Essential Benefits of Vitamin B-12 and Best Food Sources

Posted on Feb 15, 2022 in Crohns - Colitis, Depression, Eating Disorders, Heart Disease, Natural Health, Nerve Inflammation, Nutrition, Nutritional Supplements

Essential Benefits of Vitamin B-12 and Best Food Sources

Vitamin B-12 has garnered a great deal of attention showing to be an incredibly important nutrient for our body with many health benefits ranging from low to chronic energy levels and sluggish mental acuity. Vitamin B-12’s list of performed services to the body and health benefits is quite extensive as you will learn.  Also listed will be the best food sources of B 12 – plant and animal based.

Inherited Weakness and Gut Disease

Besides the great number of roles that B-12 plays throughout the body there is a common inherited weakness among many individuals all over the world. This can be easily determined by visiting your doctor and having a blood test performed. There are normally two scenarios that I routinely see among patients. In the cases of anemia B-12 may be inadequate and therefore cannot sufficiently hold iron in the blood, along with folic acid which is the other key vitamin that works with B-12 in this function. Otherwise anemia is typically caused by low iron intake but again B-12 must be present in order to hold iron in the blood plasma. 1

Another very common problem with B12 uptake is those with Crohn’s disease and sometimes ulcerative colitis (pancolitis). The stomach and the ileum is where B-12 is absorbed and the ileum becomes scarred over due to tissue degradation; symptomatic of this inflammatory bowel disease. As a result a B-12 supplement must be taken and B-12 blood levels can be monitored through blood testing, mainly to ensure that B-12 is being supplied in sufficient amounts in these gut disease conditions. 2

*Pregnancy and maintaining a healthy pregnancy requires adequate amounts of B-12 and to help prevent risk of birth defects. Iodine is essential for preventing cognitive problems in the fetus and warding against infertility problems.

What is B-12 and can there be an imbalance?

A clinical term of B-12 is known as cobalamin. Like most vitamins and minerals, B-12 is water soluble. B-12 is one of a collective group of B vitamins, being considered the most important in the group. Note that B vitamins like to be balanced within their own functioning parameters. This is why you see different varying degrees of dosages on a complex formula of B vitamins. Unless there is a clinically determined body deficiency of an individual B vitamin calling for much higher dosages than normal – a sustained high dosage of a singular B vitamin will create an imbalance of some other B vitamins in the body – lowering certain B vitamin levels to unhealthy levels. Again monitor through a blood test to ensure healthy and proper B vitamin blood levels.

There are other circumstances that create a shortage of B vitamins (individually or collectively) in some areas of our body. One for instance is someone suffering with Alcoholism; they will typically have a deficiency of the B vitamin Thiamine (B1) which promotes dementia in such cases. 3

Role of B-12

B-12 is essential for several body functions but like most other nutrients the body cannot manufacture it which is why it is so important to consume it on a daily basis.

Nervous system, Cell Division and DNA synthesis

One key role of B-12 is maintaining healthy blood and nerve cells. And as many may know that DNA is our genetic code within all cells in the body; B-12 is involved in the synthesis of DNA. Our nervous system could not function properly without adequate B-12 and cell division (split/reproduce) as well as DNA synthesis would all be weakened and impaired.

Red Blood Cells

More commonly known as B-12’s major role in creating red bloods cells; red blood cells are mandatory for carrying oxygen to all cells in the body as well as returning carbon dioxide back to our lungs to be breathed out and released.

Key Health Benefits of Vitamin B-12

Energy Levels

Next to hypothyroidism, mainly due to daily insufficient iodine consumption, B-12 is critical in our metabolism; as is the thyroid gland at a cellular level and energy production. Fatigue is a main symptom that sends people to the doctor’s office when B-12 is involved.

*Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) cannot be made without Iodine every day. Taken a few times a day is optimum for thyroid function. 4

Important Digestive Function

In the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose (the body’s primary energy source) B-12 amongst some other B vitamins is required in this conversion process. 5

Endurance and Exercise

During bouts of exercise, a great demand is put upon the cells to supply enough oxygen to the cells in the muscles to maintain endurance demands. B-12 as noted is part of the matrix of red blood cells which carry oxygen. Lower than normal B-12 levels may be indicated if you are experiencing fatigue on a regular basis and less than normal endurance levels when exercising. Again low thyroid function is a very common occurrence in this scenario and all others that involve low energy and lower functioning body systems.

