Top Heart-Healthy Niacin-Rich Foods

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Niacin, also called vitamin B3, is important for energy production, and helps the body utilize fat, protein, and carbohydrates from foods.

Niacin plays a role in lowering LDL and triglyceride levels and reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Supplemental doses may lead to vasodilation which can lower blood pressure.

Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it is not stored in the body and must be consumed as a regular part of your diet. High doses of niacin can improve cholesterol levels (raise good cholesterol HDL levels) in people who do not tolerate statins.

How much niacin?

The Daily Value for is 20 mg per 2000 calories, as seen on food labels. The DRI (Daily Recommended Intake) for men is 16 mg daily and women 14 mg daily.

The DRIs also established Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) for vitamin B3 from supplements and fortified foods (this does not apply to whole, natural foods). The UL’s for niacin per day are:

  • Children 1-8 years: 2-16 mg
  • 9-13 years: 20 mg
  • 14-18 years: 30 mg
  • 19 years and older: 35 mg
  • Pregnant or lactating women, 18 years and younger: 30 mg
  • Pregnant or lactating women, 19 years and older: 35 mg

Too little niacin?

Niacin is part of the coenzymes that help with energy metabolism and is necessary for fats and sugars to function in the body and healthy cell maintenance.

Deficiency in niacin can lead to pellagra, which was common in the 1700s, and is now rare in developed countries because many foods are fortified with vitamin B3.

To avoid niacin deficiency, the diet should include fortified food, as well as a mix of foods naturally containing niacin.

Too much niacin?

Toxicity from consuming naturally occurring foods with niacin does not exist. However, when taking a supplement, there are upper limits for vitamin B3.

Large amounts of niacin can increase the risk of irregular heartbeat if you have heart disease and unstable angina. Be sure to check with your doctor to determine if a supplement is appropriate for you.

How to include niacin every day

Since foods are now fortified with vitamin B3 (cereals, breads, crackers, etc.), it is easy to meet the daily Dietary Reference Intake requirement (DRI).

Let’s navigate the grocery store to determine what departments and aisle’s to include on your shopping list for niacin.

Meat/Seafood department

  • Turkey
  • Chicken breast
  • Chicken liver
  • Tuna
  • Beef
  • Salmon
  • Eggs

Dairy

  • Cottage cheese
  • Cheese
  • Cow milk
  • Soy milk

Canned goods/meat alternatives

  • Anchovies
  • Sardines
  • Tofu

Dry goods

  • Peanuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Oatmeal
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Cereal

Produce

  • Avocado
  • Green peas
  • Mushrooms (crimini and portabello)
  • Potato
  • Asparagus

See more helpful articles:

Niacin

Niacin: Myths and Facts

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