Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is a vital nutrient with far-reaching benefits for the body. A part of the vitamin b complex group, It is a water-soluble, essential vitamin that plays a crucial role in converting food into energy, supporting cardiovascular health by improving cholesterol levels, and maintaining healthy skin, digestion, and the nervous system.

While tryptophan can be synthesized to niacin in the body, the main way to get this essential vitamin is through niacin-rich foods. Getting adequate daily amounts is vital to overall health, and deficiency could lead to Pellagra, a condition characterized by dermatitis, diarrhea, and dementia.

Ensuring sufficient intake of niacin can help prevent these serious health issues and support the body’s metabolic processes.



What Does Vitamin B3 Niacin Do for the Body?
What Else is Vitamin B3 [niacin] Best For?
How Much Niacin B3 Do You Need Each Day?
Top 15 Niacin-Rich Foods
Vegetarian Niacin-Rich Foods
What are the Symptoms of B3 Deficiency?
Is Too Much Niacin Bad?
What is Niacin Flush & Why Does it Happen?
Will 500 mg of Niacin Cause Flushing? Is It Bad?
What is Flush Free Niacin?
Example Meals High in Niacin

8 minute read

What Does Vitamin B3 Niacin Do for the Body?

Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is essential for maintaining overall health. Here are the key benefits of niacin and what it is best for:


Energy Productionwoman_jogging_on_track

Niacin helps convert food into energy, supporting metabolism and providing fuel for bodily functions. It plays a crucial role in converting food into energy by acting as a precursor to the coenzymes NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and NADP (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate).

These coenzymes are essential for redox reactions in cellular metabolism, facilitating the transfer of electrons and the production of ATP, the cell’s primary energy currency. This process supports overall energy production and efficient functioning of the body’s metabolic pathways.


Cardiovascular Health

It improves circulation and reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) while increasing good cholesterol (HDL), making it beneficial for heart health.

Niacin helps lower cholesterol by inhibiting the breakdown of fats in adipose tissue, which reduces the production of very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in the liver. This process decreases the amount of LDL cholesterol, known as “bad” cholesterol, in the bloodstream.

Additionally, niacin increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, known as “good” cholesterol, by slowing down its removal from the blood. This dual action of lowering LDL and raising HDL cholesterol contributes to improved cardiovascular health.


Skin and Digestive Health

Niacin supports the health of the skin and digestive system, promoting healthy skin and efficient digestion.

Niacin, or vitamin B3, supports skin health by enhancing the skin’s barrier function by boosting production of ceramides and fatty acids, reducing inflammation, promoting DNA repair, and improving skin elasticity and texture.

It also aids digestive health by converting food into energy, maintaining mucous membranes, reducing cholesterol levels [which helps in reducing the risk of cholesterol-related issues such as gallstones], and enhancing liver function. These combined effects help retain moisture in the skin, protect against environmental damage, and ensure efficient digestion and nutrient absorption. By promoting overall skin and digestive health, niacin plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and well-functioning body.


Nervous System Support

It plays a role in maintaining a healthy nervous system, contributing to nerve function and overall brain health.

So, what is vitamin B3 best for? Primarily, it’s known for its role in energy production, cardiovascular health, and supporting skin, digestion, and the nervous system.

What Else is Vitamin B3 [niacin] Best For?

Niacin Benefits for Hair

Niacin promotes blood circulation to the scalp, which can help improve hair health and growth. By ensuring that hair follicles receive adequate nutrients and oxygen, niacin contributes to thicker, stronger hair. It is often included in hair care products and supplements for its potential to enhance hair vitality and combat hair loss.

Niacin Pre-Workout Benefits

Taking niacin before a workout can improve blood flow and energy levels, enhancing physical performance. The increased circulation helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to muscles more efficiently, which can improve endurance and strength during exercise.


How Much Niacin B3 Do You Need Each Day?

The recommended daily intake of niacin varies by age and gender.

Adult men generally need about 16 mg per day, while adult women require 14 mg per day.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women may need slightly higher amounts to support their increased nutritional needs.


Top 15 Niacin-Rich Foods


Lean meats, such as chicken breast, turkey, beef, and fish, are particularly rich in niacin, often containing significantly higher amounts per serving than plant-based sources. Here is a list of the top 15 niacin-rich foods.

