What You Need to Know About Vitamin B12

Our body needs vitamin B12 to help maintain our health.It is important to make sure our bodies get enough of this vitamin. Read on for what you need to know about Vitamin B12.

Our bodies need Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 makes healthy blood cells and helps keep our nerves working properly.

The amount of vitamin B12 we need depends on our age and life stage. The table below will show you how much you need:

    Vitamin B12 recommended intake (mcg/day)     Don’t exceed  
Man or woman, 19 years or older     2.4   Unknown.Vitamin B12 is not toxic at high amounts because our bodies remove what is not needed.    
Pregnant woman, 19 years or older     2.6  
Lactating woman, 19 years or older     2.8  

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in some foods or added to fortified foods

Vitamin B12 is a unique vitamin. Natural sources of this vitamin are only found in animal foods. Therefore, the best food sources for vitamin B12 come from the Milk and Alternatives and Meat and Alternatives food groups. Fortified food sources, with added vitamin B12 are also good sources. The table below will help you choose foods that contain vitamin B12:

Food   Serving Size   Vitamin B12 (mcg)  
Milk and Alternatives  
Cottage cheese   250mL (1 cup)   1.5-1.7  
Swiss/emmental cheese   50g (1 ½ oz)   1.5-1.7  
Skim milk, 1%, 2% or homo milk   250mL (1 cup)   1.1-1.4  
Plain yogurt   200mL (>3/4 cup)   1.3  
Fortified almond or oat beverage   250mL (1 cup)   1.1  
Fortified soy or rice beverage   250mL (1 cup)   1.0  
Feta, gouda, gruyere, brie, cheddar, fontina cheese   50g (1 ½ oz)   0.8-0.9  
Meat and Alternatives  
Organ meat   75g (2 ½ oz)   14.0-64.3  
Tuna   75g (2 ½ oz)   7.9-8.2  
Canned salmon   75g (2 ½ oz)   3.7  
Salmon   75g (2 ½ oz)   2.3  
Canned tuna   75g (2 ½ oz)   2.2  
Soy burger   75g (2 ½ oz)   1.8  
Beef   75g (2 ½ oz)   1.3-2.5  
Pork   75g (2 ½ oz)   0.8-1.1  
Egg   1 whole   0.6  
Turkey   75g (2 ½ oz)   0.3  
Chicken   75g (2 ½ oz)   0.2-0.3  
Red Star nutritional yeast   2 g (1 tsp powder/2 tsp flaked)   1.0  

Vitamin B12 is especially important for vegetarians

Vegetarians and especially vegans may not be getting enough vitamin B12.Fortified foods might be necessary to reduce the risk of not meeting your vitamin B12needs. Choose soy and rice-based beverages and soy-based meat substitutes that are fortified with Vitamin B12 if you do not eat animal-based products. Check the Nutrition Facts table to see if a food is fortified with vitamin B12. To learn more about reading labels, watch these videos.

Vitamin B12 is also important for older adults

Older adults are also at risk for not meeting their vitamin B12 needs from the foods we eat.That’s because our bodies are less able to absorb this vitamin as we get older. Low levels of vitamin B12 can cause pernicious anemia, a reversible blood disorder that causes fatigue and difficulty thinking and concentrating. Health Canada recommends that adults over the age of 50 include foods fortified with Vitamin B12 in their daily food choices or a supplement. Always speak to your doctor, dietitian or healthcare provider before taking a supplement.

Talk to your doctor about supplements if you are low in vitamin B12

If your doctor or healthcare provider tells you that you are low in vitamin B12, you may need to take a supplement.This can be in the form of an oral vitamin tablet or an injection of the supplement into your muscle. Both forms of the B12 supplement can increase vitamin B12 levels in your blood.Taking a tablet may be more convenient than visiting your doctor for each injection.

Getting your recommended Vitamin B12 is easy with these meal and snack ideas

  • Enjoy low-fat cheese like cottage cheese at breakfast on half of a whole grain bagel, topped with ripe, sliced pears.
  • Low fat plain yogurt makes a great mid-morning snack topped with granola or a whole grain cereal.
  • Try making a smoothie using any plain or flavoured fortified soy beverage.Add your favourite fruit and a small handful of ice. Chocolate soymilk with bananas and strawberries or vanilla soymilk with peaches and raspberries are excellent combinations. Try no sugar added beverages if you are looking to reduce your sugar intake.
  • Canada’s Food Guide recommends enjoying 2-3 servings from the Meat and Alternatives food group each day for adults 19-50 years of age. Why not try a simple chili recipe for dinner with ground beef which gives you more than 2.4 mcg of Vitamin B12 per serving.
  • Go meatless! Enjoy a soy burger at your next barbeque – top it with tomato slices, white onion and bean sprouts for a tasty burger.
  • Get your recommended two servings of fish each week with Tandoori haddock or salmon with salsa.
  • Eggs are great anytime of day.Try this breakfast sandwich in the morning or an egg Bhurji (Indian flavoured scrambled eggs) for dinner.

You may also be interested in:

What You Need to Know About Vitamin A
What You Need to Know About Vitamin E
Vitamins and Minerals FAQs

Last Update – February 14, 2019

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