13 Vegan Foods High In Niacin

Here are 13 vegan foods high in niacin! Niacin is an essential nutrient that the body needs for nervous system function, hormonal regulation, and metabolism.

What is Niacin?

Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is a water-soluble vitamin that is part of the B-complex vitamins. 

There are two forms of niacin: nicotinamide and nicotinic acid. Both forms can be obtained from food or supplements.

Niacin can be found in many foods, including animal products, fortified cereals and bread, nuts, and seeds. It’s also available as a supplement.

Niacin plays a vital role in metabolism and helps the body convert food into energy. It also helps maintain healthy skin and nerves. Niacin may also help lower cholesterol levels and improve circulation.

Niacin deficiency can cause a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, depression, poor appetite, and digestive problems. 

In severe cases, it can lead to pellagra, a condition characterized by skin lesions, diarrhea, dementia, and even death.

Health Benefits of Niacin

Luckily, niacin deficiency is rare because most foods contain some amount that can help keep your levels in check.

However, some people may benefit from taking niacin supplements, especially if they have certain medical conditions or are taking certain medications that can interfere with niacin absorption or metabolism.

1. It helps the body metabolize carbohydrates and fats

The body needs niacin to metabolize carbohydrates and fats properly. When niacin is lacking, the body cannot properly break down these nutrients, leading to a build-up of fat in the liver. 

2. It helps produce hormones and enzymes.

One of the most important functions of niacin is its role in hormone and enzyme production.

Hormones are responsible for regulating many vital processes in the body, such as growth, metabolism, and reproduction. Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions in the body, including those involved in digestion and energy production.

Without adequate niacin intake, these essential processes would be impaired.

Word cloud on a white background - niacin

3. It may lower blood pressure

Niacin has many potential health benefits, including the ability to reduce blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other serious health conditions.

Studies have shown that niacin can help lower blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels and increasing blood flow. It may also improve cholesterol levels and prevent the hardening of the arteries.

4. Boosts brain function

Niacin has numerous benefits for brain health and cognitive function. 

Studies have shown that niacin supplementation can improve memory and cognitive function in older adults. 

Niacin has also been shown to be beneficial for treating Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Another study found that niacin supplementation improved memory and intellectual functioning in elderly people with dementia. 

In addition to its cognitive benefits, niacin has also been shown to be protective against brain damage from stroke and other injuries. Niacin supplementation has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke and improve outcomes in those who suffer a stroke.

5. Promotes skin health

Niacin, or vitamin B3, is an essential nutrient that helps keep the skin healthy. 

Niacin plays a role in stimulating the production of collagen and elastin, two proteins that are important for the skin’s structure and strength. 

This keeps the skin’s barrier function strong, which helps protect the skin from environmental damage and keeps it hydrated. 

In addition to its role in maintaining skin health, niacin has also been shown to be effective in treating a variety of skin conditions. 

Niacinamide, a form of niacin, has been shown to be effective in treating acne, rosacea, and psoriasis. It can help reduce inflammation, redness, and swelling in these conditions and can also help control excess oil production. 

Niacinamide is often found in over-the-counter skincare products. If you are looking for a way to improve your skin health, consider adding niacin to your diet or using a niacinamide-containing skincare product.

6. Maintains healthy nerves

Niacin is necessary for the synthesis of myelin, which is a substance that surrounds and insulates nerve cells. 

Myelin helps protect nerve cells and allows them to transmit electrical impulses efficiently. 

Niacin deficiency can lead to the demyelination of nerve cells, resulting in neurological problems. 

Niacin also plays a role in maintaining communication between nerve cells. Nerve cells communicate with each other through chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. 

Niacin is necessary for the synthesis of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. 

Neurotransmitter imbalances have been linked to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. 

Signs of Niacin Deficiency

While the signs below are common for niacin deficiency, they could also represent a different condition, so it’s better to seek medical advice for further testing and diagnosis.

They include:

  • Pellagra – characterized by diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and death
  • Fatigue, weakness, and a lack of energy.
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
  • Lesions or redness on your skin, especially around your mouth and nose.
  • Memory loss
  • Bright red tongue
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Skin conditions like dermatitis
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Suicidal behavior

Groups at Risk of Niacin Deficiency

Ideally, niacin deficiency is very rare, but it can occur under certain circumstances and some people may be at risk, more than others.

They include:

  • Those with certain genetic disorders
  • People with severe malabsorption
  • Alcoholics
  • Those on prolonged treatment with the TB drug isoniazid
  • Undernourished people
  • Those with anorexia
  • People with conditions like Inflammatory bowel disease, AIDS, and liver cirrhosis

Best Vegan Foods High in Niacin

Animal sources are the best-known niacin rich foods. However, there are plenty of plant based alternatives that you can easily include in your vegan diet, to reach your daily requirement.

Let’s find out what they are!

1. Sunflower seeds

Shelled sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are one of the best sources of niacin available to vegetarians and vegans. 

They contain about 58 percent of the Daily Value (DV) of niacin per cup. This is great news because they’re also a good source of other important nutrients like vitamin E, magnesium, and dietary fiber. 

Just one ounce (28 grams) of sunflower seeds contains about 12 percent of the DV of niacin, so it’s not too difficult to hit your DV with a little bit each day.

You can add sunflower seeds to salads, smoothies, or as a standalone snack.

2. Peanuts

Peanuts on old raffia background.

One of the most popular legumes in the world, peanuts have been shown to have a number of health benefits. 

They are a good source of protein and fiber and may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. 

