Your body uses vitamin B3, also known as niacin, to work properly. It’s a micronutrient that helps to regulate your metabolism, protect against oxidative stress and boost the nervous system function.
It’s water soluble, which means any extra niacin in your body is released in urine. Simply put, you need to regularly eat foods high in niacin to stay healthy.
Your body can’t produce vitamin B3 by itself, so you need to either take it from foods that are rich in niacin or add it to your diet as a supplement.
The RDA of vitamin B3 is 16mg for adult men and 14mg adult women. If you’re pregnant, your RDA will be 18mg as your body will need more niacin to sustain itself and the baby.
Generally, these dosages are enough to meet the needs of around about 98% of adults.
If you’re looking to boost your daily niacin intake, here are some vitamin B3 sources you can add to your diet today:
Chicken (especially chicken breast) is one of the best niacin sources. About 85 grams of boneless, cooked and skinless chicken breast gives you 11.4 mg of vitamin B3.
Chicken thighs, cooked in a similar way, would only provide half the niacin of chicken breast.
Chicken also has lots of protein, giving you an amazing combination if you want to lose weight faster while eating a high-protein diet.
Liver is another one of the best natural vitamin B3 sources. It is very nutritious and rich in iron, choline, protein and other vitamins.
An 85g serving of beef liver provides you with 14.7 mg of niacin. This meets women’s full RDA and approximately 90% of men’s.
Livers from other animals are good too, but they won’t sustain you as much as beef liver does. Chicken liver is close to being as nutritious as beef liver, as it provides only 73% of a man’s RDA and 83% of a woman’s.
Salmon is also one of the best vitamin B3 sources, especially if eaten fresh.
This is because an 85-gram regular wild salmon fillet gives both men and women over half of their required RDA (53% and 61%, respectively).
If you eat the same amount of farmed salmon, you would get a little less niacin — about 42% for men and less than half for women (49%).
As a bonus, salmon (wild) is also rich in omega-3 acids, which support a healthy heart.
One medium avocado has 3.5 grams of vitamin B3, as well as lots of fibre, minerals and healthy fats that are good for you and your heart.
Avocados help reduce the risk of developing heart disease, but only if you eat them regularly.
This source of niacin is also really great when combined with other foods (plus you can probably find them in any supermarket).
Potatoes are one of the best vitamin B3 vegan sources around. Sweet potatoes give you the same amount of niacin as the normal white potato.
A single baked potato contains 4.2 mg of vitamin B3. Brown Russet potatoes contain the most niacin, with 2 mg of B3 for every 100 grams.
Tenderloin and lean pork chops are great vitamin B3 sources, not only because they provide niacin, but also of vitamin B1, more commonly known as thiamine. This is yet another vitamin that helps your metabolism and does great when combined with vitamin B3.
One roasted pork tenderloin provides you with 6.3 mg of niacin, along with some thiamine to help with metabolism and carbohydrates. This will help you to transform carbs into energy. The tenderloin fulfills about 39% of men’s RDA and about 45% of women’s.
If you were to have a slightly fattier piece of the pork, you would end up getting less niacin — a little over 20% for men and just below 30% for women.
Peanuts are one of the best niacin sources for vegetarians. This is because you probably already have them in your house, and if not, they’re really easy to get.
Peanuts contain more than just niacin. They have vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium and monounsaturated fats. They contain lots of calories but if eaten daily, they reduce the chances of type 2 diabetes without making you gain weight.
If you eat peanut butter, two tablespoons will give you 4.3 mg of vitamin B3. This means that men will get about 25% of their RDA whilst women get 30%.
Whole wheat bread, pasta, brown rice, burley and the likes are also good as they are healthy vitamin B3 sources and give you other nutrients. This is because whole wheat has an outer layer rich in niacin. Whole wheat flour, too, has a niacin-rich outer layer, unlike refined white flour.
Let’s take whole wheat bread for example. It has 4.7 mg of niacin while normal bread contains only 1.3 mg. This means that the whole wheat bread covers less than half of the RDA for men and women while normal bread covers just about a quarter.
Here’s yet another great option for pescaterians: tuna!
