You probably hear a lot about vitamin B-12 but aren't quite sure where it comes from or what it does. Virtually all animal-based foods, including eggs, milk and chicken, provide relatively high amounts of B-12. This vitamin is important for many reasons. It is involved in your metabolism by pulling energy from protein and fat, it plays a major role in making new red blood cells and it protects the myelin sheath, which is the coating surrounding nerves.
Eggs are packed with plenty of vitamin B-12, but you need to eat the entire egg. The majority of the B-12 is in the yolk. For example, you'll only get around 0.03 microgram of B-12 if you have one large egg white, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. This is much less than the 0.65 microgram you'll get from a large whole egg. If you want to boost your B-12 content without overloading your plate with fat and calories, scramble one whole egg with one or two egg whites. This way you'll get plenty to eat and lots of B-12 without damaging your diet.
Milk and Milk Foods
An ice-cold 8-ounce glass of skim or low-fat milk contains approximately 1.3 micrograms of vitamin B-12. Two-percent and whole milk each have a little less, providing about 1.1 micrograms per 8 ounces. Low-fat cottage cheese makes a perfect breakfast food -- especially when paired with fresh fruit -- and it adds more B-12 to your diet. One cup of 2-percent low-fat cottage cheese offers more than 1.6 micrograms of the vitamin. The same serving of yogurt made from skim milk offers nearly 1.4 micrograms of B-12.
Chicken has a decent amount of B-12 although not quite as much as eggs and milk. You'll get about 0.29 microgram of B-12 from 3 ounces of broiled, skinless chicken breast. Dark meat has a slightly smaller amount, offering 0.27 microgram from the same serving size. Whether you enjoy light or dark meat, always remove the skin so that you don't consume unnecessary amounts of fat and calories. Use healthy cooking methods that keep your serving of chicken light and lean. Opt for baked, grilled or broiled chicken instead of fatty fried pieces.
Vitamin B-12 recommendations are the same for men and women, making it easy to remember. You need 2.4 micrograms of B-12 as a healthy adult, reports the Linus Pauling Institute. During pregnancy, your requirement increases to 2.6 micrograms and then elevates further to 2.8 micrograms if you breast-feed. Ideally, you should get all of the B-12 you need from your diet, but taking a daily multivitamin or B-12 supplement helps you to meet your needs. If you think you need to take a dietary supplement, let your doctor know ahead of time.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.