Memory and Overall Brain Health

Interestingly B-12 is showing to be helpful in the early stages of dementia and neurodegenerative diseases especially when coupled with Omega 3 Fatty Acids of which the brain consists of over 60% of these long chained fatty acids. A study did show the pairing to be of benefit and effective at decreasing cognitive decline.

To help collaborate these findings another study in 2016 discovered low levels of B-12 compared to normal values, were connected with memory malfunctioning and lesser learning ability than those with top range values of B-12 concentrations. So it would seem that B-12 is an essential vitamin promoting daily brain health. Some experts feel that we may need higher amounts of B-12 than the normal RDA and this also applies to several other nutrients being explored. 6,7,8,9,10

Vitamin B-12 Plays a Role in Mood Disorders

B-12 is being praised as an uplifting vitamin and even perhaps a reason why a person may be more susceptible to depressive disorders and anxiety. However, an important fact to keep in mind, are the other key nutrients that must be available for the ‘dopa process/pathway in the brain’. Glands like the thyroid are predominantly involved in the inability to cope, feeling overwhelmed, anger issues, depression and anxiety. For instance, dopamine cannot be made if the amino acid Tyrosine is unavailable, which is also part of the thyroid matrix. A few other key nutrients are Vitamin D3, B-9 (Folate), Magnesium, Zinc and Omega 3 Fatty Acids from a marine source.
*Hypothyroidism is a stepping off point for mood, anger and depressive disorders. To learn how to prevent hypothyroidism and fully prevent and reverse even the most severe mood disorders pick up my very recent book ‘Reverse Depression Naturally”. 11

Be that as it may, it is surprising that vitamin B-12 has a role in synthesizing serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that affect your emotions. And B-12 is fundamental for supporting the nervous system and maintaining healthy nerve cells. 12,13

Benefits Heart Health

A benefit of Vitamin B-12 in relation to protecting heart health has shown the ability to counteract raised levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is suspect of causing artery damage when its levels become too high. Ongoing research is taking place as to homocysteine’s potential risk factor in atherosclerosis. Other inspiring news, research is indicating that B-12 may have a positive effect on blood pressure levels and upholding healthy cholesterol values. 14,15

May Encourage Healthy Bones

What we know is that B-12 is involved in DNA synthesis which is perhaps why it is also involved in bone formation. Studies have now made known that low B-12 ranges are related to below normal bone density values. As in most other body processes and systems, other nutrients are necessary in bone formation and health. But B-12 has not been foremost on our minds compared to those frequently mentioned in the media and by health care professionals such as calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and K. 16

Regardless it is important to cover as many key elements that are required by our body to provide enough supportive nutrients to ward against imbalance and disease.

Critical for Hair, Skin and Nails

In the realization that greater oxygen supply to the skin not only promotes healthier supple skin but is essential to the root follicles of hair and nails. These fast acting cellular regenerating areas need a consent supply of oxygen. It isn’t a stretch knowing that B-12 is directly involved in the formation of red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body.

B-12 is Involved in Gut Health and Digestion

Most would not be aware that B-12 has a role in the production of our digestive enzymes. These enzymes are critical for the chime state that food ‘should’ become to ensure the best absorbability of nourishment to the body.

The most important aspect of our immune system is the beneficial bacteria in the body which comprises 85% of our immune system. Through research, B-12 has shown to help support the many strains and species of friendly microflora in our gut – which work against foreign bacteria/pathogens and warding against unhealthy levels of yeast and fungus in the intestinal tract and body.

Important in the Prevention of Certain Types of Anemia

As mentioned earlier, B-12 is a crucial component in regulating healthy red blood cell supplies.

Symptoms of Anemia Caused by B-12 Deficiency

Pale yellow tinge to your skin
Sore and red tongue (glossitis)
Mouth ulcers
Digestion troubles
Pins and needles (paraesthesia)
Inconsistent physical movements
Disturbed vision
Bouts of depression and mood swings
Changes in thought processes and emotions and behavior
A decline in cognition, such as memory, comprehension and discernment
Signs of dementia

Symptoms of Anemia

People with anemia have abnormally low amounts of haemoglobin in each red blood cell – also described as fewer red blood cells than normal.

