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Ralph Teller

Vitamin B12 Natural Food Sources for Peak Health and Performance

by Ralph Teller

Vitamin B12 Facts and Health Benefits

Vitamin B12 is required for proper red blood cell production, neurological function, and DNA synthesis.

Athletes Need More Vitamin B12. For optimum performance, athletes, especially endurance athletes, need more Vitamin B12 to insure sufficient production of oxygen carrying red blood cells to sustain endurance training and encourage optimum training recovery. See also Kidney Health, Red Blood Cell Production, and Peak Performance for Athletes. Due to Vitamin B12's role in energy metabolism, vitamin B12 is frequently promoted as an energy enhancer and an athletic performance and endurance booster. Like Vitamin B12, Folate is also essential in red blood cell production. See Natural Food Sources of Folate

Women of child bearing age, women athletes, pregnant and breast feeding mothers also have greater needs for Vitamin B12.

Natural Food Sources of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. Vitamin B12 is generally not present in plant foods, but fortified breakfast cereals are a readily available source of vitamin B12 with high bioavailability for vegetarians.

Selected Food Sources of Vitamin B12 Micrograms (mcg)
per serving
Percent DV*
Clams, cooked, 3 ounces84.11,402
Liver, beef, cooked, 3 ounces70.71,178
Breakfast cereals, fortified with 100% of the DV for Vitamin B12, 1 serving6.0100
Trout, rainbow, wild, cooked, 3 ounces5.490
Salmon, sockeye, cooked, 3 ounces4.880
Trout, rainbow, farmed, cooked, 3 ounces3.558
Lamb, cooked, 3 ounces 2.64 45
Tuna fish, light, canned in water, 3 ounces2.542
Cheeseburger, double patty and bun, 1 sandwich2.135
Haddock, cooked, 3 ounces1.830
Breakfast cereals, fortified 25% DV for B12, 1 cup1.525
Beef, top sirloin, broiled, 3 ounces1.423
Milk, low-fat, 1 cup1.218
Yogurt, fruit, low-fat, 8 ounces1.118
Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce0.915
Beef taco, 1 soft taco0.915
Ham, cured, roasted, 3 ounces0.610
Egg, whole, hard boiled, 1 large0.610
Chicken, breast meat, roasted, 3 ounces0.35

*DV = Daily Value. DVs were developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help consumers determine the level of various nutrients in a standard serving of food in relation to their approximate requirement for it. The DV for vitamin B12 is 6.0 mcg.

Vitamin B12 Recommended Daily Intake

Most people do NOT get enough Potassium. Here is a list of the daily recommended dietary intake of Potassium from the Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine.

Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin B12
Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
0–6 months*0.4 mcg0.4 mcg  
7–12 months*0.5 mcg0.5 mcg  
1–3 years0.9 mcg 0.9 mcg  
4–8 years1.2 mcg1.2 mcg  
9–13 years1.8 mcg1.8 mcg  
14+ years2.4 mcg2.4 mcg2.6 mcg2.8 mcg

* Adequate Intake

Vitamin B12 Deficiency and Supplement Toxicity

Deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anemia, fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, difficulty maintaining balance, depression, confusion, dementia and poor memory.

Strict vegetarians and vegans are at greater risk than lacto-ovo vegetarians and nonvegetarians of developing vitamin B12 deficiency because natural food sources of vitamin B12 are limited to animal foods! Exclusively breastfed infants of women who consume no animal products may have very limited reserves of vitamin B12 and can develop vitamin B12 deficiency within months of birth. Undetected and untreated vitamin B12 deficiency in infants can result in severe and permanent neurological damage.

Supplement Toxicity. Contrary to the toxicity concerns of long term use of many other vitamin supplements, Vitamin B12 supplements have low potential for toxicity. No adverse effects have been associated with excess Vitamin B12 intake from food and supplements in healthy individuals.

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Articles on Vitamin B12

PublicationDietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12, National Institute of Health

Publication Dietary reference intakes (DRIs): Recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes, elements, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (2011)

PublicationUSDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, USDA

PublicationVitamin B12 Deficiency, Health Eating and Diet, WebMD

PublicationNatural Sources of Vitamin B12, James Young, Livestrong

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