Vitamin B3 (niacin) is a water-soluble and essential vitamin. It is an important component of coenzymes that play a role in many metabolic processes in the body. Niacin is needed for energy production, supports the nervous system, regulates cholesterol levels, promotes skin health, and protects cells from oxidative stress.
You can find plant-based and vegan foods with their corresponding niacin contents in the above vitamin B3 food table. Since there are many plant sources, niacin needs can be easily met with a balanced vegan diet. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, as well as nuts and seeds are good sources of niacin, which we will explore in more detail.
Who Needs More Vitamin B3?
The following groups may have a higher need for vitamin B3:
- Athletes who regularly engage in intensive training may have a higher need because vitamin B3 plays an important role in energy production, as it is a vital component of enzymes required for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Therefore, they should incorporate vitamin B3 foods into their diet.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women should pay attention to adequate intake of vitamin B3 to promote fetal and infant growth and well-being.
- Individuals with digestive disorders such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease may have difficulty absorbing niacin from food. Therefore, they may also rely on niacin supplements in addition to numerous niacin-rich foods.
- Alcohol consumption can lead to an increased need for vitamin B3, as it can affect the absorption and utilization of the vitamin in the body.
- As older adults may have difficulties in absorbing niacin from food, they should also provide their bodies with healthy vitamin B3 foods.
- Niacin plays an important role in lowering cholesterol levels, which can help people with high cholesterol. It contributes to reducing harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood while simultaneously increasing good HDL cholesterol.
- People with diabetes have a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks or strokes due to their condition. Vitamin B3 can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- Hartnup disease is a rare genetic disorder that impairs the body's ability to absorb and utilize niacin from food. Individuals affected by this condition may have difficulty meeting their niacin requirements through their regular diet.
- Taking certain medications can increase the need for vitamin B3 or hinder the body's ability to process the vitamin. Cholesterol-lowering medications like statins can impair the breakdown of coenzyme Q10, leading to a deficiency in niacin. Coenzyme Q10 is an important nutrient closely associated with vitamin B3 and energy production. Additionally, certain antibiotics and anti-tuberculosis medications can increase the need for vitamin B3 as they affect niacin metabolism.
A deficiency in niacin can cause fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, skin problems, digestive issues, and depression. Severe deficiency can lead to pellagra, a condition characterized by skin rashes, diarrhea, and dementia.
Vitamin B3 Foods
A plant-based diet can offer many excellent sources of vitamin B3. The following list reveals them based on food groups:
- Legumes such as peanuts, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, green beans, and white beans are excellent sources of vitamin B3. They are also very good plant-based protein sources and rich in fiber. If you are interested in other legumes with vitamin B3, you can use this table.
- Nuts and seeds are also rich in niacin. Walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, cashews, almonds, and sunflower seeds are just a few examples with a high content of vitamin B3 according to the table. They are also rich in healthy unsaturated fats, proteins, and fiber. You can find the vitamin B3 table with nuts and seeds here.
- Fruits that contain vitamin B3 include avocados, mangos, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, pineapples, and bananas. These fruits are also rich in vitamin C and potassium. You can find the vitamin B3 fruit table here.
- Some examples of vegetables are kale, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, and carrots. Vegetables provide a high content of essential nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You can find the vitamin B3 vegetable table here.
- Mushrooms such as shiitake, champignon, and chanterelle also contain vitamin B3. They can also be a moderate plant-based source of vitamin D. Check out the table with vitamin B3 in mushrooms here.
- Cereals and cereal products, especially whole grain products, can be a good source of niacin. Rice bran and wheat bran are particularly good sources of niacin, followed by oatmeal, barley, whole wheat flour, whole grain bread, and cooked brown rice. Grinding grains into flour reduces the niacin content as niacin is mainly present in the outer part of the grain and the germ. Find out which cereals still contain vitamin B3 in this table.
- Some herbs and spices are rich in vitamin B3. According to the table, paprika powder, cumin, sage, dill, thyme, basil, parsley, and coriander are rich in this essential vitamin.
- Juices and beverages are not the best sources of B3 since it is mainly found in solid foods. Passion fruit juice, plum juice, carrot juice, orange juice, tomato juice, green tea, and coffee may contain small amounts. Pay attention to the sugar content and quantity of consumed beverages to maintain a healthy diet. You can check out the vitamin B3 beverages table here.
Niacin in plant-based foods is often present in a form called nicotinic acid, which is not as effectively absorbed by the body. Nicotinic acid must first be converted by the body into the active form called nicotinamide before it can be used. Some plant-based sources of niacin that contain the active form nicotinamide include avocados, mushrooms, peanuts, and sunflower seeds.
Niacin Is Heat And Light Sensitive
Niacin can be destroyed at temperatures above 60 °C, especially when in aqueous solution. To maintain the niacin content in food, B3-rich foods should be cooked or heated at lower temperatures and for shorter periods of time, if possible.
Extended storage or excessive exposure of vitamin B3-rich foods can lead to the degradation of niacin. The foods should be stored in a cool, dark place.
The following list presents some ideas for vegan meals:
- Vegan chili sin carne with kidney beans and bell peppers
- Rogue tofu with broccoli and rice
- Quinoa salad with avocado, tomatoes, and chickpeas
- Red lentil soup with carrots and coconut milk
- Sweet potato and chickpea curry
- Spinach and tofu scramble
- Vegan mashed potatoes with kale
- Zucchini noodles with basil pesto and cherry tomatoes
- Pumpkin curry with cashews and basmati rice
- Veggie burger with black beans and sweet potatoes
- Bean skillet with onions and bell peppers
- Creamy broccoli soup
- Vegan pumpkin coconut soup
- Lentil curry with coconut milk and tomatoes
- Stir-fried noodles with tofu and vegetables
- Bell pepper goulash with mashed potatoes
- Tomato risotto with pine nuts and basil
- Veggie stir-fry with quinoa and walnuts
- Vegan banana bread with nuts
- Oatmeal porridge with fruit and nuts