Tiredness, fatigue and weakness
Shortness of breath and lightheadedness
Lack of energy (lethargy)
Feeling faint
Pale skin color
Raising heartbeats (palpitations)
Tinnitus (ringing in the ear) hearing sounds coming from inside the body
Loss of appetite and weight loss
Memory problems, brain fog

Symptoms of Folate Deficiency

Be sure folate levels are checked in your blood test because it may not be your B-12 or Iron levels that need to be addressed:

Symptoms related to anemia
Diminished sense of taste
Numbness and tingling in the hands and fee
Muscle weakness

*Similar to low thyroid problems, initially people feel their fatigue is a lack of quality sleep and working too hard. Not so, there is always a reason why we feel an uncommon and unwanted symptom – just as there are reasons why someone does not experience ill health; what might they be doing that many are not?

Who is Most at Risk of B-12 Deficiency?

Low hydrochloric acid (stomach acid): Aged population is often at risk due to a reduction of stomach acid as we age, lessening absorbability of nutrients.

Any digestive disorders such as leaky gut, and worse, as in the cases of Crohn’s, colitis and IBS.

Vegetarians and vegans have more difficulty achieving adequate levels of B-12 in addition to long chained fatty acids that are from a marine source. The best sources of B-12 come from animals. Additionally, pregnant or breastfeeding women can struggle with achieving sufficient levels of B-12.

Daily Recommendation for B-12

B-12 is measured in micrograms (mcg).
Adults 14+, the recommended daily intake (RDI) is 2.4 mcg
Pregnancy, RDI goes up to 2.6 mcg and 2.8 mcg while breastfeeding

Plant-Based Sources of Vitamin B-12

Sea vegetables and a variety of mushrooms are two of the best plant based sources of vitamin B-12. Edible seaweed and certain types of algae provide B-12 for plant based diets. 17,18

Nori (purple laver) and green laver are edible algae, as is blue green algae such as Spirulina. In order to meet the RDI for B-12, it is recommended to eat approximately 4 grams of dried algae or seaweed daily.

Shiitake mushrooms are said to be the best fungi source of vitamin B-12. However you would need to eat a whopping 50 grams per day in order to achieve your RDI of B-12. It isn’t that other mushrooms do not contain B-12; the problem is that their B-12 is in an inactive form that the human body is unable to use. 19

Also to be discussed further next, are the fortified foods for B-12 like cereals, nutritional yeast and plant based milks. Vitamin B-12 can be found in fermented foods like soy products (tempeh, miso) and sauerkraut.

And supplements are a good suggestion for vegans and vegetarians, not just those who have an inherited weakness. Some fermented foods like tempeh, miso, and sauerkraut may also contain B-12 because it can be manufactured by certain bacteria, but the amount present varies widely.

Richest Food Sources for Vitamin B-12

The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) is about 2.4 mcg but slightly higher for pregnant or breastfeeding women. 20

The main food source of vitamin B-12 is found in animal products, in particular meat and dairy. Organ meats are especially high in B-12 and very nutritious. 20

Animal liver and kidneys

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of lamb liver provides an incredible 3,571% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin B-12. 21


In just twenty clams provides over 7,000% Daily Value (DV), while a serving of small clams, 100-gram (3.5-ounce) provides up to 99 mcg of vitamin B-12, approximately 200% of the DV. 22


Sardines offer numerous health benefits, being super nutritious in concentrated nutrients. A one cup serving (150 grams) supplies 554% of DV for B-12. 23


Beef contains other B vitamins and minerals in addition to B-12.  A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of beef provides approximately 5.9 mcg of vitamin B-12 which equates to 245% of the DV. 24

Fortified cereal

Fortification describes a process of adding nutrients that were not contained in the original food. Fortified foods maybe acceptable to vegans and vegetarians since the B-12 or other elements are not originally from an animal source. One cup (59 grams) cereal fortified with vitamin B-12 such as one cup of Raisin Bran may provide 62% of the DV for B-12. Make healthy choices when selecting a fortified cereal that increases your nutrient intake – low in sugar and high in fiber, preferably whole grains. 25


Cooked tuna or canned can provide adequate amounts of B-12 in addition to other important nutrients. Cooked tuna, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving contains 10.9 mcg of vitamin B-12 which amounts to 453% of the DV. 26

Nutritional Yeast

Edible yeast named Nutritional Flaked Yeast, Torula, Engevita and Brewers Yeast are a few well known types – all are a complete protein source – containing all B vitamins.

