Healthy Eating

The Best Vitamin B12-Rich Foods to Support Energy 

According to an RD.

By: Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC

Between keeping up with demanding work schedules, family responsibilities, and a fast-paced lifestyle, all too many individuals find themselves grappling with fatigue and a persistent lack of energy. And while leaning on caffeinated drinks is a tempting choice, they only provide a temporary boost (that can leave you feeling more tired in the long run). However, there’s good news. Certain nutrients can help support energy levels in a natural way, and including these nutrients in your diet shouldn’t be underestimated. Among the micronutrients that play a role in energy support in the body, vitamin B12 is particularly powerful in keeping us sustained and energized.

Ahead, learn why you must include vitamin B12 in your diet if you want to keep your energy levels healthy, as well as the ins and outs of this important vitamin.

What is Vitamin B12 

We all know that we need to eat micronutrients (like certain vitamins and minerals) in order to help the body perform essential functions, like creating cholesterol, combating oxidative stress, and forming red blood cells. Of the vitamins that we humans need, there is a group of water-soluble vitamins categorized as “B vitamins” that play roles in many factors, including helping the body break down macronutrients and make red blood cells. 

Vitamin B12 is one water-soluble b-vitamin that we all need to get from the food we eat and the drinks we drink, as our bodies can’t make this vitamin on its own. This vitamin plays a role in making DNA, creating red blood cells, and perhaps most famously, supporting energy levels.

How B12 Affects Energy 

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that, when not consumed in adequate amounts, may take a toll on your energy levels. Along with the many important functions this nutrient has on the body, perhaps one of the most important is that it helps convert fat and protein to energy. So, if your body doesn’t have enough vitamin B12, it will be challenged when it needs to convert certain macros into usable fuel. And so, if you can’t break down these macros for fuel, you will feel sluggish as a result. 

Signs of a B12 Deficiency 

A vitamin B12 deficiency can affect people of all ages, but certain populations are more at-risk than others. While the best way to learn whether you have a vitamin B12 deficiency is to ask your health care provider to run a test to check your levels, there are some tell-tale signs that may suggest that you need more vitamin B12 in your life, including:

  • Weakness
  • Tingling feeling in hands and feet
  • Exhaustion
  • Nausea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Smooth and tender tongue

Who’s at Risk of a B12 Deficiency?

Although anybody can develop a Vitamin B12 deficiency, certain populations are more susceptible to experiencing this than others, including:

  • People who follow a vegan lifestyle
  • People who underwent gastric bypass surgery
  • Having Type 1 Diabetes
  • Having Crohn’s Disease
  • Being elderly
  • Being HIV positive

Top Animal-Based Vitamin B12 Sources

Lean Beef

A 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides approximately 1.5 micrograms of Vitamin B12, providing more than half your daily needs. Grill lean beef with your favorite seasonings for a flavorful and nutrient-rich meal and pair it with colorful vegetables, add it to stir-fries, or enjoy it on top of a salad for a nutrient-rich dish.

Dairy Foods

Dairy foods like yogurt, milk, and cottage cheese are not only rich in B12, but also contain other essential nutrients like calcium and protein. Use milk as a base for smoothies and overnight oats, enjoy cottage cheese in baked goods, breakfast bowls, or eggs, and pair yogurt with fresh fruits and nuts for a tasty and nutritious snack.


A cup of chopped chicken breast contains .5 micrograms of vitamin B12, about one-fifth of your daily needs. Enjoy it roasted, grilled, shredded, or baked in dishes like pasta, fajitas, salads, soups, and stir-fries.


Fatty fish like salmon contain approximately 2.7 micrograms of vitamin B12 per 3 ounces — more than your daily needs in a single serving! Enjoy grilled or baked salmon as a topping for salads, paired with roasted vegetables, or served over toast or tacos.


Clams, scallops, and oysters are among the many shellfish that pack a substantial punch of vitamin B12. Clams, for instance, offer over 80 micrograms of vitamin B12 per 3-ounce serving, while mussels and oysters provide 20 and 16 micrograms per 3-ounce serving, respectively. Enjoy shellfish in a seafood pasta, mix them into soups, or serve them grilled with a squeeze of lemon!


One large egg contains about 0.6 micrograms of Vitamin B12 — so long as you include the yolk! While egg whites contain concentrated amounts of protein, the majority of nutrient-rich benefits associated with eggs are found in the yolk (B12, included). Enjoy them scrambled with vegetables, whipped into an omelet, or hard-boiled as a protein topping or quick and nutritious snack.

The Plant-Based Sources of Vitamin B12

Nutritional Yeast

Often used to bring a cheesy flavor to plant-based dishes, this deactivated yeast is one of the few plant foods rich in vitamin B12. While the amount per serving can vary based on brands, expect to find around 1.5 to 6 micrograms of vitamin B12 per tablespoon. Enjoy in pasta dishes, sprinkled over popcorn, or stirred into any recipe as a dairy-free alternative to cheese! 

Fortified Foods

Recognizing the potential nutritional gaps in plant-based diets, many food products are fortified with essential nutrients like vitamin B12. From plant-based milk and cereals to energy bars and superfood drinks, fortified options offer a convenient and effective way for individuals following plant-based lifestyles to meet their Vitamin B12 needs. When opting for fortified products, always check the ingredient label and try to stick to whole food-based options!


Tempeh is a great protein-rich option for plant-based eaters that offers a notable amount of vitamin B12. While not as high as in some animal products (about 0.12 micrograms per 100 grams), the fermentation process enhances the bioavailability for better absorption. Delicious marinated and added to stir-fries, nourish bowls, or in any dish as a meat alternative!

And if you simply can’t include any vitamin B12 foods in your diet on a consistent basis, supplementation is also an option to help you maintain a healthy level. 

Vitamin B12 For Energy Support

Starting to feel that 3 PM slump or having a hard time keeping your eyes open mid-day? Before you reach for that fourth cup of coffee, make sure you are eating and absorbing enough vitamin B12 foods! If you are experiencing any symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency (like chronic fatigue), ask your healthcare provider to check your vitamin B12 levels — all it takes is a simple blood test. If you, in fact, have a lower-than-desired level, including vitamin B12 foods in your diet can help you keep your levels in check and hopefully help you feel a little more energized too!