Essential Vitamins

Vitamins Guide – VITAMIN B3

Niacin in vitamin B3-rich foods

Vitamin B3-Rich Foods

Vitamin B3 is another water-soluble member of the B vitamin family. It is also called niacin, derived in 1942 from nicotinic acid and the word vitamin. It was chosen to distance ‘niacin’ from ‘nicotine’, to avoid the foolish perception that vitamins or vitamin B3-rich foods contain the addictive substance called ‘nicotine’ in tobacco or that cigarettes contain vitamins.

Vitamin B3 is Three Vitamers

Vitamin B3, the colloquial name referred to as niacin, is actually a vitamin family that includes three forms or vitamers:

  • Niacin (nicotinic acid)
  • Nicotinamide (niacinamide)
  • Nicotinamide riboside

All three forms of vitamin B3 are converted within the body to a compound called Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide, or NAD for short. NAD is vital for life and can’t be made in the human body without either niacin or the amino acid tryptophan. Nicotinamide riboside was only identified as another form of vitamin B3 in 2004. That’s the end of this short chemistry lesson.

Vitamin B3 RDA

The recommended daily allowance of this vitamin is 17 mg for men and 13 mg for women. The body actually makes small amounts of vitamin B3 from tryptophan (1 mg from every 60 mg of tryptophan). That is obviously nowhere near the RDA, so we need to get it from vitamin B3-rich foods or supplements. Niacin is on food labels as being in the form of niacin equivalents. These refer to the amount of nicotinamide and nicotinic acid they contain, plus one 60th of their tryptophan content.

Vitamin B3-Rich Foods

Salmon - vitamin B3-rich foods

Here is a list of the types of vitamin B3-rich foods available:

  • Whole grains: wheat, brown rice.
  • Meats: chicken breast, liver, turkey, pork, ground beef.
  • Fortified foods: breakfast cereals and refined grain products such as white bread and pasta are commonly fortified with niacin. Great for vegans and vegetarians.
  • Oily fish: tuna, salmon, anchovies, sardines.
  • Dairy products: milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, cream, whey, casein.
  • Eggs: chicken eggs.
  • Nuts and seeds: peanuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds.
  • Fruit: avocado, cantaloupe
  • Vegetables: potato, green peas, mushrooms, sweet potato, chickpeas, artichoke, asparagus, carrot.
  • Yeast extract: food flavoring made from the yeast used to make bread and beer.

Glucose Tolerance Factor

Niacin combines with chromium to form a compound called Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF) that is essential for the action of the hormone insulin in controlling blood sugar levels. A lack of niacin is associated with impaired glucose tolerance which may lead to diabetes. That is one example of why minerals are more important for health than vitamins: without minerals, vitamins will not work.

Other Roles of Niacin

Vitamin B3 function includes roles in metabolism and energy production. For example, niacin is essential for releasing energy from glycogen (a polysaccharide sugar) stored in the muscles. It is also necessary for oxygen uptake in cells. Niacin works with vitamin B1 (thiamin) and vitamin B2 (riboflavin) for these tasks. Furthermore, it keeps the skin healthy and plays a crucial role in the gut, nerves, and brain. All this is why we should ensure we eat plenty of vitamin B3-rich foods.

Benefits of Niacin

The two main benefits of this B vitamin are well known:

  • Healthy Cataracts: According to a 1991 report, a good dietary intake of vitamin B3-rich foods may reduce the risk of developing cataracts later in life.
  • Cholesterol: People with high cholesterol levels who are at risk of heart attack are prescribed vitamin B3 to help lower those levels and reduce the chance of a heart attack by a third. It can lower total cholesterol, harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides. In addition, Vitamin B3 is one of the few treatments that can reduce the harmful fat particle called apolipoprotein, apoB, and of the fat apoA

ApoA and ApoB

ApoA is the major protein component of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) involved in cholesterol movement and inflammatory and immune response regulation. In addition, apoB helps carry fat and cholesterol through the body.

How it Works

Niacin appears to work in the liver to reduce triglyceride and apoB production while also blocking reactions that break down HDL cholesterol to increase levels by as much as a fifth. Consequently, niacin is the most effective treatment available to increase levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol. 

4-month Trial 

A trial that took 16 weeks to complete involving 148 people with diabetes showed that a once-daily slow-release increases HDL cholesterol levels by a fifth to a quarter. It lowers triglyceride levels by up to just over a quarter, too. There were no significant changes to glucose control or hemoglobin A1c levels (A1c is a test measuring the amount of blood sugar (glucose) attached to hemoglobin). So, eating vitamin B-rich foods is always a good idea to help regulate bad cholesterol levels.

Niacin Deficiency

In parts of Africa where the diet consists of eating large amounts of a niacin-deficient maize can produce the rare disease called pellagra. Typical vitamin b3 deficiency symptoms are dermatitis, diarrhea, and even dementia. This is because the vitamin B3 in the maize is in the non-usable form of niacytin. In Central America, where tortillas are soaked in the alkali calcium hydroxide overnight, the vitamin B3 level plunges, causing niacin deficiency in those eating too many tortillas.

Too Much Vitamin B3

Consuming too much or over-supplementing with vitamin B3 may produce red flush and skin warming rather like blushing. Those who blush easily are more sensitive to this effect. High doses of niacin may cause symptoms such as patches of thick and darkened skin, palpitations, peptic ulcers, liver inflammation (hepatitis), and gout.