A good vegan and vegetarian B-12 source; two tablespoons (15 grams) of nutritional yeast may contain up to 733% of B-12 DV. 27


Trout, especially rainbow is a highly recommended health promoting fish to eat and a good source of B vitamins. A serving of trout contains 7.5 mcg of vitamin B12. A (3.5-ounce: 100-gram) equals 312% of the DV for B-12. 28


Salmon is known for its excellent omega 3 fatty acid content but offers a good amount of B-12 as well. A serving of 178 grams (a half fillet) can provide 208% of your DV for B-12. 29

Milk, Cheese and other dairy products

Surprisingly, researched studies have revealed that the body absorbs B-12 in milk and various other dairy products to be better than the vitamin B12 in beef, fish or eggs. 30,31,32,33

Milk: One cup of whole milk supplies 46% of the DV for vitamin B12
Swiss cheese: One slice (28 grams) of Swiss cheese contains 16% of vitamin B-12 RDI
Yogurt: One cup whole fat yogurt provides 23% of the RDI

Nondairy milk is popular among those who are lactose intolerant or a vegan dairy milk replacement. There are a number of good choices available in most grocery stores and health food stores. Some include soy, almond, rice and coconut milks which would not be naturally high in B12. Fortunately they are usually fortified, making them a valuable source for B-12.

For example I cup (250ml) of soy milk can provide up to 86% of the DV for vitamin B12.


The yolk is the deal. Two large eggs (100 grams) provide approximately 46% of the DV for vitamin B12, together with 39% of the DV for vitamin B2. 34,35

B-12 Supplements

There are many brands to choose from in seeking out a quality sourced B-12 dietary supplement. While vegan sourced can also be purchased, supplements are routinely recommended for those who suffer with a B-12 deficiency, along with pregnant women, the elderly, vegans and vegetarians and those with a gastrointestinal disorder such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative colitis (pancolitis).

Lastly, vitamin B-12 is vital and necessary in many body functions. The best sources are found in liver, beef, sardines, clams and some dairy products. It would be wise to shore-up this nutrient as not only to improve your health but to prevent illness or complications due to a deficiency of this valuable vitamin.


