Niacin Benefits: Supercharge Your Health with Niacin-Packed Foods

How much do you know about niacin benefits (and foods high in niacin)? Niacin has recently gained major traction amongst health and fitness folk worldwide. This essential nutrient plays a crucial role in cellular energy production and provides cholesterol-lowering benefits, supporting heart health and overall well-being. In this article, we'll explore the importance of niacin, its benefits, and how to incorporate it into your diet effectively. Read on if you want to learn more about niacin and which foods are rich in this potent B vitamin.

What Is Niacin and Why It's Important for Health

Otherwise known as Vitamin B3, niacin is a water-soluble vitamin that belongs to the B-vitamin complex. Interestingly, niacin isn't just one substance per se; it’s a collective term that covers nicotinic acid (NAD), nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP), and other substances that act like nicotinamide in your body.

These compounds are needed for over 400 metabolic roles in the body, including energy production, cell repair, reducing inflammation and maintaining cell cycle function. Without enough niacin, your body just won't work as well. Tryptophan, the amino acid that helps make serotonin and dopamine, is also used to make niacin in the body.

Niacin performs a range of physiological roles, making it an essential nutrient for good health. Below, let’s examine the main functions of niacin in the body.

The Role of Niacin in the Body

  • Energy Production: Niacin is crucial for converting carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into usable energy by forming NAD and NADP, essential coenzymes in metabolic pathways.
  • Cellular Function: It supports essential cellular functions, including the maintenance and repair of DNA, ensuring the proper functioning and longevity of cells.
  • Skin Health: Niacin maintains healthy skin and can potentially treat conditions like acne, inflammatory skin diseases, and age-related skin issues.
  • Nervous System Support: It is vital for the health of the nervous system, enhancing cognitive function and protecting against neurological disorders.
  • Cholesterol Management: Niacin can improve cholesterol levels by increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and lowering triglyceride levels.
  • Anti-inflammatory Properties: Niacin helps reduce inflammation, prevent chronic diseases and support overall health.
  • Brain Health: Niacin plays a role in cognitive health by protecting brain cells, potentially reducing the risk of age-related neurodegenerative diseases.

Symptoms of Niacin Deficiency

Niacin deficiency, though rare in developed countries, can lead to a condition known as pellagra. The symptoms of pellagra are often referred to as the "three D's": dermatitis, diarrhoea, and dementia. Dermatitis involves the skin becoming rough and inflamed, particularly in areas exposed to sunlight. Diarrhoea can be persistent and lead to severe dehydration, while dementia manifests as confusion, memory loss, and cognitive decline. If left untreated, niacin deficiency can be fatal, so getting enough of this vitamin through natural food sources wherever possible or supplementation where needed is important.


DNA strand.

The Research On Niacin Benefits For Human Health

Some valuable research exists on the potential benefits of niacin for human health. Let's examine a few of the studies.

Niacin Aids DNA Repair and Protects Against Skin Cancer

Niacin plays a role in DNA repair and stress responses. It helps cells recover from damage caused by environmental factors and oxidative stress. Skin health is an excellent example of where the body needs maximum protection. Studies in dermatology demonstrate that niacin helps prevent skin ageing and cancers due to excess sun exposure. Specifically, nicotinamide helps protect skin cells from UV damage by enhancing DNA repair and supporting the immune system. Clinical trials have shown niacin reduces water loss from the skin and lowers the risk of new skin cancers in high-risk individuals.

Niacin Assists in Lowering Cholesterol

Niacin has been used as a cholesterol-lowering therapy for several decades, supporting cardiovascular health among the ageing population. Research has shown that niacin increases HDL cholesterol while lowering VLDL and LDL cholesterol levels. This makes it a beneficial nutrient to maintain a healthy heart and vascular system. These studies highlight niacin as an essential nutrient for long-term health and disease prevention.

Top 10 Niacin-Rich Foods

Incorporating foods high in niacin into your diet is easier than you might think. Here are some of the top sources of niacin you can start enjoying today.

  1. Turkey Breast: One of the best sources of niacin, an 80 gram serving provides about 10 mg of niacin, which is more than 70% of the daily recommended intake.
  2. Chicken Breast: Another excellent source, offering around 9 mg of niacin per 80 gram serving. Chicken is also a high-quality protein source that aids growth and development.
  3. Tuna: An 80 gram serving of canned tuna contains approximately 8.6 mg of niacin. It's also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which support heart health.
  4. Salmon: This fatty fish provides about 8.5 mg of niacin per serving and is an excellent source of vitamin D and omega-3s.
  5. Peanuts: Just 28 grams of peanuts offer 4.2 mg of niacin. They're also high in healthy fats and protein, making them a great all-rounder daytime snack.
  6. Mushrooms: Specifically, portobello mushrooms can provide about 3.5 mg of niacin per cup.
  7. Brown Rice: A cup of cooked brown rice contains about 2.6 mg of niacin. It's a whole grain that provides fibre and other essential nutrients.
  8. Fennel Seeds: A 100g serving of fennel seeds contains 6.1mg of niacin. They're also a good source of antioxidants and may have anti-inflammatory properties.
  9. Sesame Seeds: These little beauties provide 4.5 mg of niacin per 100g serving and are rich in calcium, iron, and other minerals. Sesame seeds are also rich in lignans, which are a plant polyphenol that supports digestion and healthy hormones for women.
  10. Avocado: A medium-sized avocado contains about 3.9 mg of niacin. They're also a great source of vitamin E and healthy fats, which protect the skin. Avocados are also a great source of soluble dietary fibre, which promotes a healthy microbiome.


Peanuts rich in niacin in a bowl.

