Vitamin B12

Key Facts
  • Vitamin B12 is needed to keep your body’s nerves and blood cells healthy.
  • Vitamin B12 is found naturally in some animal products and is added to some plant-based foods too.
  • A diet low in vitamin B12 can cause anemia.
  • Esta guía en Español
  • Young men's version of this guide


Vitamin B12 is needed to keep your blood cells healthy and is used by the body to make proteins like hormones and enzymes needed for digestion. Most people can easily get all the vitamin B12 they need from food. However, some groups of people, such as those who follow a vegan, or mostly plant based diet, might not get enough vitamin B12 from food. Over time, not getting enough vitamin B12 from food can cause anemia, which is a condition that makes it harder for your red blood cells to work well. Without enough vitamin B12, someone may feel tired, weak, or confused and may have low appetite or numbing in their hands and feet.

How much Vitamin B12 do I need every day?

The amount of vitamin B12 you need each day, or recommended daily allowance (RDA), depends on your age. If you are 9 to 13 years old, you need 1.8 micrograms each day. If you are 14 years old or older, you need 2.4 micrograms each day.

What foods are good sources of Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal products and is also added to certain foods – this is called being “fortified”. You can meet your requirement from eating foods that naturally contain vitamin B12 or are fortified, or by taking a supplement if necessary. Good food sources of vitamin B12 include:

  • Fish and seafood
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Fortified foods such as cereals, soy milk, and meat substitutes

If you follow a strict vegan diet (do not eat any animal products, including milk and eggs), then you should take a vitamin supplement or eat fortified foods (foods that have vitamin B12 added). Check nutrition facts labels to find products such as breakfast cereals, cereal bars, soymilk, and meat substitutes that are fortified with vitamin B12. Nutritional yeast is a product that some vegans choose to cook with; it is seasoning fortified with vitamin B12 and can be found at some specialty grocery stores or online.

Food Serving Size Micrograms of B12 per Serving
Dairy Products
Cow’s Milk, reduced fat 1 cup 1.4
Swiss Cheese 1 ounce (usually about 1 slice) 0.9
Ricotta Cheese 1/2 cup 1.0
Greek Yogurt, nonfat 1 container (156 g) 1.0
Yogurt 1 cup 1.4
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Other
Chicken breast 3 ounces 0.2
Hamburger, lean 3 ounces 2.2
Shrimp 3 ounces 1.4
Sirloin steak 3 ounces 1.4
Salmon, Atlantic 3 ounces 2.6
Eggs 1 0.6
Tempeh 1 cup 0.1
Tuna fish, canned 3 ounces 2.5
Fortified Foods
Cheerios® 1 cup 1.9
Special K® 1 cup 6.0
Wheaties® 1 cup 4.0
Whole Grain Total® 1 cup 6.4
Nutritional yeast, fortified 1/4 cup 17.6
Plain soy milk 1 cup 3.0
Remember: Most people get enough vitamin B12, but vegans should make sure to eat foods fortified with B12 or take a supplement to help keep their brain and blood healthy. Check out the labels on your favorite vegan product to see if it is fortified with vitamin B12. You can meet your daily needs by drinking even just one glass of fortified soymilk per day.