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What You Need To Know About Vitamin B12


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Vitamins and minerals are essential to the proper functioning of a number of biological processes, and to the body. Because most essential vitamins and minerals are not produced by the body, they must come from outside sources, such as food and supplements. Here's what you should know about vitamin B12.

Why Do We Need Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep your nerves working properly and is required to keep your blood cells healthy. Your body also needs vitamin B12 to make DNA.

The amount of vitamin B12 you need depends on your age and life stage:

AgeDaily Requirement
0-6 months old0.4 mcg/day
7-12 months old0.5 mcg/day
1-3 years old0.9 mcg/day
4-8 years old1.2 mcg/day
9-13 years old1.8 mcg/day
14-18 years old2.4 mcg/day
Men and women 19 years old and older2.4 mcg/day
Pregnant women (all ages)2.6 mcg/day
Breastfeeding women (all ages)2.8 mcg/day
food with vitamin B12

What If You Don't Get Enough Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is needed to make red blood cells, which cary oxygen through your body. If you don’t get enough vitamin B12, you might develop anemia and feel tired and weak. If your vitamin B12 deficiency is mild, you may not have symptoms or you may not notice them. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause damage to your nerves and can affect memory and thinking.

Vegans, Vegetarians and Vitamin B12

Vegetarians and vegans should always be mindful of their B12 intake. Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the body and may be deficient in individuals who avoid meat. Vegetarians have several options for sources of B12 like eggs and dairy products, such as milk and cheese. Vegans have a more limited list of options, including foods fortified with vitamin B12. Choose soy and rice-based beverages and soy-based meat substitutes that are fortified with vitamin B12 if you do not eat animal-based products.

Older People and Vitamin B12

Vitamin and mineral supplements cannot replace good eating habits. However, they can be useful to deal with deficiencies or to prevent or treat certain illnesses. As adults get older, their bodies are less able to absorb this vitamin. It is recommeded that adults over the age of 50 include a vitamin B12 supplement and include foods that have been fortified with vitamin B12. Always speak to your pharmacist or healthcare provider before taking a supplement.

Common Food Sources of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 can be found naturally in animal foods or added to fortified foods. See the table below for a list of common food sources.

Food GroupFoodServing sizeVitamin B12 (mcg)
Vegetables and FruitThis food group contains very little of this nutrient
Grain ProductsThis food group contains very little of this nutrient
Milk and Alternatives Cheese, Swiss/Emmental50 g (1.5 oz)1.7
Cottage cheese50 g (1.5 oz)1.5
Milk (homogenized 3.3%, 2%, 1%, skim)250 mL (1 cup)1.3
Almond beverage, fortified250 mL (1 cup)1.0
Soy or rice beverage, fortified250 mL (1 cup)1.0
Milk (chocolate)250 mL (1 cup)0.9
Buttermilk250 mL (1 cup)0.8
Cheese (feta, cheddar, Edam, gouda, brie, Gruyere, Fontina, mozzarella)50 g (1.5 oz)0.8
Yogurt, fruit bottom (regular, low fat)175 mL (¾ cup)0.6
Yogurt, plain (regular, low fat)175 mL (¾ cup)0.5
Processed cheese, cheddar50 g (1.5 oz)0.4
Meat and AlternativesKidney, lamb, cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 59.2
Liver (beef, veal, lamb), cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 57.7
Kidney, veal, cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 27.7
Oysters, cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 21.6
Mussels, cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 18.0
Liver (chicken, pork), cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 14.9
Clams, cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 14.6
Herring, kippered 75 g (2.5 oz) 14.0
Mackerel, cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 9.0
Crab, Alaska King, cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 8.6
Herring, cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 8.5
Trout, cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 4.5
Salmon, red/sockeye, cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 4.3
Salmon, Atlantic, wild, cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 2.3
Beef, ground, cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 2.2
Tuna, light, canned in water 75 g (2.5 oz) 2.2
Pork, various cuts, cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 0.9
Pork, ground, cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 0.8
Ham, cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 0.5
Non-Meat SourcesMeatless luncheon slices75 g (2.5 oz)3.0
Eggscooked 2 large1.6
Source: Canadien Nutrient File 2015

The information in this resource is for general information purposes only and is not intended to replace informed medical advice. Consume foods according to any dietary guidelines you have been provided from a health care professional. Metro Ontario Pharmacies Limited assumes no legal liability for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of the information.

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