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. Low levels of vitamin B12 can cause pernicious anemia, a reversible blood disorder that causes fatigue and difficulty thinking and concentrating.


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 foods like lean meats and poultry, fish, dairy products and eggs. Fortified plant foods, 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 products and plant-based beverages  
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  
Animal and plant-based protein  
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  
Fortified 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 and vegans

Vegetarians and especially vegans may not get enough vitamin B12. Fortified foods might be necessary to reduce the risk of not meeting vitamin B12 needs. 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.

Vitamin B12 is also important for older adults

Older adults are also at risk for not meeting their vitamin B12 needs from the foods they eat. That’s because their bodies are less able to absorb this vitamin as they get older. 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 or dietitian about vitamin B12 supplements if you are low in vitamin B12

If your 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 pill, intramuscular injection or sublingual tablets or lozanges. All forms of the B12 supplement can increase vitamin B12 levels in your blood. Taking a supplement in pill form or sublingual tablet may be more convenient than visiting your doctor for each injection.

Meeting your vitamin B12 needs is easy with these meal and snack ideas

  • Enjoy cottage cheese at breakfast on half of a whole grain bagel, topped with ripe, sliced pears.
  • Plain yogurt makes a great mid-morning snack. Top it with granola or a whole grain cereal to make a smoothie bowl.
  • 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.
  • Include meals that contain animal products such as lean cuts of beef, pork, turkey and chicken. Try a simple chili casserole recipe for dinner with ground beef which gives you more than 2.4 mcg of Vitamin B12 per serving.
  • If you decide to go meatless, be sure to choose fortified products. Have fortified soy burgers at your next barbeque – top it with tomato slices, white onion and bean sprouts for a tasty burger.
  • Try to include more fish by making Tandoori haddock or salmon with salsa.
  • Eggs are great anytime of day.Try this breakfast sandwich in the morning or a noodle frittata 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
Older Adults and Eating Well
Four Steps to a Balanced Vegan Eating Pattern

Last Update – September 13, 2019

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