Incorporating Niacin into Your Diet: Tips and Recipes

Adding niacin-rich foods to your diet doesn't have to be complicated. Here are some practical tips to help you get started:

Practical Tips For Optimal Niacin Benefits

  • Plan Your Meals: Include at least one niacin-rich food in each meal. For example, add turkey or chicken breast to your lunch salad or add avocado or mushrooms to your breakfast.
  • Snack Smart: Keep snacks like peanuts or roasted chickpeas on hand for a niacin boost between meals.
  • Experiment with Recipes: Try new recipes that feature niacin-rich foods to keep your meals exciting and nutritious.
  • Balance is Key: Combine niacin-rich foods with other nutrient-dense options to ensure you get other healthful nutrients.

Cooking Methods May Impact Niacin Levels

B Vitamins are susceptible to heat and light, so how you prepare your food can impact its niacin levels. Boiling and frying can cause significant losses of niacin, while steaming and microwaving have been shown to preserve more of this vital nutrient. Incorporating various cooking methods into your meal plan will help ensure you get enough niacin from your foods.

It's also important to note that consuming large amounts of alcohol can interfere with niacin absorption and increase its excretion from the body. This is because alcohol depletes the body's stores of vitamin B6, which is necessary for converting tryptophan to niacin.

A Balanced Approach to Niacin Benefits and Intake For Optimal Health

Niacin is a powerful nutrient that offers numerous health benefits. You can support your overall well-being by understanding its importance and incorporating niacin-rich foods into your diet. It's always best to eat a balanced diet with foods high in niacin while including other important vitamins and minerals. So, next time you plan your meals, choose a mix of foods that help boost your energy levels and promote cell health.

Delicious Recipes With Foods High In Niacin

If you're looking for simple and delicious ways to enjoy a heap of niacin benefits from foods high in niacin, here are five to get things started.


Avocado and Salmon Gravlax on Rye and Sesame Crackers

This simple and elegant appetiser showcases niacin-rich salmon gravlax and creamy avocado, served atop crispy rye and sesame crackers.


  • 200g salmon gravlax (thinly sliced)
  • 1 ripe avocado (mashed)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon capers (drained)
  • Rye and sesame crackers
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a small bowl, mash the avocado with lemon juice until smooth.
  2. Add the chopped dill and capers to the avocado mixture and mix well.
  3. Season the avocado mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Spread a generous layer of the avocado mixture onto each rye and sesame cracker.
  5. Top with a slice of salmon gravlax.
  6. Garnish with a small sprig of dill or a few capers, if desired.

Grilled Chicken, Chickpea and Quinoa Salad

This delicious and nutrient-dense salad is a perfect way to incorporate niacin-rich foods into your diet.


  • 2 grilled chicken breasts (sliced)
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 avocado (sliced)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • ½ cup roasted chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, and roasted chickpeas.
  2. Add the grilled chicken slices on top.
  3. Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over the salad.
  4. Toss gently to combine all ingredients.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spicy Asian Peanut Crunch Salad

This vibrant and zesty salad incorporates peanuts, a fantastic source of niacin, and an array of fresh vegetables for a light and satisfying vegetarian lunch.


  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 red capsicum (thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 cup chopped coriander
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 green onions (sliced)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large bowl, combine the shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, and sliced red capsicum.
  2. Add the chopped coriander and roasted peanuts to the vegetable mixture.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, sriracha sauce, and sesame oil until well combined.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat the vegetables evenly.
  5. Add the sliced green onions and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Tuna Niçoise Salad

This classic French salad combines fresh, niacin-rich tuna with plenty of colourful vegetables, making it a nutritious and satisfying meal.


  • 2 fresh tuna steaks (seared and sliced)
  • 4 cups mixed salad greens
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs (halved)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 cup green beans (blanched)
  • ½ cup black olives (pitted)
  • 4 small boiled potatoes (quartered)
  • 1 small red onion (sliced thin)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley (chopped)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, chopped parsley, salt, and pepper to create the dressing.
  2. In a large serving bowl, arrange the mixed salad greens.
  3. On top of the greens, add the cherry tomatoes, green beans, black olives, boiled potatoes, and red onion.
  4. Place the hard-boiled egg halves and seared tuna slices evenly on the salad.
  5. Drizzle the dressing over the salad.
  6. Toss gently to combine all ingredients, ensuring the tuna and vegetables are well-coated with the dressing.
  7. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired and enjoy.

Turkey Meatball Zoodle Bowl

This vibrant dish pairs succulent turkey meatballs with nutritious zucchini noodles, creating a meal that is both satisfying, high in niacin benefits and health-conscious.


  • 1 kg turkey mince
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 medium zucchinis (spiralised into noodles)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 cup passata or napoletana sauce
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (optional)


  1. In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, egg, breadcrumbs, minced garlic, chopped onion, fresh parsley, dried oregano, salt, and pepper. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated.
  2. Form the mixture into small meatballs about 1 inch in diameter.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the turkey meatballs and cook until browned on all sides and cooked through about 10-12 minutes.
  4. Once the meatballs are cooked, remove them from the pan and set aside.
  5. In the same pan, add the spiralised zucchini noodles (zoodles) and cherry tomatoes. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, until the zoodles are tender but still al dente.
  6. Add the napoletana sauce to the pan and gently toss to coat the zoodles and tomatoes.
  7. Return the meatballs to the pan and cook for an additional 2 minutes, allowing the flavours to meld together.
  8. Serve the zoodle bowl topped with grated Parmesan cheese, and enjoy.

Article References

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Chen, A. C., & Damian, D. L. (2014). Nicotinamide and the skin. The Australasian journal of dermatology55(3), 169–175.

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