7 Amazing Vitamin B3-Rich Foods

Vitamin B3, or niacin, is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in maintaining good health. Luckily, plenty of delicious foods are rich in this important vitamin. Here are seven vitamin B3-rich foods that you can easily incorporate into your diet for a healthy boost:

Vitamin B3-Rich Foods: LIVER
Vitamin B3-rich foods – pan-fried liver

Liver meat is the richest of the vitamin B-rich foods. A 3-ounce serving of cooked beef liver has 14.7 mg of the vitamin, close to the RDA for adults. Chicken liver provides three-quarters of the RDA per 3-ounce serving. Moreover, liver is incredibly nutritious, packed with iron, proteins, choline, vitamin A, and other B-complex vitamins.

Vitamin B3-Rich Foods: TUNA

Tuna is not only a delicious seafood option but also a great source of niacin. A 3-ounce serving of cooked tuna contains a massive 11 mg of vitamin B3, roughly three-quarters of the recommended daily intake for adults. In addition to its high vitamin B3 content, tuna is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and improve heart health. Try adding canned tuna to your salads or sandwiches for a quick and easy way to boost your vitamin B3 intake. Tuna is the second richest of the vitamin B3-rich foods.

Vitamin B3-Rich Foods: SALMON

Salmon is not only a tasty fish, but it’s also packed with nutrients and is one of the top vitamin B3-rich foods. A 3-ounce serving of cooked salmon contains about 8.6 mg of vitamin B3, which is more than half of the recommended daily intake for adults. Salmon is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, linked to numerous health benefits, including reducing inflammation and improving heart health. Try adding grilled or baked salmon to your meals for a delicious and nutritious boost of vitamin B3.

Vitamin B3-Rich Foods: CHICKEN BREAST

Did you know that chicken breast is one of the great vitamin B3-rich foods? A 3-ounce serving of cooked chicken breast contains about 8 mg of vitamin B3, which is about half of the recommended daily intake for adults. In addition to its high vitamin B3 content, chicken breast is also a great source of lean protein, making it a healthy addition to any meal. Try grilling or baking chicken breast and pairing it with a side of roasted vegetables for a delicious and nutritious meal.

Vitamin B3-Rich Foods: TURKEY

Although Turkey meat contains less niacin than chicken, it provides tryptophan, which can be converted into niacin. Three ounces of cooked turkey breast hold 6.3 mg of vitamin B3 and adequate tryptophan to make another milligram. All of this adds up to about half of the RDA. In addition, tryptophan produces the neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin, both of which play crucial roles in our mood and sleep.

Vitamin B3-Rich Foods: MUSHROOMS

Did you know that mushrooms are one of the best vitamin B3-rich foods? In fact, one cup of cooked mushrooms contains about 4.5 mg of vitamin B3, which is almost a third of the recommended daily intake for adults. Not only are mushrooms a tasty addition to meals, but they also offer numerous health benefits, including boosting the immune system and reducing inflammation. Try adding sautéed mushrooms to your omelets or salads for a delicious and nutritious way to get your daily dose of vitamin B3.

Vitamin B3-Rich Foods: PEANUTS

Peanuts are not only a tasty snack but also one of the vitamin B3-rich foods. A 1-ounce serving of peanuts contains nearly 7 mg of vitamin B3, which is about half of the recommended daily intake for adults. In addition to their high vitamin B3 content, peanuts are a good source of healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Add peanuts to your oatmeal, smoothies, or salads for a delicious and nutritious boost. Just be sure to watch your portion sizes, as peanuts are also high in calories.

Niacin for Vegans and Vegetarians

It is clear from the above list of vitamin B3-rich foods that animal products are the richest source of vitamin B3 compared to plant products. Still, vegans and vegetarians can eat fortified vegan breakfast cereals. For example, a 50 g portion of Shreddies contains 5.5 mg of the vitamin. Other vegan-friendly foods with niacin are Quinoa, 5.2 mg per 180 g; Swiss style Muesli, 5.2 mg per 80g; Marmite/Vegemite, 5.12 mg per 8 g; wild rice, 4 mg per 180g; whole meal spaghetti, 2.9 mg per 220g; Corn on the cob kernels, 2.5 mg per 125g, and Brown rice, 2.3 mg per 180 g. [3]

Vitamin B3 Supplementation

Essential 16 Vitamins

Due to the water-solubility of vitamin B3, and its concentration in animal foods, it is wise the top-up with niacin via supplementation, especially for vegans. There is no better way to do this than supplementing with ALL 16 essential vitamins at the same time, not just vitamin B1. Our EV-16 Essential 16 Vitamins give you TWICE the recommended daily allowance of most of these essential vitamins. Below is a complete list of the vitamins in these supplements:

  • Vitamin A (Retinyl acetate) 0.8 mg or 100% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B1 (Thaimine) 2.2 mg or 200% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 2.8 mg or 200% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 32 mg or 200% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenate) 12 mg or 200% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) 2.8 mg or 200% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B7 (Biotin) 0.1 mg or 200% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B12 (Methyl cobalamin) 5 mcg or 200% of the RDA
  • Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) 160 mg or 200% of the RDA
  • Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) 10 mcg or 67% of the RDA
  • Vitamin E (DL-α-tocopheryl acetate) 24 mg or 160% of the RDA
  • Vitamin K1 (Phytomenadione) 75 mcg or 200% of the RDA
  • Choline 82.5 mg **
  • Bioflavonoids 5 mg **
  • Folic Acid 0.4 mg or 200% of the RDA
  • Inositol 50 mg **
  • ** daily value not established. Other Ingredients: Microcrystalline Cellulose, Maltodextrin, Magnesium Stearate (Vegetable Source)

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Synonymous terms: foods that are rich in vitamin b3; vitamin b3 tablets

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