Vitamin B3 or niacin is one of eight essential B vitamins that are necessary for nerve functioning, energy production, cellular formation, and much more (1). Vitamin B3 is a part of the B vitamin complex.
How can you tell if you are low or deficient in vitamin B3? Common vitamin B3 deficiency symptoms rough skin that turns red in the sun, headaches, a bright red tongue, vomiting, memory loss, and more (2). Severe vitamin B3 deficiency is a disease called pellagra (3). Although vitamin B3 deficiency is not very common in North America, it does rarely occur (4).
Niacin is one of the water-soluble B vitamins, so excess niacin is easily excreated in the urine (5). However, too much niacin can lead to common symptoms like a red flush. This is known as the niacin flush (6), (7).
Summary: Vitamin B3 (niacin) is necessary for nerve health, energy production, and cellular formation. Common symptoms of deficiency include dermatitis, headaches, vomiting, and memory loss. Severe deficiency is called pellagra. Too much B3 can cause “niacin flush” or a red flush on the skin.
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Foods High in Niacin (Vitamin B3)
A supplement is often not necessary if you follow a healthy balanced diet. Vitamin B3 or niacin is in many different types of food. Make sure to get your share of this B vitamin by eating some of the foods below.
Many types of meat are high in vitamin B3 or niacin. Beef liver is the highest in vitamin B3, providing 93 percent of the recommended daily value in just 3 ounces. The chicken comes in a close second by providing 64 percent of the recommended daily value (8).
Turkey, pork, and beef are other foods particularly high in vitamin B3 (9). Although some of these meats can be high in saturated fat, especially pork, they can be a part of a healthy diet (10). These meats help to fulfill your daily requirement of niacin.
Summary: Meat is very rich in vitamin B3. Beef liver is also a very rich source, containing 93% of the daily recommended value in 3 ounces. Add in a small portion, about the size of your palm, of turkey, chicken, pork, or beef every day to get in enough niacin.
One 3-ounce piece of salmon provides over 50 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin B3 (8).
Salmon is full of other healthy nutrients for optimal health, too. Salmon is packed with tons of omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, zinc, selenium, and a variety of B vitamins (11), (12). Salmon is an excellent source of anti-inflammatory fatty acids that help to promote heart health, brain function, and more (13), (14), (15).
Diet high in the healthy fats that are in salmon are also associated with lower risk of some chronic diseases. These include inflammatory diseases such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease (16).
Try to add in some heart-healthy salmon to your diet. You can buy salmon in a can, fresh, or frozen for easy eating. Mix some salmon into a little mustard or mayo, add some pickles, and change up your lunch sandwich for more nutritional benefits.
Summary: Salmon is very rich in vitamin B3, and is also packed with omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, zinc, selenium, and other B vitamins. Overall, salmon helps to improve heart health, brain function, and inflammation. Canned, fresh, or frozen salmon is perfect to keep around for a quick, nutrient-dense meal idea.
Tuna packs in the same amount of vitamin B3 as salmon, with 8.6 mg in only 3 ounces (8).
This fish can be a part of a healthy diet but in moderation. It’s important to understand that some varieties of tuna are high in mercury, so it’s best to have it no more than once or twice a week (17), (18). Choosing low mercury fish is especially important for pregnant women and children. Try to change up your protein sources between the ones listed and more. That way, you get the most health benefits with varied nutrients from a variety of foods. Tuna has a lot of anti-inflammatory nutrients, too (19). This fish is a wonderful food to incorporate in your diet.
Tuna is easy and quick food to have at your next meal for lunch or dinner. Mix it into your favorite salad, add it to a sandwich, or simply eat it plain. You can make a tuna steak or enjoy tuna with sushi.
Summary: Tuna packs in 8.6 mg of vitamin B3 in just 3 ounces. Tuna is an easy protein idea for any meal. However, it is high in mercury, so it’s best to consume it once or twice a week. Tuna goes well in salads, sandwiches, or on crackers.
Only one cup of brown rice contains 33 percent of the daily recommended intake of B3, while white rice has 14 percent of the daily recommended amount (8).
Rice can be a healthy part of a balanced diet. It is not only high in vitamin B3 but other essential B vitamins as well. It is also an excellent source of non-heme iron, manganese, and magnesium (20). If you have a rice cooker, rice is the easiest and quickest way to get a healthy meal done fast.
Summary: One cup of brown rice contains 33% of the daily recommended intake of B3, and also contains non-heme iron, manganese, and magnesium. It is also higher in fiber and nutrients than white rice. Brown rice pairs well with any protein or vegetable choice, and even goes well with beans and legumes.
One of the most famous snack foods for decades are extremely high in vitamin B3. Only one ounce of peanuts contains 4.2 mg of niacin, which makes up 24 percent of your daily recommended intake (8).
Peanuts are also high in potassium, magnesium, and other B vitamins (21).
That small serving of peanuts is all you need to add some extra B3 to your diet. Peanuts are high in plant fats that benefit heart health (22). Grab a handful of peanuts to satisfy your craving and your B3 requirement.
Summary: One ounce of peanuts contains 4.2 mg of vitamin B3, making up 24% of the recommended daily intake. Peanuts are also rich in potassium, magnesium, and the other B vitamins, making it a nutritious food. They are high in fat, so it is best to stick with a small handful serving size.
A few types of seeds are high in the essential vitamin B3. These include pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds (8).
These seeds are so easy to add to your routine. If you have oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt for breakfast, add in some of these seeds for extra nutritional benefits. They are also high in beneficial fiber, which may help reduce risk of heart disease (23), (24).
Snack on some sunflower seeds right out of the shell if you want a saltier tasty. Or simply buy them already without the shell for easy consumption. There is no limit to where you can add these nutrient-dense seeds in your next meal.
Summary: Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are very high in B vitamins, especially B3. They can be easily added to oatmeal, cereal, soups, salads, muffins, yogurt, or trail mix. Seeds are also high in healthy fats and fiber, which is helpful for cancer prevention and heart health.
Are you eating enough legumes in your diet?
Legumes make up a large variety of foods, including lentils, edamame, and chickpeas , and they provide many health benefits (25), (26). These are the three highest in amounts of vitamin B3 (8). Legumes can be a great choice if you are trying to cut down on meat, as they have a ton of plant-based protein (27).
Soy or edamame are also full of all nine essential amino acids that are in meat (28). Grab some of these tasty legumes to get more vitamin B3 and plant-based protein into your diet.
Summary: Legumes, such as lentils, edamame, and chickpeas, are very high in B vitamins, especially B3 and plant-based protein. Edamame also contains all the essential amino acids that meat has. Legumes go well in soups, stews, chilis, or used as a topping on salads.
Vitamin B3 is one of the eight essential B vitamins necessary for many aspects of health in the human body. These include cellular production, neurological function, energy, nerve functioning, and more (29), (30).
Beyond this list, many other foods include vitamin B3 like leafy greens, and more (8). Think you are low in vitamin B3? Make sure to talk to your doctor to see how they can help you get more of this crucial vitamin.
Always eat a healthy balanced diet that is full of a wide range of vitamins and minerals for optimal health.