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Vitamin B12 Deficiency on Vegetarian Diets

Updated on October 2, 2016

B12 Foods & Deficiency Symptoms

Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin that helps to maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. It is necessary to make DNA, the genetic material of all cells, as described by the National Institutes of Health. Vitamin B12 contains cobalt so it also known as cobalamin. It is bound to protein in food. B12 deficiency is quite common on a vegetarian diet, so it is important to know your best B12 food sources and the B12 deficiency symptoms.

Foods that commonly contain B12 typically come from animals, including fish, meat, and poultry, eggs, milk and milk products. Fortified breakfast cereals are a good source of B12. These are those foods that are typically thought of for B12 intake.

Also, B12 shots given weekly are another way to keep your level in a safe range. This would take a doctor's prescription. B12 injections is also a treatment for the disease of pernicious anemia.

Fortified Cereal with B12

source thedailygreen
source thedailygreen

Food Sources of B12

If you are a vegetarian, than you should be aware of those supplements that provide the B12 necessary for your body. One source is nutritional yeast, Red Star. The fortified cereals already mentioned are a good source, along with fortified soy milk, wheat gluten or soy beans to resemble meat or poultry products, or fish. A wide range of fortified foods are available. It is important to read labels.

Table 1: Selected food sources of vitamin B12

Food Micrograms (ug)
DV* per serving

Mollusks, clam, mixed species, cooked, 3 ounces 64.1 1400

Liver, beef, braised, 1 slice 47.9 780

Fortified breakfast cereals, (100%) fortified), ¾ cup 6.0 100

Trout, rainbow, wild, cooked, 3 ounces 5.4 90

Salmon, sockeye, cooked, 3 ounces 4.9 50

Trout, rainbow, farmed, cooked, 3 ounces 4.2 50

Beef, top sirloin, lean, choice, broiled, 3 ounces 2.4 40ast Food, Cheeseburger, pattty & bun,1 sandwich 1.9 30

Fast Food, Taco, 1 large 1.6 25

Fortified breakfast cereals (25% fortified), ¾ cup 1.5 25

Yogurt, plain, skim, with 13 grams protein/cup, 1 c 1.4 25

Haddock, cooked, 3 ounces 1.2 20

Clams, breaded & fried, ¾ cup 1.1 20

Tuna, white, in water, drained solids, 3 ounces 1.0 15

Milk, 1 cup 0.9 15

Pork, cured, ham, lean only, canned, roasted, 3 ozs 0.6 10

Egg, whole, hard boiled, 1 0.6 10

American pasteurized cheese food, 1 ounces 0.3 6

Chicken, breast, meat only, roasted, ½ breast 0.3 6

B12 affect Myelin Sheath

source headacheadvisor
source headacheadvisor

B12 Deficiency Symptoms

Be aware of symptoms of low B12 as the symptoms tend to develop slowly and may not be recognized immediately. As the condition worsens, common symptoms include:

  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Light-headedness and dizziness
  • Palpitations and rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • A sore tongue that has a red, beefy appearance
  • Nausea or poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Yellowish tinge to the skin and eyes

If low levels of B12 remain for a long time, the condition also can lead to irreversible damage to nerve cells, which can cause the following symptoms:

  • Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
  • Difficulty walking
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irritability
  • Memory loss
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Psychosis

Your doctor can order a blood test is you are having any of these symptoms and you can receive B12 injections as necessary. Be aware that pregnant women need extra B12 .

What is Vitamin B12 Why does our body need B12

In summary

Vegetarian and Vegan diets can be healthy but it is important to make sure you are getting enough protein and Vitamin B12. The more informed you are, the healthier you will feel. 


Submit a Comment

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    3 years ago from Sunny Florida

    poetryman, When I went on a vegetarian diet I did some research to see if we can get all our vitamins and minerals, so I thought this information would be helpful to other vegetarians. Thanks for your comments.

  • poetryman6969 profile image


    3 years ago

    It's good to see that you can get the essentials even on a vegetarian diet.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 years ago from Sunny Florida

    RTalloni, I think many people probably need more vitamin B12 as so many are following a vegetarian or mostly vegetarian diet. I appreciate your comments.

  • RTalloni profile image


    6 years ago from the short journey

    Thank you for this look at B12 deficiency in vegetarian diets. This is helpful to everyone, actually, and I wonder if it might be a problem for more people than we might realize. A helpful hub for sure!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Lita, I'm so glad that this hub might assist you ewith your disease. I know peripheral neuropathy is very painful. Thanks for your comments and I hope you get better.

  • Lita C. Malicdem profile image

    Lita C. Malicdem 

    8 years ago from Philippines

    I'm type 2 with a chronic pain due to peripheral neuropathy. This is quite a long list of food selections as source of B12. I need to be reminded of such foods as well as the symptoms of deficiency in B12 because I'm on a B12 maintenance. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    chirag, Thank you for sharing your comment.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    hi i chirag patel wich food for vitamin b12

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Thank you so much for your comment. I agree with you about the importance of green leafy vegetables.

  • askjanbrass profile image


    8 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, etc.) can also be great sources of vitamin B12. As you demonstrate, it certainly is an important one, and we should all make sure we're getting enough.

    Thanks for writing!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Oliversmum, I appreciate your comment.

  • oliversmum profile image


    8 years ago from australia

    I thank you for this interesting information some of which was new to me.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Thanks for the comments.

  • prasetio30 profile image


    9 years ago from malang-indonesia

    I like your list. I get new information here. I'll bookmark this one.

  • Roberta99 profile image


    9 years ago

    Interesting article.


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