  1. Chicken Breast: 14.8 mg per 3 oz (cooked)
  2. Turkey Breast: 10 mg per 3 oz (cooked)
  3. Tuna (Yellowfin): 18.8 mg per 3 oz (cooked)
  4. Salmon: 8.6 mg per 3 oz (cooked)
  5. Beef (Lean Cuts): 9.0 mg per 3 oz (cooked)
  6. Pork (Lean Cuts): 8.0 mg per 3 oz (cooked)
  7. Liver (Beef): 13.2 mg per 3 oz (cooked)
  8. Anchovies: 19.9 mg per 3 oz (cooked)
  9. Peanuts: 4.2 mg per 1 oz
  10. Brown Rice: 5.2 mg per cup (cooked)
  11. Mushrooms (Portobello): 7.6 mg per cup (cooked)
  12. Green Peas: 3.0 mg per cup (cooked)
  13. Sunflower Seeds: 2.0 mg per 1 oz
  14. Avocado: 3.5 mg per medium avocado
  15. Fortified Breakfast Cereals: 20-27 mg per serving (varies by brand)

Vegetarian Niacin-Rich Foods

Vegetarians may experience lower levels of niacin because plant-based sources generally contain less niacin compared to meat, making it important for them to include niacin-rich foods. To avoid niacin deficiency, vegetarians & vegans should consider including the foods below in their diet to ensure adequate amounts of niacin are being consumed each day.

  1. Peanuts: 4.2 mg per 1 oz
  2. Brown Rice: 5.2 mg per cup (cooked)
  3. Portobello Mushrooms: 7.6 mg per cup (cooked)
  4. Green Peas: 3.0 mg per cup (cooked)
  5. Sunflower Seeds: 2.0 mg per 1 oz
  6. Avocado: 3.5 mg per medium avocado
  7. Fortified Breakfast Cereals: 20-27 mg per serving (varies by brand)
  8. Potatoes (Baked with skin): 3.2 mg per medium potato
  9. Lentils: 2.1 mg per cup (cooked)
  10. Quinoa: 2.6 mg per cup (cooked)
  11. Barley: 2.0 mg per cup (cooked)
  12. Pumpkin Seeds: 1.3 mg per 1 oz
  13. Almonds: 1.0 mg per 1 oz
  14. Sweet Corn: 1.9 mg per cup (cooked)
  15. Whole Wheat Bread: 2.0 mg per slice (varies by brand)

What are the Symptoms of B3 Deficiency?

A deficiency in vitamin B3 can lead to pellagra, which is characterized by symptoms such as dermatitis, diarrhea, and dementia. Early signs of deficiency may include fatigue, depression, and digestive issues.

Other symptoms of niacin deficiency include:

  1. Dermatitis: Rough, red, or scaly skin rashes, particularly on areas exposed to sunlight.
  2. Diarrhea: Frequent, watery bowel movements, which can lead to dehydration and nutrient deficiencies.
  3. Dementia: Memory loss, confusion, disorientation, and other cognitive impairments.
  4. Inflammation of the Mouth and Tongue: Sores, swelling, and a bright red tongue.
  5. Digestive Issues: Indigestion, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
  6. Fatigue: Persistent tiredness and weakness.
  7. Headaches: Frequent and severe headaches.
  8. Depression: Mood swings, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness.
  9. Glossitis: Swelling and soreness of the tongue.
  10. Anorexia: Loss of appetite leading to weight loss.

Without adequate niacin, the body struggles to perform vital metabolic functions, leading to these adverse health effects.

If untreated, severe niacin deficiency can lead to serious complications and can be life-threatening. It is important to address these symptoms early with dietary adjustments or supplementation under medical guidance.


Is Too Much Niacin Bad?image_of_a_person_with_flushed_red_cheeks

While niacin is essential for health, excessive intake can lead to adverse effects. High doses of niacin can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and liver toxicity.

Additionally it can cause temporary flushing.

What is Niacin Flush & Why Does it Happen?

Niacin flush is a temporary redness and warmth in the skin caused by the dilation of blood vessels.

Niacin dilates blood vessels by causing them to widen and increase blood flow. It works by activating a receptor in the skin that leads to the release of substances called prostaglandins. These prostaglandins relax the muscles in the blood vessel walls, making the vessels expand. This can result in a warm, red “niacin flush” on the skin.

