Vitamin B12: A Healing Nutrient Profile

What does vitamin B12 do?
Your body uses vitamin B12 to form red blood cells, nerves and DNA, and to maintain your central nervous system.

How much vitamin B12 do you need?
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12 for both women and men is 2.4 micrograms daily. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need slightly more: 2.6 and 2.8 micrograms, respectively.

As many as 20 percent of us are borderline deficient in B12; low levels of the nutrient are more common in older people. Many people lose the ability to absorb adequate amounts of B12 from food after age 50, which is why your doctor might have tested your levels and recommended that you consider supplementing.

Vegetarians and vegans, the elderly, people who are on prescription heartburn or diabetes drugs, those with digestive disorders like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease and those who have had weight-loss surgery  might also need to take B12 supplements to get enough of it.

Our bodies absorb B12 better alongside other B vitamins, including niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and magnesium, so a multivitamin is a good option if you’re low in the nutrient. People with severe B12 deficiencies may need weekly shots of the vitamin or high-dose pills.

Low levels of B12 can cause anemia, loss of balance, numbness or tingling in the arms and legs and weakness. A severe deficiency can cause issues including incontinence, depression, paranoia and delusions, memory loss and loss of taste and smell.

Where can you get vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is found in meat and seafood (it’s particularly high in shellfish and organ meats) and fortified plant foods. Some of our favorite foods that contain vitamin B12 include:

FOOD

SERVING SIZE

AMOUNT OF VITAMIN B12 (mcg)

Clams 2.5 oz (cooked) 74.2
Oysters 2.5 oz (cooked) 18.2-26.3
Chicken liver 2.5 oz (cooked) 12.6-15.9
Sardines (canned in oil or tomato sauce) 2.5 oz 6.8
Ground beef 2.5 oz (cooked) 2.4-2.7
Salmon 2.5 oz (cooked) 2.3
Eggs 2 lg (cooked) 1.5-1.6
Milk (any fat) 1 cup 1.2-1.4
Yogurt (plain, low-fat) ¾ cup 1
Pork 2.5 oz (cooked) 0.8-1.1
Fortified almond or rice milk 1 cup 1

You can look up the vitamin B12 content of other foods by using the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

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