FHM is reader supported - by purchasing through our links, we may earn a small commission.

I'm a big promoter of vitamin B12 for women because I've seen the way that it makes such a difference in my work as a female nutritionist and women's health advocate. While we should ideally be getting the bulk of our daily B12 from foods, most of us need a little help. The stakes of dipping into a B12 deficiency are high. Let's get into the B12 benefits I want every woman to know about, as it's one of the vitamins women should be taking daily.

Vitamin B12: What Is It and How Does It Work?

vitamin b12 supplement

Also known as cobalamin, vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin found naturally in many animal foods. Our red blood cells and DNA need B12 to function. In addition, B12 plays key roles in cell metabolism and nerve function. Your central nervous system really needs enough of this vitamin to work properly! B12 works by binding to the protein in the things we eat. Once it reaches the stomach, B12 gets unbound by hydrochloric acid and enzymes in order to combine with a special protein called intrinsic factor that enables it to be absorbed within the small intestine.

Primary Sources of Vitamin B12

As I mentioned earlier, food should be the primary source of your daily B12 intake. There are several different ways to make sure you're getting enough B12. The foods highest in B12 are animal products. Many promoters of B12 suggest eating animal livers, kidneys, and other organ meats. However, I understand that this isn't practical for everyone. Abundant levels of B12 can also be found in beef, clams, sardines, tuna, trout, salmon, milk, dairy products, and eggs. Many cereals today are also fortified with B12.

How Much Vitamin B12 Does a Woman Need?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the average woman needs 2.4 mcg of B12 daily. Pregnant and breastfeeding women require between 2.6 mcg and 2.8 mcg daily. The NIH's recommended daily intake establishes the amount needed to maintain a healthy hematological status and serum vitamin B12 levels.

7 Benefits of Vitamin B12 for Women

As a nutritionist, it can feel like B12 is a secret that the general health and fitness industry has been keeping from too many people. Most of my clients have never heard about the importance of B12 before. Some even show up at my office with B12 deficiencies that are ruining their lives. How do I know? They have fatigue, depression, pale skin, digestive issues, weak muscles, constant tingling, and a general sense of exhaustion. While vitamin B12 isn't always the fix that's needed, I've seen the way that supplementing with it can make such a big difference! I'll show you some of the benefits for women right now.

vitamin b12

1. Helps Keep Your Body's Blood and Nerve Cells Healthy

Vitamin B12 is necessary to help the body make red blood cells. It doesn't get more serious than that. Our red blood cells contain the hemoglobin that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Getting our red blood cells at optimal levels gives us energy and vitality. Yes, everyone needs healthy red blood cell production. However, healthy red blood cells are even more important if you're someone who exercises because oxygenated blood nourishes tissue. In fact, it specifically helps to nourish the muscle and connective tissue that we rely on to keep us powered up during workouts. As a result, B12 can help to increase endurance, boost performance, enhance recovery, and potentially help us to avoid strains. If we aren't getting enough B12 to make healthy red blood cells, we risk slipping into an anemic state.

Vitamin B12 is also essential for the nervous system. It plays important roles in myelin synthesis, nerve metabolism, and neuronal regeneration. Prolonged B12 deficiency can put us at risk for serious nerve-based and neurological symptoms. In fact, it's possible to experience long-term nerve damage from a B12 deficiency. You'll know that this is happening because you might experience confusion, concentration issues, and early dementia symptoms. When we get enough B12, we support our nervous system in a way that allows it to remain sharp and responsive.

2. Pregnancy Health

First, I want to say that all conversations about supplementing with B12 during your pregnancy should be had with your prenatal care provider. However, I can run through why B12 is so important during pregnancy. Vitamin B12 during pregnancy is essential for your baby's developing brain and spinal cord! Vitamin B12 also plays a big role in creating the DNA that is the genetic material contained within your baby's cells. Some research suggests that low vitamin B12 during pregnancy can increase a baby's risk for neural tube defects. Women don't generally need to supplement with vitamin B12 during pregnancy as long as they are taking prenatal vitamins. However, circumstances ranging from a vegan diet to a known deficiency could make supplementation necessary.

3. Helps Make DNA

I touched on B12's role in making DNA briefly. However, there's a lot more to stay. Vitamin B12 is important for DNA synthesis. It also ensures the structural stability of important regions within our chromosomes.

4. Prevents Megaloblastic Anemia

"Megaloblastic anemia is a form of macrocytic anemia, a blood disorder that happens when your bone marrow produces stem cells that make abnormally large red blood cells," according to Cleveland Clinic. This condition is a type of vitamin deficiency anemia that occurs when you don’t get enough vitamin B12. Symptoms of megaloblastic anemia include fatigue, lightheadedness, weakness, memory loss, tingling/prickling sensations, poor balance, and gastrointestinal distress. Megaloblastic anemia is treated with high doses of vitamin B12.

5. Prevents Depression

"Routine testing for plasma vitamin B12 levels can be recommended for patients across the board beginning at the adolescent age to prevent the population from developing depression or other forms of cognitive under-functioning, which may lead to depression," according to a 2020 clinical review on vitamin B12 supplementation's role in preventing depression. Information from Mayo Clinic reiterates that vitamin B12 plays a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood. Vitamin B12 may also be beneficial for people who are already taking antidepressant medications. According to one randomized trial, vitamin B12 supplementation with antidepressants significantly improves depressive symptoms.