This can be uncomfortable but is generally harmless.

To prevent niacin flush, start with a lower dose and gradually increase it. Taking niacin with food and opting for time-release formulations can also help minimize flushing. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding hot beverages immediately after taking niacin can further reduce the likelihood of experiencing a flush.

Will 500 mg of Niacin Cause Flushing? Is It Bad?

Yes, taking 500 mg of niacin is likely to cause flushing in many individuals. While not dangerous, it can be unpleasant and may deter people from continuing niacin supplementation.

What is Flush Free Niacin?

Flush-free niacin is a form of niacin that does not cause the common side effect known as niacin flush.

Flush-free niacin works by using a form of niacin called inositol hexanicotinate, which releases niacin more slowly and steadily into the bloodstream.

Unlike regular niacin, which can cause a sudden release of prostaglandins and lead to the flushing effect, flush-free niacin breaks down gradually, preventing the rapid vasodilation and the associated skin redness and warmth. This makes it a more comfortable option for those who want the benefits of niacin without experiencing the flush.


Example Meals High in Niacin

Getting niacin through diet is ideal because dietary sources provide a balanced intake of nutrients alongside niacin, such as proteins, fats, and other vitamins and minerals. Whole food sources like meat, fish, nuts, and grains also offer niacin in forms that are easily absorbed and utilized by the body, reducing the risk of excessive intake that can occur with supplements. Additionally, obtaining niacin from food supports overall health and well-being by promoting a varied and nutritious diet.





  • Oatmeal with Sliced Bananas and Almonds
    • Oatmeal: 1 cup cooked (1.0 mg)
    • Bananas: 1 medium (0.8 mg)
    • Almonds: 1 oz (1.0 mg)
    • Total: 2.8 mg of niacin
  • Fortified Breakfast Cereal with Milk and Fresh Berries
    • Fortified Cereal: 1 serving (20 mg, varies by brand)
    • Milk: 1 cup (0.2 mg)
    • Fresh Berries: 1 cup (0.5 mg)
    • Total: 20.7 mg of niacin


  • Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Black Beans, and Corn
    • Quinoa: 1 cup cooked (2.6 mg)
    • Avocado: 1 medium (3.5 mg)
    • Black Beans: 1 cup (0.9 mg)
    • Corn: 1 cup (1.9 mg)
    • Total: 8.9 mg of niacin
  • Chicken and Brown Rice Bowl
    • Chicken Breast: 3 oz cooked (14.8 mg)
    • Brown Rice: 1 cup cooked (5.2 mg)
    • Steamed Broccoli: 1 cup (0.5 mg)
    • Total: 20.5 mg of niacin


  • Grilled Salmon with Asparagus and Sweet Potatoes
    • Salmon: 3 oz cooked (8.6 mg)
    • Asparagus: 1 cup cooked (0.7 mg)
    • Sweet Potatoes: 1 cup baked (1.4 mg)
    • Total: 10.7 mg of niacin
  • Beef Stir-Fry with Mixed Vegetables and Brown Rice
    • Lean Beef: 3 oz cooked (9.0 mg)
    • Mixed Vegetables: 1 cup (0.9 mg)
    • Brown Rice: 1 cup cooked (5.2 mg)
    • Total: 15.1 mg of niacin


  • Peanut Butter on Whole Wheat Toast
    • Peanut Butter: 2 tbsp (2.4 mg)
    • Whole Wheat Toast: 1 slice (2.0 mg)
    • Total: 4.4 mg of niacin
  • Sunflower Seeds
    • Sunflower Seeds: 1 oz (2.0 mg)


Obtaining adequate levels of niacin through a balanced diet is crucial for supporting overall health and wellness as well as achieving weight loss goals.

Whole food sources rich in niacin, such as lean meats, fish, nuts, and whole grains, not only provide this essential vitamin but also supply other nutrients necessary for metabolism and energy production.

By opting for dietary sources of niacin over supplements, individuals can maintain a more sustainable approach to nutrition, fostering long-term health benefits and potentially aiding in weight management through a well-rounded diet that supports overall metabolic function. This holistic approach not only ensures sufficient niacin intake but also contributes to overall well-being and vitality.