The Healthiest Food Sources of Vitamin B12

The Healthiest Food Sources of Vitamin B12
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What are the best green-light (whole food plant-based) sources of vitamin B12?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

A regular, reliable source of vitamin B12 is critical for anyone eating a plant-based diet––either vitamin B12 supplements or vitamin B12-fortified foods. I’ve talked about my B12 supplement recommendations: either 50 micrograms a day or once-a-week doses of 2,000 micrograms. I think that’s the simplest, cheapest way—taking it once a week. That’s how I do it. But if you don’t want to take supplements, you’d have to rely on B12-fortified foods––in which case you’d have to eat three separate servings of B12-fortified foods, each ideally containing at least 190 percent of the so-called “Daily Value” on the product’s nutrition facts label. How does that make any sense? And what’s the term “Daily Value” even mean? The term Daily Value is used to designate both the Daily Reference Values (DRVs) and Reference Daily Intakes (RDIs) that are based on the Recommended Daily Allowances, all to limit consumer confusion. See, aren’t you less confused now?

Anyway, the daily value of B12 was set at 6, but was recently changed to 2.4 in 2020, making it all the more confusing; and so, 190 percent of 2.4 is about 4.5. Plug that into the equation I detailed in the last video, and you get about 1.16 absorbed from each serving, times three times a day, and poof—there’s your 3.5 for the day.

Okay, so how much nutritional yeast would that be, a commonly B12-fortified food source? It depends on the brand. Going alphabetically, Bob’s Red Mill brand has 730 percent per quarter cup; so, you’d only need about four times less than that to make up a serving, so around one tablespoon. So, one tablespoon of this brand sprinkled on each meal and your B12 would be taken care of.

Bragg’s says it’s even more potent at 563 percent per tablespoon; so, just a teaspoon three times a day should suffice. Dr. Fuhrman’s brand is explicitly unfortified; and so, contains zero B12, so that’s an important lesson. You can’t just assume nutritional yeast has B12. So, if you find it in the bulk section, you have no idea what it contains unless you actually see the package. Same with the Frontier Co-op brand: zero vitamin B12. KAL brand has 500 percent of the daily value of B12 per three rounded tablespoons; so, one rounded tablespoon should suffice as one of the servings. NOW brand has more, with two teaspoons sufficing. Red Star has 333 percent per one-and-a-half heaping tablespoons; so, a serving would be like one tablespoon; but note, only some of Red Star’s nutritional yeast varieties have any B12 at all. So, just remember to check the label. And finally, Trader Joe’s looks like 1.5 tablespoons could count as one serving. So, it looks like Bragg’s is the most potent currently available.

There are all sorts of other B12-fortified foods, from plant-based meats and milks to breakfast cereals and energy drinks, but are there any other green light sources––meaning plant foods from which nothing bad has been added, and nothing good has been taken away?

What about various algae-type products, like spirulina, which are advertised as natural vitamin B12 sources? Not only do they not actually contain B12 that’s useable for humans; it’s even worse than that. They may contain B12 analogues: look-alike molecules that can even block your absorption of real B12.

I was excited to see that there was an herbal tea with B12, but so little you’d have to quadruple bag it. If you didn’t want to take a pill, which again I think is really the best way, the easiest option would probably be LeafSide foods. I’ve always loved them because they center their ingredients around my Daily Dozen.

Unfortunately, people see them citing my science and think I have some sort of financial relationship, but of course I have no financial ties to any food company, drug company, supplements, kitchen gadgets—no personal financial ties with any commercial entity whatsoever, ever. Happy to voluntarily plug LeafSide, though, as their food has kept me from starving on the road on many occasions. They’re freeze-dried; so, they’re light and easy to travel with, and I just use my hotel room coffee maker to make hot water, and poof.

But anyway, each of their meals has 75 mcg of B12; so, one a day and you’d get all your B12 without having to take supplements—but, it’s only 100 percent green light if you specify you want the salt-free versions. They have no added salt/fat/sugar versions of all their products at no extra cost, but you have to specify that when you order.

Note you have to throw all these recommendations out the window for anyone over age 65, and go straight to high daily supplement doses, which I’ll cover in my next video, as well as my recommendations during pregnancy, breastfeeding, infancy, and childhood.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

A regular, reliable source of vitamin B12 is critical for anyone eating a plant-based diet––either vitamin B12 supplements or vitamin B12-fortified foods. I’ve talked about my B12 supplement recommendations: either 50 micrograms a day or once-a-week doses of 2,000 micrograms. I think that’s the simplest, cheapest way—taking it once a week. That’s how I do it. But if you don’t want to take supplements, you’d have to rely on B12-fortified foods––in which case you’d have to eat three separate servings of B12-fortified foods, each ideally containing at least 190 percent of the so-called “Daily Value” on the product’s nutrition facts label. How does that make any sense? And what’s the term “Daily Value” even mean? The term Daily Value is used to designate both the Daily Reference Values (DRVs) and Reference Daily Intakes (RDIs) that are based on the Recommended Daily Allowances, all to limit consumer confusion. See, aren’t you less confused now?