6. Improves Brain Health

B12 is brain food. There's simply no other way to look at it! According to one study, B12 supplementation may help to prevent loss of brain volume in the elderly. It turns out that B12 plays a big role in preventing brain atrophy that occurs from loss of neurons. That means that B12 may provide insulation against dementia, memory loss, and cognitive decline. You don't necessarily have to be dealing with a major B12 deficiency to start seeing B12-related cognitive decline. An eye-opening study looking at vitamin B12's link with concentration, memory performance, and hippocampal structure in patients with mild cognitive impairment found that even having B12 levels "on the low side of normal" could increase risks for cognitive issues.

7. Reduces Risk of Macular Degeneration

One study found that a vitamin routine that includes B12 may help to prevent age-related macular degeneration. The study reveals that women taking a combination of B6 and B12 vitamins had lower risks of developing age-related macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is a vision issue that's common in people over the age of 50. People with this condition experience deterioration of the center of the retina that leads to blurred vision.

What Are the Symptoms of B12 Deficiency for Women?

I know that I already went over some of the common symptoms of a B12 deficiency earlier. However, I want to dive in a little more to help you get a better understanding of what low vitamin B12 can really do to your body. I also want to give you time to think about the ways that some of the physical symptoms you've been experiencing could be linked with low B12.

Many of my clients who ultimately go on to be diagnosed with low B12 come to me with complaints of feeling tired, burned out, and depleted. They are living in a constant state of fog. In some cases, this feeling has been triggered by a stressful life event, illness, or pregnancy. They have often been brushed off by other care providers by being told that they are simply living with stress. Of course, the effects of stress can certainly help to deplete our B12 levels. I want you to consider that you may be living with a B12 deficiency if any of the following apply:

  • Your body and muscles are constantly achy, sore, tingly, or numb.
  • You are living with constant brain fog.
  • Your mood has dipped significantly.
  • You feel depressed.
  • Your vision is blurry.
  • You have no energy.
  • You are dealing with constant digestive issues that don't have medical explanations.

I'm not saying that supplementing with B12 can cure you of these symptoms. I am saying that investigating your B12 levels may be a great starting point for getting to the bottom of why you're feeling so bad. You're less likely to have a B12 deficiency if you're already taking a good daily vitamin. However, it's still possible. There's a higher chance that your symptoms are caused by a B12 deficiency if you've been completely ignoring all vitamins and supplements for years.

Preventing B12 Deficiency

Let's talk about things you can start doing today to prevent a B12 deficiency. The good news is that this is one of the easiest deficiencies to treat! However, you'll need to be consistent if you want to bounce back from the dark places a B12 deficiency can take you mentally and physically.

Incorporate Foods With Vitamin B12

Diet is the place to start with getting on track with your B12 levels. Something as simple as making steak two nights a week can help you to start replenishing your B12 levels. Having eggs for breakfast can also help to get you back to a safe place with B12. If you're a vegetarian, it's a little tougher to get those levels up naturally


I would highly recommend supplementing with B12 if you do not consume animal products. In addition, a person who is still low on B12 even though they are eating meat and dairy should strongly consider using a high-quality B12 supplement to get their bodies over the line into a good place from a state of depletion. Getting your levels to a good place is often as easy as taking one to two capsules or gummies a day.

Should Women Take a Vitamin B12 Supplement or Get Vitamin B12 From Healthful Eating?

vitamin b12 foods

I encourage most women to consider supplementing with B12 because this is such a crucial vitamin for everything from DNA to red blood cells. If you're taking a daily vitamin, check the label to see if it's providing you with 100% of your daily B12 needs. Vitamin B12 may not be the problem if you're already getting the right levels. If your vitamin is lacking, it's probably time to add in a B12 product.

Please don't mistake my recommendation to take B12 supplements as an endorsement of not eating the right way! I still want you to get the bulk of your daily B12 intake from real, whole foods. This should include meat, dairy, eggs, and fortified cereals. You're simply going to be covering all of your bases a little better if you're addressing potential gaps with a high-quality supplement.

Conclusion: My Final Thoughts on Why Every Woman Needs to Know About Vitamin B12

I'm convinced we'd talk more about B12 if more of us knew just how important this vitamin is for our bodies! Vitamin B12 is a true building block for our DNA, red blood cells, and central nervous system. There's just no way you're going to feel healthy and energetic if those areas of your health are not being supported properly. My advice? Start getting serious about auditing your B12 levels! Fixing the problem could be just a steak, boiled egg, or easy supplement away!

About the Author
Tami Smith, CPT, Nutritionist

Tami Smith is a certified Nutritionist and an ACE certified fitness trainer, specializing in pre and post-natal fitness. She studied business and earned her bachelor's degree in Business Economics. Tami is a mom of two and women's health advocate. Her passion is to help people live a fit, healthy life through proper nutrition and exercise!

Leave a Reply
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

You might like these articles too!