Vitamin B3 or niacin belongs to B-complex vitamins, which are all listed in the infographic created by our team from MedAlertHelp.org. Niacin is one of the essential nutrients that our body needs in order to function normally. Some of its health benefits are enhancing mental health, lowering the risk of heart diseases, treating diabetes, and decreasing bad cholesterol. That’s why it is absolutely necessary to include vitamin B3 foods in your daily diet. If you are not sure where niacin can be found, this article offers you a list of healthy foods that contain this important nutrient.
What Is Vitamin B3?
Being one of the water-soluble vitamins, niacin is not stored in the body in large quantities. Most excess amounts of this vitamin are excreted in the urine. Niacin, another vitamin B3 name, was created by blending three words into one – nicotinic acid vitamin. However, nicotinic acid isn’t the only form of vitamin B3. Other forms include nicotinamide, inositol hexanicotinate, and related derivatives. It’s interesting that they all have different uses in the body.
Vitamin B3 Benefits
Like all B vitamins, vitamin B3 aids the body in breaking down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and converting them into energy. Another vitamin B3 function is the regulation of cholesterol levels in your body. Not only does it lower bad cholesterol, but it also increases good cholesterol. Therefore, niacin may reduce the risk of heart disease. In addition to cholesterol management, vitamin B3 can decrease the levels of triglycerides.
Furthermore, niacin is the key to mental health. It can treat some mood disorders, like depression and anxiety. What’s more, it is used to treat some types of schizophrenia. There are even a number of studies examining the role of niacin in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin B3 can also help protect our skin from sun damage and prevent certain types of skin cancer. There are numerous studies on nonmelanoma skin cancers that have shown the positive effects of niacin.
Sources of Niacin
A wide range of foods contains vitamin B3. Both animal-based and plant-based foods are good sources of niacin. This nutrient is also added to certain types of foods, such as cereals and infant formulas. In addition, foods that are rich in tryptophan are considered great sources of vitamin B3 as this compound can be converted to NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which is the active form of niacin. In order to follow a healthy eating plan, it’s important to know what foods have vitamin B3, so here’s a list of some great sources of this essential nutrient.
Beef liver is especially rich in niacin. Three ounces of this meat provide you with 75% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin B3. On the other hand, a three-ounce serving of ground, lean beef covers 29% of your DV of niacin. A great thing about beef is that it is an excellent source of other B vitamins as well.
Other common meats, like chicken, are also great sources of vitamin B3. Three ounces of grilled chicken breast give you 52% of the recommended daily intake of niacin. Dark meat contains a bit less vitamin B3 as three ounces of cooked, skinless dark meat covers about 28% of your DV of this precious nutrient.
Similarly, in a three-ounce serving of roasted turkey breast, you will get 50% of your daily value of niacin. Three ounces of cooked dark meat contain around 14% of the recommended daily value of vitamin B3.
This low-mercury fish belongs to foods high in vitamin B3. A typical serving (3 oz.) of cooked red salmon will cover 43% of your DV of niacin. In addition, it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have a wide range of health benefits, such as improving mental health and preventing certain types of cancer.
Just like red salmon, tuna fish is an excellent source of niacin. Three ounces of drained canned tuna serve 43% of your daily value of vitamin B3. It is also rich in other important nutrients, including selenium, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.
Besides meat and fish, various foods of plant origin are high in niacin. So there are a number of vitamin B3 foods vegetarian people can add to their eating plan. For instance, one cup of cooked brown rice contains 26% of the recommended daily intake of this essential nutrient.
Whole Wheat Bread
Since whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains, this type of bread is a great option for your health. For example, one slice of whole wheat bread will give you 7% of the recommended daily value of niacin. Furthermore, it’s packed with a range of important minerals, like iron, magnesium, and selenium.
Since you should take vitamin B3 for skin health, peanuts are a great option as one ounce of dry roasted peanuts covers 21% of your DV of niacin. In addition, they are rich in vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant with a number of benefits for your skin as well.
Sunflower seeds are packed with healthy nutrients. One ounce of dry roasted sunflower seeds covers 10% of your daily value of vitamin B3. They are also a great source of vitamin B6 and some important minerals, such as iron and magnesium.
There is a wide range of vegetables high in niacin and potatoes are among them. One baked potato of medium size provides 12% of the recommended intake of vitamin B3. Other nutrients that are found in this veggie include vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese.
