For a healthy body, you've got to get your vitamin Bs. And although it's pretty easy to get most B vitamins by eating a balanced diet containing lots of produce and whole grains, vitamin B12 is another story. Vitamin B12—which helps your body produce DNA and red blood cells, supports your immune system, and encourages healthy nerve function—is found naturally only in animal sources. That means people who don't eat meat or dairy can have trouble reaching the daily recommended 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B12 (2.6 mcg if you're pregnant and and 2.8 mcg if you're breastfeeding). People with digestive issues like celiac disease and adults older than 50 are also at risk for deficiency due to absorption problems, which can cause weakness, fatigue, and lightheadedness. (So if you eat these foods and still have symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, see your doctor.) But most often you will be on your way to a B12-rich diet if you eat at least some of these 15 foods.
Vitamin B12: 84.1 mcg in 3 ounces of cooked clams (1,402% of your DV)
Other body benefits: Not only do clams have the highest concentration of vitamin B12 of any food, they’re also filled with potassium. Three ounces of either canned or fresh clams contain 534 mg of potassium, 15% of your DV.
Best ways to eat them: Clams are delicious in pasta dishes or stews, like Cioppino or Manhattan clam chowder. Steam them until the shells crack open, or boil for about five minutes after shells open.
Vitamin B12: 21.84 mcg in 3 ounces of cooked oysters (364% DV)
Other body benefits: Oysters contain more zinc than any other food—a whopping 32 mg in six raw oysters, 400% of your RDA. The essential mineral supports your immune system by helping fight off colds. Another benefit? Zinc can encourage testosterone production, which may improve libido and help women’s ovaries stay healthy.
Best ways to eat them: Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, and Health's contributing nutrition editor, recommends enjoying oysters as an appetizer or in a seafood stew.
Other body benefits: You may be surprised to learn that these little fish are packed with calcium—3 ounces has the same amount as 8 ounces of milk. Sardines also contain vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. If you buy them canned in oil, be sure to rinse before cooking to get rid of excess salt.
Best ways to eat them: “Sardines are great in a marinara sauce over spaghetti squash,” says Sass. To give the sauce a nutritional boost, toss in any leftover veggies you have in the fridge.
Vitamin B12: 4.8 mcg in 3 ounces of cooked sockeye salmon (80% DV)
Other body benefits: Like trout, salmon is a rich source of protein and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Also good: One 3-ounce salmon fillet contains more than 100% of your DV of vitamin D.
Best ways to eat it: To maximize salmon’s many health benefits, experts recommend baking it in the oven or grilling it instead of eating it fried, dried, or salted. “I love grilled salmon over a salad with avocado and chickpeas,” says Sass.
Vitamin B12: 2.5 mcg in 3 ounces of light, canned tuna fish (42% DV)
Other body benefits: Tuna is loaded with vitamin D (a 3-ounce serving contains about 150 IUs, or 25% DV). Like salmon and trout, it’s also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acids (EPAs) and docosahexaenoic acids (DHAs), which are thought to help boost mood.
Best ways to eat it: When buying it canned, Sass suggests looking for chunk light tuna in water. And if you’re making tuna salad, skip the mayo: “Mix canned tuna with Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and Italian herb seasoning to make a chilled tuna salad,” she says.
Vitamin B12: 1.8 mcg in 3 ounces of cooked haddock (30% DV)
Other body benefits: Though it contains fewer omega-3 fatty acids than oilier fish such as salmon, haddock is still a terrific low-fat protein source. It’s also a good option if you’re concerned about mercury: haddock has lower levels of the chemical than other fish, including tuna, halibut, and cod.
Best ways to eat it: Bake haddock in the oven with simple seasonings, such as lemon and fresh herbs. Or grill the fillets and serve on a bun as a healthier alternative to a burger.
Vitamin B12: 1.3 mcg in 3 ounces of broiled top loin sirloin (23% DV)
Other body benefits: Beef is another great source of zinc, containing 7 mg in 3 ounces. It’s also packed with protein and the B vitamin riboflavin, which is thought to help alleviate PMS symptoms.
Best ways to eat it: “Keep it lean,” says Sass. “Combine beef with veggies, whole grains, and good fats, such as ginger stir fry with beef over brown rice.” And be mindful not to overdo it: Red meat is high in cholesterol, and eating too much could increase your risk of heart disease.
Vitamin B12: 1.2 mcg in 1 cup of low-fat milk (18% DV)
Other body benefits: Not only is it a good source of calcium and vitamin D, but milk might also help some women avoid PMS symptoms, according to a recent University of Massachusetts at Amherst study. And whole milk could offer additional benefits: Another study found that women who consumed more than one serving of high-fat dairy daily were 25% less likely to experience ovulation problems than those who did not.
Best ways to eat it: “There are lots of healthy ways to incorporate milk into your diet,” says Sass. “Try making a smoothie with milk, frozen fruit, almond butter, ginger, and cinnamon.”
Vitamin B12: 1.1 mcg in 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt (18% DV)
Other body benefits: Yogurt is a great source of calcium, magnesium, and protein. Studies show that eating it regularly could prevent diabetes and prevent high blood pressure. Thanks to plenty of beneficial probiotics, yogurt is also a great digestive aid, balancing the microflora in your gut and easing IBS symptoms.
Best ways to eat it: Sass suggests opting for nonfat or low-fat organic yogurt varieties. “It’s great whipped into smoothies or mixed with oats, fruit, nuts, and herbs, such as fresh mint,” she says.
Vitamin B12: .6 mcg in one large hard-boiled egg (10% DV)
Other body benefits: Eggs are a great source of protein and vitamin D, which is important for helping your body absorb calcium and maintain strong bones.
Best ways to eat it: Hard-boiled, soft-boiled, poached, scrambled—you can’t go wrong. “I love an omelet with veggies and avocado paired with fresh fruit,” says Sass. “Or eggs in a salad with chopped veggies, pesto, and quinoa.” If you’re watching your cholesterol, keep an eye on portion sizes: one egg yolk contains about 60% of your daily allotment of dietary cholesterol.
Vitamin B12: .3 mcg in 3 ounces of roasted chicken breast (5% DV)
Other body benefits: Chicken is a lean protein, making it a terrific fat-burning food (it has a high thermogenic effect, meaning your body can burn about 30% of the calories it contains just by digesting it).
Best ways to eat it: There are countless healthy ways to eat chicken, whether you prefer it grilled, roasted, or baked in the oven.
Other body benefits: Just one serving of lean turkey has nearly half your RDA of selenium, a trace mineral that bolsters immune function. Bonus: Turkey contains tryptophan, a chemical that may help you get a good night’s sleep.
Best ways to eat it: “Oven roasted turkey breast is great on a garden salad with Brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes,” says Sass. “Very lean ground turkey can also be cooked in a marinara sauce and served over spaghetti squash.” Opt for white turkey meat (such as the breast) and skip the skin, which contains more saturated fat.