1 Mayo Clin Proc Innov Qual Outcomes. 2019 Jun; 3(2): 200–214.Published online 2019 May 27. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocpiqo.2019.03.002.PMCID: PMC6543499.PMID: 31193945.The Many Faces of Cobalamin (Vitamin B12) Deficiency.Bruce H.R. Wolffenbuttel, MD, PhD,a,∗ Hanneke J.C.M. Wouters, BSc,a,b M. Rebecca Heiner-Fokkema, PhD,c and Melanie M. van der Klauw, MD, PhDa. 
2 Reverse Gut Diseases Naturally.
3 Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome has to do with vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency. One of the most common causes of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is alcoholism. Page 31 found in Reverse Alzheimers Disease Naturally.
4 Reverse Thyroid Disease Naturally.
5 Cell Metab. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2015 Nov 4.Published in final edited form as:Cell Metab. 2014 Nov 4; 20(5): 769–778.Published online 2014 Nov 4. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2014.10.002.PMCID: PMC4260394.NIHMSID: NIHMS638405.PMID: 25440056. Vitamin B12 as a modulator of gut microbial ecology.Patrick H. Degnan,1,* Michiko E. Taga,2,* and Andrew L. Goodman3,4
6 Study 2016 memory alzheimers? Randomized Controlled Trial Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Apr;103(4):1045-54. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.116970. Epub 2016 Feb 24. 
7 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.J Alzheimers Dis. 2016; 50(2): 547–557.Published online 2016 Jan 6. doi: 10.3233/JAD-150777.PMCID: PMC4927899.PMID: 26757190.Omega-3 Fatty Acid Status Enhances the Prevention of Cognitive Decline by B Vitamins in Mild Cognitive Impairment.Abderrahim Oulhaj,a,* Fredrik Jernerén,b Helga Refsum,b,c A. David Smith,b and Celeste A. de Jagerd.
8 Review Int Psychogeriatr. 2012 Apr;24(4):541-56. doi: 10.1017/S1041610211002511. Epub 2012 Jan 6.Cognitive impairment and vitamin B12: a review.Eileen Moore 1, Alastair Mander, David Ames, Ross Carne, Kerrie Sanders, David Watters.Affiliations expand.PMID: 22221769 DOI: 10.1017/S1041610211002511.
9 Vitamin B-12 concentration, memory performance, and hippocampal structure in patients with mild cognitive impairment.Theresa Köbe 1, A Veronica Witte 2, Ariane Schnelle 1, Ulrike Grittner 3, Valentina A Tesky 4, Johannes Pantel 4, Jan Philipp Schuchardt 5, Andreas Hahn 5, Jens Bohlken 6, Dan Rujescu 7, Agnes Flöel 8.Affiliations expand.PMID: 26912492 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.115.116970.
10 What is Brain Fog? Potential Causes + Natural Treatment Options. 04/08/2021 by Brian Vaszily.
11 Reverse Depression Naturally.
12 Review J Psychopharmacol. 2005 Jan;19(1):59-65. doi: 10.1177/0269881105048899.Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12.Alec Coppen 1, Christina Bolander-Gouaille.Affiliations expand.PMID: 15671130 DOI: 10.1177/02698811050488 99.
13 Indian J Psychol Med. 2011 Jul-Dec; 33(2): 203–204.doi: 10.4103/0253-7176.92051PMCID: PMC3271502PMID: 22345852.Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as Early Manifestation of B12 Deficiency.Maryam Valizadeh and Nasim Valizadeh1.
14 Nutr J. 2015; 14: 6.Published online 2015 Jan 10. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-14-6.PMCID: PMC4326479.PMID: 25577237.Role of homocysteine in the development of cardiovascular disease.Paul Gangulycorresponding author and Sreyoshi Fatima Alam. 
15 Biomed Res Int. 2017; 2017: 5489057.Published online 2017 Mar 23. doi: 10.1155/2017/5489057.PMCID: PMC5382296.PMID: 28424785.The Impact of Homocysteine, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D Levels on Functional Outcome after First-Ever Ischaemic Stroke.Merdin Markišić, 1 Aleksandra M. Pavlović, 2 and Dragan M. Pavlović.
16 J Bone Miner Res. 2005 Jan;20(1):152-8. doi: 10.1359/JBMR.041018. Epub 2004 Oct 25.Low plasma vitamin B12 is associated with lower BMD: the Framingham Osteoporosis Study.Katherine L Tucker 1, Marian T Hannan, Ning Qiao, Paul F Jacques, Jacob Selhub, L Adrienne Cupples, Douglas P Kiel.
17 Vitamin B12-Containing Plant Food Sources for Vegetarians. Nutrients. 2014 May; 6(5): 1861–1873.Published online 2014 May 5. doi: 10.3390/nu6051861.PMCID: PMC4042564PMID: 24803097.Fumio Watanabe,* Yukinori Yabuta, Tomohiro Bito, and Fei Teng  Study.
19 5 Powerful Mushroom Health Benefits You Need to Know.06/01/2019 by Brian Vaszily.
20 Review Nutr Rev. 2015 Feb;73(2):106-15. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuu011.Vitamin B12 in meat and dairy products. Doreen Gille 1, Alexandra Schmid 2. Affiliations expand PMID: 26024497 DOI: 10.1093/nutrit/nuu011.
33 Older men and women efficiently absorb vitamin B-12 from milk and fortified bread.R M Russell 1, H Baik, J J Kehayias.Affiliations expand.PMID: 11160548 DOI: 10.1093/jn/131.2.291. Clinical Trial J Nutr.2001 Feb;131(2):291-3. doi: 10.1093/jn/131.2.291.
34 b12.

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While close attention was given to the accuracy of information in this article, the author accepts neither responsibility nor liability to any person with respect to injury, damage, loss or any circumstances involving alleged causes directly or indirectly related to the information in this article. The sole purpose is to educate and broaden ones awareness. This information is not meant to replace medical advice or services provided by a health care professional.

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