Lentils are loaded with vitamins and minerals. In half a cup of boiled lentils, you will get 5% of your DV of niacin. They are also a rich source of vitamin B6, iron, and magnesium. In addition, this type of legume is high in protein, so it can replace meat on your plate.
Green peas also belong to vitamin B3 rich foods. One cup of cooked green peas contains 20% of your daily value of niacin. Just like other types of legumes, they have a high protein content. Moreover, they provide you with a fair amount of fiber, iron, magnesium, and vitamins A, K, and B9.
Edamame beans are immature soybeans that are harvested before they are fully ripe. Half a cup of frozen edamame serves 4% of the recommended daily value of vitamin B3. Furthermore, it is rich in various minerals and vitamins, including iron, magnesium, copper, folate, and vitamin K. What’s more, it is an excellent source of protein and dietary fiber.
Broccoli contains large amounts of several minerals and vitamins. Half a cup of boiled broccoli gives you 2% of your DV of niacin. Besides vitamin B3, vitamin K and vitamin A can be found in this veggie in high concentrations. It’s also a great source of potassium and manganese.
In half a cup of cherry tomatoes, you will get 3% of your daily value of vitamin B3. This type of tomato is as healthy as any other since they are a rich source of vitamins A, C, and K. Manganese and potassium are just some of the minerals they contain.
Bananas are another example of foods with vitamin B3. One medium banana can cover 4% of the recommended daily value of niacin. Moreover, this fruit is an excellent source of fiber and minerals, such as potassium and magnesium.
Raisins provide a variety of nutrients, including vitamin B3. In half a cup of raisins, you will get 3% of your DV of niacin. They also contain other B vitamins, like thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin B6. Furthermore, raisins are rich in potassium, manganese, and iron. Although they have a number of health benefits, you should always eat them in moderation because they have a high sugar content.
Avocados have high amounts of various vitamins and minerals. They belong to vitamin B3 sources as one avocado contains 22% of the recommended daily value of niacin. In addition to being highly nutritious fruit, avocados are low in sugar, which makes them extremely healthy.
Mangoes have various health benefits as they contain a range of vitamins and minerals. If you eat one cup of mango pieces, you will cover 7% of your daily value of vitamin B3. This fruit is particularly high in vitamins C and A.
Besides being rich in a number of nutrients, nectarines are low in calories, which makes them perfect for your snack. In one cup of sliced nectarines, you will get 10% of your DV of vitamin B3. They are also a good source of vitamin C, meaning they will boost your immune system.
Daily Intake Recommendations
The Dietary Reference Intakes, created by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, provide you with intake recommendations for vitamin B3 and other important nutrients. The recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for niacin differ depending on age and sex. They are expressed in mg of niacin equivalents (NE), where one niacin equivalent equals 1 mg of niacin or 60 mg of amino acid tryptophan, which is converted to niacin in the body.
No matter whether your niacin intake is based on a balanced diet or vitamin B3 tablets, here you can find the recommended dietary allowances for this crucial nutrient:
- From birth to 6 months – 2 mg
- From 7 to 12 months – 4 mg NE
- From 1 to 3 years – 6 mg NE
- From 4 to 8 years – 8 mg NE
- From 9 to 13 years – 12 mg NE
- 14+ years – 16 mg NE (male) and 14 mg NE (female)
However, women need more vitamin B3 during pregnancy and lactation. They should increase their daily intake to 18 mg NE while they are pregnant and to 17 mg NE while they are breastfeeding.
Vitamin B3 Deficiency Symptoms
The symptoms of niacin deficiency can be both physical and mental in their nature. Some of them are skin problems, headaches, fatigue, diarrhea, depression, memory loss, and mental confusion. This nutrient deficiency is mostly related to poverty as it is usually caused by an inadequate diet.
Severe vitamin B3 deficiency leads to a disease called pellagra. The symptoms of this condition include a pigmented rash on skin exposed to sunlight, a bright red tongue, and problems with the digestive tract, such as constipation, diarrhea, or vomiting. Pellagra can also cause neurological problems including depression, memory loss, and hallucinations. If it is not treated properly, it can even lead to death.
Who Should Take Vitamin B3 Supplements?