A single can of light tuna provides a whopping 21.9mg of niacin, which means it fulfills 100% of both men and women’s RDA.
Niacin isn’t the only thing that this fish provides you with. It is rich in vitamin B6, vitamin B12, omega 3-fatty acids, selenium and protein. Researchers say that, while eating one can of tuna per week is healthy, eating too many can cause mercury toxicity. This is because mercury can get into tuna meat.
Beef Ground beef is one of the best vitamin B3 sources. It also contains other nutrients, like vitamin B12, zinc, iron, selenium and protein.
A single, cooked serving of lean ground beef gives us about 6.2 mg of vitamin B3. This means that it will cover under half of the RDA for both men and women.
Researchers have also found that beef that comes from ground-fed cattle will give you more omega 3 fatty-acids and will help your heart. It also aids in protecting against oxidative stress, which makes it more nutritious than regular, grain-fed beef.
The leaner the beef, the more niacin it provides. If your beef is really fatty, then it won’t give you as much niacin as the leaner one does.
Turkey might not be as rich in niacin as chicken, but it provides plenty of other nutrients like tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that can convert into niacin, but only when vitamin B6 is also present.
Turkey breasts are really good vitamin B3 sources as they pack 6.3 mg of vitamin B3 with just about enough tryptophan to yield one extra milligram of niacin. Put together, they can make up about 46% of a man’s RDA and 52% of a woman’s.
Tryptophan also makes neurotransmitter serotonin and a hormone called melatonin. These are both needed by your body as they play a huge role in your mood and sleep.
Mushrooms are really good vitamin B3 sources for vegetarians and vegans. These fungi contain zinc, potassium, magnesium, copper and plenty of other B vitamins like folate.
Mushrooms provide you with 2.5 mg of niacin which is roughly 15% of the RDA for men and 18% for women.
Research shows that mushrooms grown under sunlamps will provide you with the same amount of vitamin D as supplements would. This could help out people who are deficient in this vitamin and even people who aren’t but would like to increase their intake.
One anchovy, weighing 1 gram, provides you with 0.2 mg of niacin. This is about 5% of the RDA for both men and women. Don’t worry though, this is just because of their small size. If you were to eat ten anchovies in a day, you would achieve around half of your RDA.
These tiny fish are also a good source of selenium. Selenium is a mineral essential for the body to function properly. It helps with metabolism and oxidative stress which means that, when combined with niacin, it will accelerate weight loss and support various functions in your body.
Foods rich in selenium are also linked to a 22% lower chance of cancer, especially cancer of the breast, esophagus, prostate and lungs.
A single cup of cooked brown rice fulfills about 18% of men’s RDA and 21% of women’s. Brown rice is also high in fibre, vitamin B6, thiamine (vitamin B1), magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and selenium.
Research indicates that only 30% of niacin in grains can be absorbed. The rest is discarded by the body.
If you use brown rice instead of white, it could reduce inflammation and improve heart health in overweight and obese women.
Fortified and Enriched Foods
With fortified and enriched foods, the niacin originally present in these foods was lost during the manufacturing process and added back at a later stage. Fortified vitamin B3 sources also have extra niacin added to them. This transforms them from a poor source of niacin into a rich one.
The cereals you eat in the morning are one example of fortified or enriched foods. Many foods are enriched or fortified, such as pasta and white bread.
Studies show that the average American receives more niacin from fortified and enriched foods than natural sources.
Green peas are one of the best vegetarian and vegan vitamin B3 sources. They are highly absorbable and give you 3 mg of niacin per cup. This is equal to about 20% of both men and women’s RDA.
Research shows that peas are high in antioxidants that help fight oxidative stress. They also contain other nutrients that might reduce the chances of cancer and support the growth of healthy gut bacteria. They also help to lower bad cholesterol in the body.
Green peas pack 7.4 grams of fibre, which makes it rich in this healthy carbohydrate.
Conclusion Adding more niacin to your diet can have many great benefits for your health and well-being. Whether you have a penchant for peanuts or are partial to your plate of green peas, you’ve got many vitamin B3 sources to choose from.
Just make sure you don’t go overboard as too much niacin can cause ‘niacin flush’ (reddening of the skin, sometimes with a burning or itching sensation)