b 12

Balancing Your B12

As we age, we absorb less Vitamin B12, naturally. Many foods are sources of B12, chicken being an excellent and very high source, in particular, the darker meat.

By Hélène Charlebois, RD

How much B12 do I need daily?

Vitamin B12 recommended intake (micrograms [mcg]/day)

Age (years)

Males and Females (mcg/day)

Pregnancy (mcg/day)

Lactation (mcg/day)

1 to 3

0.9

N/A

N/A

4 to 8

1.2

N/A

N/A

9 to 13

1.8

N/A

N/A

14 to 18

2.4

2.6

2.8

19 and older

2.4

2.6

2.8

Health Canada Dietary Reference Intake, 2010  

What is the role of Vitamin B12 in the body?

It is important for energy balance and DNA formation for healthy cell reproduction, especially in fertility. It also supports the central nervous system and the production of healthy red blood cells. Specifically, Vitamin B12 is necessary for:

  • Healthy red blood cell formation 

  • Maintenance of central nervous system

  • Growth and development in children (formation of DNA) 

What if I don’t get enough?

Deficiency may cause fatigue and difficulty with focusing/concentration. It can lead to pernicious anemia. It is also the cause of Vitamin B12 neuropathy, defined as the degeneration of the nerve fibers within the central nervous system that can lead to permanent nerve damage.

Where can I get it? What do I need to eat?

The best sources of Vitamin B12 are animal foods such as chicken; the darker meat is best (thighs, legs, wings). In Canada, there are also many foods fortified with B12.

Food

Serving Size

Vitamin B12 (mcg)

Milk and Alternatives

Cottage cheese

250 mL (1 cup)

1.5-1.7

Swiss/Emmental cheese

50 g (1 ½ oz)

1.5-1.7

Skim milk, 1%, 2% or homogenized milk

250 mL (1 cup)

1.1-1.4

Plain yogurt

200 mL (>¾ cup)

1.3

Fortified almond or oat beverage

250 mL (1 cup)

1.1

Fortified soy or rice beverage

250 mL (1 cup)

1.0

Feta, gouda, gruyere, brie, cheddar, fontina cheese

50 g (1 ½ oz)

0.8-0.9

Meat and Alternatives

Organ meat

75 g (2 ½ oz)

14.0–64.3

Tuna

75 g (2 ½ oz)

7.9-8.2

Canned salmon

75 g (2 ½ oz)

3.7

Salmon

75 g (2 ½ oz)

2.3

Canned tuna

75 g (2 ½ oz)

2.2

Soy burger

75 g (2 ½ oz)

1.8

Beef

75 g (2 ½ oz)

1.3–2.5

Pork

75 g (2 ½ oz)

0.8-1.1

Egg

1 whole

0.6

Turkey

75 g (2 ½ oz)

0.3

Chicken

75 g (2 ½ oz)

0.2-0.3

Other

Red Star nutritional yeast

2 g (1 tsp powder/2 tsp flaked)

1.0

Eat right Ontario, 2014 

Do some things stop, delay or prevent B12 from being absorbed? 

Proper absorption requires “intrinsic factor”, which is a protein produced by your intestines. This protein carries the B12 across the cells to be absorbed by the body. This “intrinsic factor” generally decreases as we age and can also be affected by the use of medications that lower the acid in the stomach.

As an adult, your body can store from 2 to 5 mg of B12, mostly in the liver (80% storage). A B12 deficiency can be delayed in being diagnosed due to this high storage capacity by the liver.

Any special circumstances: 

  • Vegetarians & vegans may not be consuming enough B12, as it is mostly found in animal products. It is important to consume vegetarian-based foods fortified with B12, such as rice-based beverages & soy based simulated meat products. Red Star Nutritional Yeast is a fermented vegan product that contains B12. It can be easily added to any foods; it has a ‘parmesan’ cheese taste and consistency. 

  • Elderly: Health Canada advises adults over 50 to consume fortified foods with B12 &/or to take a B12 supplement daily. Consult a registered dietitian or a doctor for more personalized recommendations.

Sample Meal Plan High in Vitamin B12

Breakfast

  • 2 scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese
  • 1 slice whole wheat toast
  • 125 mL (½ cup) fresh fruit

Snack 

  • 175 mL (¾ cup) plain yogurt with berries topped with granola

Lunch

  • Raw veggies

  • Tuna melt

    • 90 g (3 oz) of tuna

    • 45 g (1 ½ ounces) of brie cheese

    • 2 slices of whole wheat multigrain bread or pita

Snack

  • Fruit smoothie
    • 125 mL (½ cup) of milk
    • 30 mL (2 Tbsp) plain yogurt
    • Frozen berries to taste

Dinner

  • Ground chicken lasagna with cottage cheese, or ricotta cheese

  • Spinach Salad with added chopped eggs

Key ingredients 

  • chicken (Dark meat including thighs, legs & wings are very high in B12. Skinless legs contain 60% Daily Value)

  • milk 

  • cheese

  • cottage cheese 

  • eggs

  • clams 

Try these nutritious recipes that are rich in vitamin B12 from Chicken Farmers of Canada: 

Baked Spinach and Chicken Omelette

Tomato Feta Chicken for One

Boneless Buffalo Hot Wings with Vegetable Sticks & Blue Cheese Dressing

References:

Pawlak R et al, The prevalence of cobalamin deficiency among vegetarians assessed by serum vitamin B12: a review of literature, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2014, 68, 541-548

Raymond J. et al, Food and the Nutrition Care Process, 3rd edition 2012, pp: 1149 

Eat Right Ontario 2014, http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Nutrients-(vitamins-and-minerals)/What-you-need-to-know-about-vitamin-B12.aspx#.VAh0LvNzbcs

Dietitians of Canada, 2012  http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-B12.aspx

Canadian Nutrient File 2010; www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/fiche-nutri-data/index-eng.php    

Stay Updated

Sign up for our newsletter today!

Alert!

Close
OK

Modal Title!

Close

Error!

Close
OK
Close
Cancel OK

Prompt

Close
Cancel OK

Confirm

Close
Cancel OK