Peanuts also contain vitamins B6 and E, which are important for maintaining nerve function, and copper and magnesium, essential for healthy bones.

Additionally, they offer a good amount of niacin, with an ounce providing 19 percent of your daily requirements.

To enjoy the benefits of peanuts, eat them as part of a balanced diet and in moderation.

3. Green peas

This legume is low in calories and high in fiber, which can help curb your appetite. Plus, green peas are a good source of folate, vitamin C, potassium, and niacin.

A cup of cooked green peas can offer up to 3.2 mg of niacin, or 16 percent of your daily requirement.

To include green peas in your diet, try adding them to salads or soups. 

You can also bake them with other vegetables or spices to create healthy snacks or meals. 

Be sure to store any leftover green peas in the fridge for later use.

4. Brown rice

Brown rice is a whole grain, which means it has all of the beneficial nutrients that come from whole grains. 

Whole grains are high in fiber and other important nutrients, like antioxidants. They’re also low in calories and fat, making them a healthy vegan option for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

One of the main benefits of brown rice is that it’s a good source of magnesium, manganese, and niacin, with a cup of cooked brown rice providing 21%, 88%, and 15% of each nutrient, respectively.

There are many ways to include brown rice in a diet. It can be cooked as a side dish, used as a binding agent for sauces or stews, or blended into smoothies and other foods.

5. Mushrooms

Dried mushrooms of different varieties on white plates

Mushrooms are a great source of dietary fiber and minerals, including potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. 

They are also a good source of B vitamins, including niacin and vitamin B6. 

In addition to their nutrients, mushrooms are high in antioxidants that can reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases.

Cooking mushrooms release their flavor and nutrients. Sautéing or frying them is an excellent way to enjoy them. They can also be served as part of a salad or as a side dish. You can also add them to soups, stews, or sauces for extra flavor.

It is best to avoid canned mushrooms as they may contain high levels of sodium. Instead, choose fresh mushrooms that have been properly stored.

6. Avocado

Fresh avocado fruit on a black rustic board.

Adding avocado to your diet can make it a nutritious and satisfying choice. 

Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and fiber. 

They also contain vitamins B6, vitamin C, and niacin.

Avocados can be added to most dishes as a healthy addition or substitute for other unhealthy ingredients. Try adding them to smoothies, salads, tacos, burritos, omelets, and more.

7. Sweet potatoes

Baked sweet potato halves

A cup of cooked sweet potato provides up to 15 percent of your daily requirements, but it doesn’t stop there, as there are many benefits to eating sweet potatoes.

They are a low-calorie food packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of fiber and antioxidants.

One of the best things about sweet potatoes is their versatility. They can be eaten as is or cooked into different dishes. You can use sweet potatoes in soups, stews, pilafs, and stir-fries. They can also be boiled or steamed and served with your choice of toppings, such as cinnamon, butter, sour cream, or cheese.

8. Flaxseeds

Flaxseed is a healthy plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and improve mental health. 

In addition, flaxseeds are a good source of fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, including niacin.

Half a cup of flaxseeds contains 2.6 mg of niacin, or 13 percent of your daily requirement.

Flaxseed is a great addition to any diet, and it can be eaten as a meal or snack. Add flaxseed to cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, and energy bars for added fiber and nutrients. You can also use flaxseed as a condiment on sandwiches or in salad dressings.

9. Chickpeas

Glass bowl filled with boiled chickpeas with wooden spoon.

Chickpeas are a popular legume that can be incorporated into many diets. They are high in fiber and contain several vitamins and minerals.

With a cup providing about 4 percent of your daily requirement, chickpeas may not be so high in niacin. However, they are rich in other nutrients such as protein, folate, manganese, and iron, making them a great addition still.

They can be used in place of other beans or lentils in many dishes, such as soups, salads, and stir-fries. They can also be used as a replacement for ground meat in tacos, burritos, and other Mexican cuisine recipes.

Additionally, chickpeas can be used as a source of protein in snacks such as energy bars and trail mixes.

10. Artichokes

Canned artichokes in olive oil on a rustic wooden kitchen table. black background. top view.

Artichokes are a delicious vegetable that is high in niacin. These vegetables contain about 10% of the daily recommended value of niacin per cup.

They can be eaten cooked or raw and are a good source of potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.

11. Asparagus

100 grams of cooked asparagus contains 5% of the daily value for niacin. This means that asparagus can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cognitive decline.

Additionally, asparagus is a good source of vitamin K, which can protect against easy bone fractures.

12. Carrot

Carrots are another great way to increase your intake of niacin. With a cup of chopped carrots providing 6 percent of the daily value, it’s easy to build on the remaining amount from other major food sources.

13. Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe is a great addition to any diet, no matter what your health goals may be. This sweet and juicy fruit can help you reach your fitness and weight loss goals, as well as provide you with antioxidants and vitamins A and C.

They can also provide a reasonable amount of niacin with 2 cups of cubed cantaloupe containing 12 percent of your daily requirement.

You can eat it as is, use it in smoothies or juices, or add it to meals to give them a boost of flavor.

Final Thoughts

Niacin is an essential nutrient that the body needs to produce energy and maintain healthy skin and nervous system. 

You can get niacin from a variety of foods, but some of the richest sources for vegans include green peas, sunflower seeds, brown rice, and avocados.

By regularly consuming these foods, you’ll maintain your levels within normal, thus preventing health issues associated with niacin deficiencies.

That being said, it’s always good to see a doctor if you exhibit the common signs of low niacin levels. The doctor will be able to find out what’s going on ad provide the necessary treatment.

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