4
Greek Yogurt1 cup0.9
Yogurt1 cup1.1
Fortified FoodsServing SizeMicrograms of B12 per Serving
Cheerios®1 cup1.9
Special K®1 cup2.7
Wheaties®¾ cup3.3
Whole Grain Total®¾ cup6.0
Nutritional yeast, fortified1 tbsp2.4
Plain soymilk1 cup3.0
Meat, Poultry, Fish, OtherServing SizeMicrograms of B12 per Serving
Chicken breast1 medium breast0.2
Hamburger, lean1 medium patty2.4
Shrimp1 cup, cooked1.2
Sirloin steak1 medium steak2.7
Salmon, Atlantic1 medium fillet7.8
Tempeh1 cup0.1
Tuna fish, canned3 ounces2.5
Remember: Most people get enough vitamin B12, but vegans should make sure to eat foods fortified with B12 to help keep their brain and blood healthy. Check out the labels on your favorite vegan product to see if it is fortified with vitamin B12. You can meet your daily needs by drinking even just one glass of fortified soymilk per day.