Top Natural Sources of Vitamin B12

Top Natural Sources of Vitamin B12

Some of the best vitamin B12 foods are animal products, leaving those following a vegetarian or vegan diet at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency and megaloblastic anemia.

7 Foods Rich in Vitamin B12

Organ Meat 

Organ Meat

Organ meat, especially liver, is an incredibly rich source of vitamin B12 and other B vitamins, including folic acid. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, four ounces (113 grams) of beef liver contains 76 micrograms of vitamin B12, considerably more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 2.4 micrograms. In addition to animal liver, other organ meats, including heart, brain, and kidneys, are also exceptional vitamin B12 food sources.



Beef, lamb, pork, venison, and bison are foods high in vitamin B12. While the exact vitamin B12 content of meats depends on the specific cut and cooking method, most types of meat contain around three micrograms of vitamin B12 per four-ounce serving.



Fish, especially oily fish species such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and trout, are another great dietary source of vitamin B12. A four-ounce serving of cooked salmon contains between 3 and 5 micrograms of vitamin B12, making it a nutritious option to minimize the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.


Top Natural Sources of Vitamin B12

Mussels and clams are rich sources of vitamin B12, with cooked clams ranking among the top B12-containing foods, providing up to 100 micrograms per four-ounce serving.



While chicken and turkey don’t contain as much vitamin B12 as meats and seafood, poultry still contributes to overall vitamin B12 intake as part of a healthy diet. Roasted chicken breast offers around 0.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 per four-ounce serving.



Two chicken eggs provide 50 percent of the RDA of vitamin B12, making eggs a nutritious choice to support vitamin B12 stores for those who don’t like to eat meat.

Dairy Products 

Vitamin B12

Although dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and certain cheeses, contain only small amounts of vitamin B12, evidence published in Animal Frontiers highlights that whole milk consumption remains a major source of vitamin B12 for humans.

What is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a vital member of the B vitamin complex, playing indispensable roles in various bodily processes.

Key Functions of Vitamin B12

  • Enhances energy production
  • Regulates DNA synthesis
  • Supports the maturation of red blood cells
  • Maintains neurological health and function
  • Supports cognitive functions and mood stability

Indicators of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Due to its pivotal role in bodily functions, a deficiency in vitamin B12 can manifest through various symptoms. Insufficient levels may lead to megaloblastic anemia, characterized by enlarged and immature red blood cells, along with fatigue, breathlessness, and rapid heart rate.

Neurological symptoms associated with low vitamin B12 levels include:

  • Numbness or tingling in extremities
  • Impaired balance and mobility
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Confusion
  • Mood disturbances such as depression and irritability
  • Vision impairments

Additionally, vitamin B12 deficiency can disrupt energy metabolism, resulting in fatigue and weakness. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, mouth ulcers, and a swollen tongue may also occur.

Causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency is prevalent, affecting 15 to 20 percent of adults, as per research published in Clinical Medicine. Vegans, vegetarians, and older adults face heightened risks due to dietary factors and age-related changes in intestinal function.

The absorption of vitamin B12 relies on intrinsic factor, a protein released by stomach cells. Declining intrinsic factor production, often associated with aging, can hinder vitamin B12 absorption despite adequate dietary intake.

Conditions like pernicious anemia, an autoimmune disorder targeting intrinsic factor-producing cells, contribute to vitamin B12 deficiency. Other factors include:

  • Use of gastric acid inhibitors
  • Low stomach acid
  • Digestive disorders such as Crohn's disease and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

While some vegans and vegetarians turn to fortified foods for vitamin B12, the efficacy of these sources may be limited compared to natural animal-derived sources, potentially exacerbating the risk of deficiency in plant-based diets.

Benefits of Vitamin B12

Optimal levels of vitamin B12 offer a spectrum of health advantages, encompassing red blood cell production, DNA synthesis, and potential protective effects against cardiovascular issues.

Heart Health Promotion

Studies published in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) Network Open have underscored the link between low vitamin B12 levels and heightened cardiovascular disease risk. Vitamin B12 plays a pivotal role in modulating homocysteine levels, an amino acid implicated in cardiovascular ailments like stroke and heart disease.

2. Mood Enhancement

Vitamin B12's involvement in serotonin production, a neurotransmitter influencing mood regulation, has drawn attention. Longitudinal research detailed in The American Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that individuals with higher vitamin B12 intake exhibited reduced susceptibility to depression.

3. Support for Skin and Hair

The regulation of DNA synthesis by vitamin B12 is instrumental in cellular rejuvenation and tissue maintenance, pivotal for skin health and hair growth. Studies cited in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology have highlighted vitamin B12's relevance in addressing skin issues like dermatitis and acne.

4. Skeletal Fortification

Often overlooked, vitamin B12's significance extends to skeletal health. Research documented in Nutrients suggests that deficiency may heighten the risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures in later life, potentially attributable to its role in homocysteine regulation.

Guidance on Vitamin B12 Supplementation

Supplementation is advised for specific groups:

  • Individuals adhering to plant-based diets and older adults due to heightened risk of deficiency.
  • Those with chronic gastrointestinal conditions are prone to nutrient malabsorption.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women, as documented in Advances in Nutrition, to mitigate risks of pregnancy-related complications.
  • Prenatal vitamins containing vitamin B12 offer a convenient solution, particularly for non-meat eaters.

Consultation with your healthcare provider is crucial to ensure safe supplementation and minimize risks of adverse effects or interactions with other medications.


Vitamin B12 stands as a cornerstone for overall health, influencing vital bodily functions from cardiovascular wellness to mood regulation and beyond. While its primary sources are animal-based, supplementation becomes essential for specific groups, ensuring sustained well-being and guarding against deficiency-related complications. Collaboration with healthcare professionals remains pivotal in navigating supplementation safely and effectively.

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