In 1985 and 1986, 54 percent of the vitamin B-12 in the diets of women came from meat, poultry,
and fish and 22 percent came from milk and milk products. Although grain products contributed
by 14 percent of the vitamin B-12 consumed by women, the B-12 in these products was provided by
the meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and milk they may contain. Likewise, the vitamin B-12 contributed
by vegetables and fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and by fats, sweets, and beverages comes from
added animal products. Vitamin B-12 is found only in animal products. Foods that contain small
amounts of vitamin B-12 but are not considered good sources can contribute significant amounts of
vitamin B-12 to an individual's diet if these foods are eaten often or in large amounts.
|This is one in a series of fact sheets containing information to help you select
foods that provide adequate daily amounts of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber as you follow
the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Guidelines are:
- Eat a Variety of Foods
- Maintain Desirable Weight
- Avoid Too Much Fat, Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol
- Eat Foods with Adequate Starch and Fiber
- Avoid Too Much Sugar
- Avoid Too Much Sodium
- If You Drink Alcoholic Beverages, Do So in Moderation
WHAT IS MEANT BY A GOOD FOOD SOURCE?
A good food source of vitamin B-12 contains a substantial amount of vitamin B-12 in relation to
its calorie content and contributes at least 10 percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance
(U.S. RDA) for vitamin B-12 in a selected serving size. The U.S. RDA for vitamin B-12 is 6
micrograms per day. (The U.S. RDA given is for adults, except pregnant or lactating women, and
children over 4 years of age.
WHY DO WE NEED VITAMIN B-12?
Vitamin B-12 is an important vitamin that is mainly found in fish, shellfish, meat and dairy products.
Vitamin B-12, a water-soluble vitamin, aids in forming red blood cells and in building genetic
material. Vitamin B-12 also helps in the functioning of the nervous system and in metabolizing
protein and fat in the body.
Click here for nutrition table for 7,248 foods.
DO WE GET ENOUGH VITAMIN B-12?
According to recent USDA surveys, the majority of Americans met their RDA for vitamin B-12.
Vegetarians, vegans and the elderly are at risk for not getting enough vitamin B-12. Most people
with low vitamin B-12 levels either do not consume meat and dairy products or they have trouble
absorbing vitamin B-12 from their stomach or small intestines.
What can cause problems with absorbing vitamin B-12?
The following are some things that can cause vitamin B-12 absorption problems:
- A disease called pernicious anemia can destroy the cells in your stomach that help
you absorb vitamin B-12.
- Using medication for heartburn and ulcers for a long time.
- Having had surgery on your stomach or your intestines.
Your doctor will find out why you have a low vitamin B-12 level by asking questions about
your health, giving you a physical exam and taking a blood sample, if necessary.
What happens if my vitamin B-12 level is low?
You might not have any symptoms if your vitamin B-12 level is just a little bit low. However,
a very low vitamin B-12 level can cause anemia, depression, dementia or problems with your
Some people who have low vitamin B-12 levels also have high levels of homocysteine
(say: ho-mo-sis-teen), an amino acid (a building block of protein) in the blood. If you have
both of these problems, you may have a higher risk of heart disease and
HOW CAN WE GET ENOUGH VITAMIN B-12?
Eating a variety of foods that contain vitamin B-12 is the best way to get an adequate amount.
Healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet rarely need supplements. However, vegetarians who do
not eat any animal products may need a supplemental source of vitamin B-12. The list of foods will
help you select those that are good sources of vitamin B-12 as you follow the Dietary Guidelines.
The list of good sources was derived from the same nutritive value of foods tables used to analyze
information for recent food consumption surveys of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Human Nutrition Information Service.
Can I just take one multivitamin pill every day to raise a low vitamin B-12 level?
No. Over-the-counter multivitamins do not contain enough vitamin B-12 to raise a low level.
To get enough vitamin B-12, you will need to take special vitamin B-12 pills.
You can also get shots of vitamin B-12. Usually, these shots are given every 1 to 2 days for
about 2 weeks. After this, a shot is given once every month. Your doctor can help decide whether
pills or shots are right for you.
HOW TO PREPARE FOODS TO RETAIN VITAMIN B-12?
Some vitamin B-12 can be lost from foods during cooking. To retain vitamin B-12, roast or broil
meat or fish.
WHAT IS A SERVING?
The serving sizes used on the list of good sources are only estimates of the amounts of food
you might eat. The amounts eaten of some meats may be easier to estimate by the piece rather
than by weight. For example, the selected serving size for lamb is 1 chop weighing 2-3/4 ounces,
1 patty weighing 3-1/4 ounces, or 3 ounces of roast shoulder.
WHAT ARE GOOD SOURCES OF VITAMIN B-12?
FOOD SELECTED PERCENTAGE OF
SERVING SIZE U.S. RDA (1)
(1) A selected serving size contains -
MEAT, POULTRY, FISH, AND ALTERNATES
Meat and Poultry
Brisket, braised, lean only 3 ounces ++
Ground, baked or broiled;
Extra lean 1 patty +++
Lean or regular 1 patty ++
Pot roast, braised, lean only 3 ounces ++
Roast, rib, roasted, lean only 3 ounces ++
Shortribs, braised, lean only 3 ounces +++
Steak, lean only:
Baked or broiled 3 ounces +++
Braised 3 ounces ++
Stew meat, simmered, lean only 3 ounces ++
Frankfurter, beef 1 +
Chop, shoulder; braised, broiled,
or baked; lean only 1 chop +++
Ground, cooked 1 patty ++
Roast, shoulder, roasted,
lean only 3 ounces ++
Beef, calf, or pork 3 ounces +++
Chicken or turkey 1/2 cup diced +++
Liverwurst 1 ounce +++
Pork, lean only:
Chop, baked or broiled 1 chop +
Roast, loin, roasted 3 ounces +
Tongue, braised 3 ounces +++
Veal, roast, leg, roasted,
lean only 3 ounces ++
Fish and Seafood
Carp, cod, flounder, haddock,
ocean perch, pompano, or porgy;
baked or broiled 3 ounces +
Catfish, perch, pike, or
whiting; baked or broiled 3 ounces ++
Clams; steamed, boiled, or
canned; drained 3 ounces +++
Crabmeat, steamed 3 ounces +++
Croaker, baked or broiled 3 ounces +++
Lobster, steamed or boiled 3 ounces +++
Mackerel; baked, broiled or
canned; drained 3 ounces +++
Mussels, steamed, boiled,
or poached 3 ounces +++
Baked, broiled, or steamed 3 ounces +++
Canned, undrained 3 ounces +++
Baked or broiled 3 ounces ++
Steamed, poached, or canned,
drained 3 ounces +++
Baked or broiled 3 ounces +
Broiled or steamed 3 ounces +
Shrimp; broiled, steamed,
boiled, or canned; drained 3 ounces +
Swordfish steak, baked or broiled 3 ounces ++
Trout, baked or broiled 3 ounces +++
Tuna, canned, drained 3 ounces ++
Egg, whole, cooked 1 large egg +
MILK, CHEESE, AND YOGURT
Cottage cheese, regular or lowfat 1/2 cup +
Ice milk, soft-serve, not chocolate 1/2 cup +
Milk; whole, lowfat, or skim 1 cup +
Flavored or fruit, made with
whole or lowfat milk 8 ounces +
Frozen 8 ounces +
Made with whole milk 8 ounces +
Made with lowfat or nonfat milk 8 ounces +
+ 10-24 percent of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age
++ 25-39 percent of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age
+++ 40 percent or more of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age