Anyway, the daily value of B12 was set at 6, but was recently changed to 2.4 in 2020, making it all the more confusing; and so, 190 percent of 2.4 is about 4.5. Plug that into the equation I detailed in the last video, and you get about 1.16 absorbed from each serving, times three times a day, and poof—there’s your 3.5 for the day.

Okay, so how much nutritional yeast would that be, a commonly B12-fortified food source? It depends on the brand. Going alphabetically, Bob’s Red Mill brand has 730 percent per quarter cup; so, you’d only need about four times less than that to make up a serving, so around one tablespoon. So, one tablespoon of this brand sprinkled on each meal and your B12 would be taken care of.

Bragg’s says it’s even more potent at 563 percent per tablespoon; so, just a teaspoon three times a day should suffice. Dr. Fuhrman’s brand is explicitly unfortified; and so, contains zero B12, so that’s an important lesson. You can’t just assume nutritional yeast has B12. So, if you find it in the bulk section, you have no idea what it contains unless you actually see the package. Same with the Frontier Co-op brand: zero vitamin B12. KAL brand has 500 percent of the daily value of B12 per three rounded tablespoons; so, one rounded tablespoon should suffice as one of the servings. NOW brand has more, with two teaspoons sufficing. Red Star has 333 percent per one-and-a-half heaping tablespoons; so, a serving would be like one tablespoon; but note, only some of Red Star’s nutritional yeast varieties have any B12 at all. So, just remember to check the label. And finally, Trader Joe’s looks like 1.5 tablespoons could count as one serving. So, it looks like Bragg’s is the most potent currently available.

There are all sorts of other B12-fortified foods, from plant-based meats and milks to breakfast cereals and energy drinks, but are there any other green light sources––meaning plant foods from which nothing bad has been added, and nothing good has been taken away?

What about various algae-type products, like spirulina, which are advertised as natural vitamin B12 sources? Not only do they not actually contain B12 that’s useable for humans; it’s even worse than that. They may contain B12 analogues: look-alike molecules that can even block your absorption of real B12.

I was excited to see that there was an herbal tea with B12, but so little you’d have to quadruple bag it. If you didn’t want to take a pill, which again I think is really the best way, the easiest option would probably be LeafSide foods. I’ve always loved them because they center their ingredients around my Daily Dozen.

Unfortunately, people see them citing my science and think I have some sort of financial relationship, but of course I have no financial ties to any food company, drug company, supplements, kitchen gadgets—no personal financial ties with any commercial entity whatsoever, ever. Happy to voluntarily plug LeafSide, though, as their food has kept me from starving on the road on many occasions. They’re freeze-dried; so, they’re light and easy to travel with, and I just use my hotel room coffee maker to make hot water, and poof.

But anyway, each of their meals has 75 mcg of B12; so, one a day and you’d get all your B12 without having to take supplements—but, it’s only 100 percent green light if you specify you want the salt-free versions. They have no added salt/fat/sugar versions of all their products at no extra cost, but you have to specify that when you order.

Note you have to throw all these recommendations out the window for anyone over age 65, and go straight to high daily supplement doses, which I’ll cover in my next video, as well as my recommendations during pregnancy, breastfeeding, infancy, and childhood.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Doctor's Note

The reason you have to take most B12-fortified foods three times a day is because it takes your B12 receptors at least about 4 hours to unload their cargo and be ready for the next tiny dose. At huge doses, like in the supplements and Leafside you actually end up largely bypassing the receptor system so you can do once a day (and, for big enough supplemental doses, once a week), but for the tiny amounts found in most fortified foods, like the nutritional yeast, and breakfast cereals, and plant-based meats and milks, you have to get that 190% in three separate servings throughout the day.

I mentioned a few nutritional yeast brands in the video. Here are a few more with their serving sizes for B12 content:

  • Lotus (Australia & New Zealand): 1 tsp 3x/day
  • Marigold Engevita (UK): 2 tsp 3x/day
  • Anthony’s Premium (Canada): 1 tsp 3x/day
  • Hoosier Hill Farm (Canada): 1 tsp 3x/day

This is the third in a five-part video series on B12. Stay tuned for:

If you missed the first two, check out The Symptoms of Vitamin B21 Deficiency and The Optimal Vitamin B12 Dosage for Adults.

You can find all of these videos in a digital download here, along with two additional videos that will be coming out in a few months. And my new recommendations are on my Optimum Nutrition page.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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