People who don’t follow a healthy, balanced diet can suffer from niacin deficiency. This usually affects people who live in poverty, but an inadequate level of vitamin B3 may also be caused by excessive alcohol use, AIDS, or inflammatory bowel disease. In addition, people with an inadequate intake of other nutrients might have problems with the conversion of tryptophan to niacin. They all can benefit from taking some sort of vitamin B3 supplement.
Niacin supplements are also recommended to people with some serious medical conditions, such as Hartnup disease and carcinoid syndrome. Hartnup disease has a negative effect on the absorption of tryptophan and it increases its excretion in the urine. On the other hand, people with carcinoid syndrome have a problem with a lack of tryptophan as it is oxidized to serotonin instead of being converted to niacin.
Vitamin B3 Side Effects
Consuming foods that are rich in niacin cannot normally cause any adverse effects. However, high doses of vitamin B3 supplements in the form of nicotinic acid or nicotinamide can have negative effects on your health.
A common side effect of nicotinic acid is flushing, which is the result of blood vessel dilation. Besides flushing, people often feel itching, tingling, and burning sensations. Sometimes, other side effects, such as headaches, dizziness, and low blood pressure, can also be present.
Really high doses of nicotinic acid (1,000-3,000 mg/day) can have more serious negative effects. They include hypotension, insulin resistance, nausea, heartburn, abdominal pain, and impaired vision. People who take high doses of nicotinic acid over a longer period of time can have increased levels of liver enzymes, hepatitis or experience acute liver failure.
Nicotinamide is less toxic than nicotinic acid. A daily dosage of 3,000 mg can cause nausea, vomiting, and signs of liver toxicity.
The FNB has defined Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for supplemental niacin. These values apply to healthy individuals who aren’t taking niacin supplements for medical reasons.
Niacin or vitamin B3 plays a key role in a number of metabolic processes, so it is of great importance to include foods rich in this nutrient in your eating plan. A poor diet lacking niacin rich sources can lead to niacin deficiency, whose most serious form is called pellagra. However, vitamin B3 supplements are not recommended unless you suffer from certain medical conditions as high doses can cause severe adverse effects.
What does vitamin B3 do?
Vitamin B3 or niacin plays a major role in the process of transforming food, that is carbohydrates, protein, and fat, into energy. It regulates the levels of cholesterol in the body and contributes to heart health. In addition, it is very important for the normal functioning of the nervous system. Vitamin B3 is also responsible for skin health as it protects it from harmful sun rays.
Is vitamin B3 and niacin the same thing?
Niacin is often used synonymously with vitamin B3. However, it is just one form of this vitamin. Its name was coined from a nicotinic acid vitamin. Other forms of vitamin B3 include niacinamide and related derivatives. This can be confusing since these compounds have different functions and properties.
What are the symptoms of lack of vitamin B3?
The most common symptoms of vitamin B3 deficiency are red, irritated skin, problems with the digestive tract, headaches, fatigue, and depression. The most severe form of niacin deficiency, also known as pellagra, have much more serious symptoms. They include red, itchy patches of skin, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mood changes, anxiety, confusion, and memory problems.
What does vitamin B3 do for your skin?
Vitamin B3 brings a number of benefits to your skin. It can help you smoothen out wrinkles and reduce uneven skin tone. It’s also used for treating acne and reducing hyperpigmentation. Moreover, niacin protects skin from sun damage. According to some research, it is also effective in preventing non-melanoma skin cancers.
What foods are high in B3?
Some of the best natural sources of vitamin B3 are liver, chicken and turkey breast, salmon, and tuna. Also, anchovies have a high niacin content. When it comes to vegetarian options, vitamin B3 can be found in millet flour, white button mushrooms, portabella mushrooms, peanut butter, brown rice, and in a number of veggies and fruits. For example, avocados, green peas, potatoes, and cantaloupe melons are all good sources of niacin.
What fruits and vegetables are high in niacin?
Various fruits are considered excellent sources of vitamin B3. They include avocados, mangoes, passion fruit, guavas, nectarines, and bananas. These fruits contain at least 1 mg of niacin per serving. Also, there is a range of vegetables that are high in niacin. Some of them are potatoes, peas, lentils, green peas, asparagus, tomatoes, and acorn squash. All these vitamin B3 foods should become part of your everyday diet since your body greatly depends on your niacin intake.