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Vitamin B12 Foods for Vegetarians

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin, needed for proper development and functioning of the nervous system. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to weight loss, constipation, and anemia. Numbness (tingling) in hands and feet may also occur in addition to depression, dementia, and memory loss.

Since vitamin B12 is naturally found only in animal foods, vegetarians are considered an at-risk group for vitamin B12 deficiency. Fortunately, a wide variety of plant foods are fortified with vitamin B12. Further dairy, eggs, and cheese are all good natural sources of vitamin B12. Vegetarian foods high in vitamin B12 include fortified cereals, fortified fruit juices, fortified tofu, yogurt, milk, cheese, eggs, vitamin water, and whey powder. The daily value for vitamin B12 is 6μg per day, this is about 3 times the recommended daily allowance of 2.4μg per day to be sure everyone gets enough vitamin B12. Since vitamin B12 is well regulated by the body, and stores of vitamin B12 can be accumulated in the liver, there is no tolerable upper intake for vitamin B12.

Below are the top 10 vegetarian foods highest in vitamin B12, for more see the list of vegan foods high in vitamin B12, cereals high in vitamin B12, and cheeses high in vitamin B12.

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Top 10 Vegetarian Foods Highest in Vitamin B12

Cereal#1. Fortified Cereals
3/4 cup (29g)200 calories (61g)100g
6.1μg (102% DV)12.8μg (214% DV)21μg (350% DV)
See the full list of 205 cereals high in vitamin B12.
Click to see complete nutrition facts.
A glass of juice#2. Fortified Fruit and Vegetables Juices
1 cup (8oz) (240g)200 calories (282g)100g
6μg (100% DV)7μg (117% DV)2.5μg (42% DV)
Specific brands high in vitamin B12 (%DV per 8oz cup): Naked Blue Machine (100% DV), Bolthouse Farms Daily Greens (44% DV), Bolthouse Farms Berry Boost (38% DV). As with all fortified foods, the amount of vitamin B12 can vary, check labels for specific amounts.
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Drops of soymilk#3. Fortified Soymilk
1 cup (8oz) (243g)200 calories (606g)100g
3μg (50% DV)7.5μg (124% DV)1.2μg (21% DV)
Other milk substitutes high in Vitamin B12 (%DV per 8oz cup): Fortified Almond Milk (50% DV), Foritified Coconut Milk Drink (50% DV), Fortified Rice Mik (25% DV). The amount of vitamin B12 can vary greatly, check product labels.
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A block of tofu#4. Fortified Tofu
1/5 package (91g)200 calories (465g)100g
2.2μg (37% DV)11.3μg (188% DV)2.4μg (40% DV)
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A bowl of yogurt with fruit#5. Yogurt
1 cup (8oz) (245g)200 calories (357g)100g
1.5μg (25% DV)2.2μg (36% DV)0.6μg (10% DV)
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A glass of milk#6. Milk
1 cup (8oz) (244g)200 calories (400g)100g
1.3μg (22% DV)2.1μg (35% DV)0.5μg (9% DV)
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A block of Swiss Cheese#7. Cheese (Swiss Cheese)
1 oz (28g)200 calories (51g)100g
0.9μg (14% DV)1.6μg (26% DV)3.1μg (51% DV)
Swiss cheese provides the most vitamin B12 with 14% DV per ounce. On average, cheese provides 6% DV per ounce. See the full list of cheeses high in vitamin B12.
Click to see complete nutrition facts.
Glass of water#8. Vitamin Water
1 cup (8oz) (240g)200 calories (4000g)100g
0.6μg (10% DV)10μg (167% DV)0.3μg (4% DV)
Click to see complete nutrition facts.
Whole Eggs#9. Whole Eggs
1 egg (50g)200 calories (129g)100g
0.6μg (9% DV)1.4μg (24% DV)1.1μg (19% DV)
Click to see complete nutrition facts.
Whey powder#10. Whey Powder
1 tbsp (8g)200 calories (57g)100g
0.2μg (3% DV)1.3μg (22% DV)2.4μg (40% DV)
Click to see complete nutrition facts.

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Foods high in vitamin B12 for vegetarians include fortified cereals, fortified juices, fortified soymilk, fortified tofu, yogurt, milk, cheese, eggs, vitamin water, and whey powder.
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How much Vitamin B12 do you need?

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Vitamin B12 ranges from 0.4 to 2.8μg per day. This is quite a bit lower than the daily value (%DV) of 6μg. The daily value (%DV) is higher since excess vitamin B12 is well tolerated by the body, and so that certain groups with a risk of deficiency get plenty of vitamin B12 in their diet. Further, the daily value is also often higher than the RDA to account for absorption factors that can occur in a diverse diet.

AgeMaleFemalePregnancyLactation
0-6 months0.4 μg0.4 μg
7-12 months0.5 μg0.5 μg
1-3 years0.9 μg0.9 μg
4-8 years1.2 μg1.2 μg
9-13 years1.8 μg1.8 μg
14+ years2.4 μg2.4 μg2.6 μg2.8 μg
Source: Office of Dietary Supplements.

For the values above the amounts for children less than 12 months old is actually the adequate intake (AI) not RDA.

Which form vitamin B12 is best?

Cyanocobalamin is the most common synthetic form of vitamin B12. However, methylcobalamin may also be used. Current evidence does not suggest one form is better than the other, so any form of added B12 can be considered to be equally effective.2

What is intrinsic factor and how does it affect vitamin B12 absorption?

Intrinsic factor can be thought of as "absorption chemicals" in your gut needed for absorption of vitamin B12. Your body only creates and secretes a limited amount of intrinsic factor. So despite consuming supplements or fortified foods, only limited amounts of vitamin B12 will be absorbed by your body. As such you might only absorb 10μg of a 500μg supplement.2

Due to this factor, sometimes vitamin B12 is injected directly into patients, as opposed to supplements taken orally. These vitamin B12 injections can be a faster way to boost vitamin B12 levels and alleviate symptoms from anemia.

What are the health benefits of Vitamin B12?

Does Cyanocobalamin Contain Cyanide?

Cyanocobalamin is a common synthetic form of vitamin B12 used in supplements and fortified foods. While cyanide is present in this form of vitamin b12, it is not present in large enough amounts to be dangerous and is excreted by the body. Numerous other foods naturally contain cyanide, including almonds, lima beans, and spinach.

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Cows are not given any form of synthetic vitamin b12. Vitamin b12 is actually naturally synthesized by bacteria that flourish in certain animals (most animals actually, just not humans). Cows, in particular, ferment their food in 4 different stomachs as they digest it. This fermentation lets the bacteria in cows create vitamin b12, and allows cows to store any excess vitamin b12.

As in the article on vegan b12 foods, some fermented foods like beer or wine will also sometimes contain vitamin b12.

Despite the letter "B" in vitamin B12 the nutrient does not confer any coloration to foods. The blue color found in fruits, like blueberries, comes from the anthocyanins found in blueberries.

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  2. Office Of Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet
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