Vitamin B12 is important for the production of red blood cells, nervous system development and function, mitochondrial health, immune function, and DNA synthesis. That’s why many parents want to know what foods are high in vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is found in animal products, fortified foods, and nutritional yeast. Vitamin absorption is just as important as vitamin intake. Chewing food thoroughly helps with vitamin B12 absorption, as does strong digestion with plenty of stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Vitamin B12 is absorbed in the small intestine, so good gut health is important for optimal absorption.
Foods High In Vitamin B12
1. Fish & Shellfish
Fish and shellfish are excellent sources of vitamin B12. Seafood with the highest B12 levels includes clams, octopus, mussels, trout, mackerel, crab, sardines, fish roe, salmon, and tuna. Vitamin B12 is heat stable but can get lost in cooking liquid. Therefore, shorter cooking times are preferred, or try cooking fish and shellfish into a tasty soup or broth.
Recipe idea: Salmon-and-Corn Chowder Recipe | Martha Stewart
Beef is an easy source of vitamin B12. For example, one steak contains 11.5 mcg of vitamin B12. Lean meat has more vitamin B12 per serving than fattier cuts.
Recipe idea: Personal Beef Pizzas
3. Liver & Kidneys
Organ meats are much higher in vitamin B12 than all the other foods on this list. However, it can be tricky to get picky kids to eat them. Beef liver capsules are a convenient alternative.
Recipe idea: Sneaky Way to Make Kids (and me) Eat Liver
Dairy products are one of the most child-friendly sources of vitamin B12. In my medical practice, I recommend raw, minimally processed dairy products to take advantage of the naturally occurring enzymes and probiotics. Interestingly, vitamin B12 is more easily absorbed from dairy than from meat, fish, or eggs.
Recipe idea: Spinach Ricotta Bites
5. Fortified Non-Dairy Milk
Non-dairy milk producers usually add vitamins and minerals in attempt to mimic the health benefits of dairy. These types of milk can be a great choice for vegans and people allergic or sensitive to dairy. Take a look at labels to see exactly what you’re getting.
Recipe idea: Almond Milk Overnight Oats
Eggs are another good option for vitamin B12. Egg yolks have more B12 than egg whites. Whole eggs are a better choice than egg whites when trying to boost B12 intake.
Recipe idea: Scrambled Eggs For Kids
7. Fortified Nutritional Yeast
Fortified nutritional yeast is a vegan staple that helps people who forgo animal products. It gives food a cheesy flavor and is a source of vegan protein, B vitamins, and trace minerals. Vitamin B12 is light-sensitive, so make sure to keep fortified nutritional yeast in dark packaging.
Recipe idea: Nutritional Yeast Popcorn
8. Fortified Foods
Cereals and other foods may be fortified with B12. These aren’t my preferred sources of vitamin B12, but they can be lifesavers for vegans and picky kids who don’t eat meat.
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that plays a major role in blood cell formation, neurodevelopment and nervous system function, and DNA synthesis. It is found mainly in animal products, but it can also be found in fortified vegan foods and nutritional supplements. Good protein digestion and intestinal health is essential for vitamin B12 absorption.
Doreen Gille, Alexandra Schmid, Vitamin B12 in meat and dairy products, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 73, Issue 2, February 2015, Pages 106–115, https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuu011
O’Leary, F., & Samman, S. (2010). Vitamin B12 in health and disease. Nutrients, 2(3), 299–316. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu2030299
Allen L. H. (2010). Bioavailability of vitamin B12. International journal for vitamin and nutrition research. Internationale Zeitschrift fur Vitamin- und Ernahrungsforschung. Journal international de vitaminologie et de nutrition, 80(4-5), 330–335. https://doi.org/10.1024/0300-9831/a000041