Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is a micronutrient that your body uses for proper metabolism, nervous system function and antioxidant protection (1).
It’s an essential nutrient — meaning that you must obtain it from food, as your body cannot produce it on its own.
Since niacin is water soluble, any surplus is excreted through your urine rather than stored in your body. Therefore, it’s important to regularly consume niacin-rich foods.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for this nutrient is 16 mg per day for men and 14 mg per day for women — enough to meet the needs of approximately 98% of adults (2).
Here are 16 foods high in niacin.
Liver is one of the best natural sources of niacin.
A typical 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of cooked beef liver provides 14.7 mg of niacin, or 91% of the RDA for men and more than 100% of the RDA for women (3).
Chicken liver is also a good source, providing 73% and 83% of the RDA for men and women per 3-ounce (85-gram) cooked serving, respectively (4).
In addition, liver is incredibly nutritious, packed with protein, iron, choline, vitamin A and other B vitamins.
Summary Liver is one of the best natural sources of niacin, providing 91% of the RDA for men and more than 100% of the RDA for women per 3-ounce (85-gram) serving.
2. Chicken Breast
Chicken, especially the breast meat, is a good source of both niacin and lean protein.
3 ounces (85 grams) of cooked, boneless, skinless chicken breast contain 11.4 mg of niacin, which is 71% and 81% of the RDA for men and women, respectively (5).
In comparison, the same amount of boneless, skinless chicken thighs contain only half that amount (6).
Chicken breasts are also packed with protein, containing 8.7 grams per cooked ounce (28 grams), making them an excellent choice for low-calorie, high-protein diets designed for weight loss (7, 8).
Summary Chicken breast is an excellent source of lean protein and niacin, containing 71% and 81% of the RDA for men and women, respectively. In comparison, chicken thighs provide roughly half that amount.
Tuna is a good source of niacin and a great option for people who eat fish but not meat.
One 5.8-ounce (165-gram) can of light tuna provides 21.9 mg of niacin, over 100% of the RDA for both men and women (9).
It’s also high in protein, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids.
There is some concern about mercury toxicity since this metal can accumulate in tuna meat. However, eating one can per week is considered safe for most people (10).
Summary One can of tuna provides over 100% of the RDA for niacin for both men and women, making it an excellent option for pescatarians.
Though turkey contains less niacin than chicken, it provides tryptophan, which your body can turn into niacin.
3 ounces (85 grams) of cooked turkey breast pack 6.3 mg of niacin and enough tryptophan to produce roughly 1 additional milligram of niacin (11, 12).
In combination, this is roughly 46% of the RDA for men and 52% for women.
However, since the median intake of niacin in the United States is 28 mg per day for men and 18 mg per day for women, it’s unlikely that your body will need to convert much tryptophan to niacin (13).
Tryptophan is also used to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin — both of which are important for mood and sleep (12).
Summary Turkey contains both niacin and tryptophan, the latter of which your body can turn into niacin. Together they provide roughly 50% of the RDA for niacin for men and 60% of the RDA for women. Tryptophan also impacts mood and sleep.
Salmon — especially wild-caught — is also a good source of niacin.
One cooked 3-ounce (85-gram) fillet of wild Atlantic salmon packs 53% of the RDA for men and 61% of the RDA for women (14).
The same portion of farmed Atlantic salmon contains slightly less — only about 42% of the RDA for men and 49% for women (15).
Salmon is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help combat inflammation and reduce the risk of heart disease and autoimmune disorders (16).
Wild salmon contains slightly more omega-3s than farmed salmon, but both are good sources (14, 15).
Summary Wild-caught salmon is a good source of niacin, providing over half of the RDA for men and women per serving. Additionally, it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for heart health.
Eating canned anchovies is an inexpensive way to meet your niacin needs.
Just one anchovy provides roughly 5% of the RDA for adult men and women. Therefore, snacking on 10 anchovies gives you half the niacin you need each day (17).
These small fish are also an excellent source of selenium, containing roughly 4% of the RDI per anchovy (17).
Eating foods rich in selenium is associated with a 22% lower risk of cancer, especially those of the breast, lung, esophagus, stomach and prostate (18).
Summary Anchovies are a convenient way to meet your niacin needs with seafood. Just one canned anchovy contains 5% of the RDA, which can quickly add up.
Lean cuts of pork, such as pork tenderloin or lean pork chops, are good sources of niacin as well.
3 ounces (85 grams) of roasted pork tenderloin pack 6.3 mg of niacin, or 39% and 45% of the RDA for men and women, respectively (19).
In comparison, the same portion of a fattier cut like roasted pork shoulder contains just 20% of the RDA for men and 24% of the RDA for women (20).
Pork is also one of the best food sources of thiamine — also known as vitamin B1 — which is a key vitamin for your body’s metabolism (21).
Summary Lean cuts of pork like tenderloin provide roughly 40% of the RDA per 3-ounce (85-gram) serving. Fattier cuts contain niacin as well, though at lower concentrations.
8. Ground Beef
Ground beef is a good source of niacin and rich in protein, iron, vitamin B12, selenium and zinc (22).
Leaner varieties of ground beef contain more niacin per ounce than fattier products.
For example, one 3-ounce (85-gram) cooked serving of 95% lean ground beef provides 6.2 mg of niacin, while the same amount of 70% lean ground beef contains just 4.1 mg (22, 23).
Some research has found that grass-fed beef offers more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants than conventional grain-fed beef, making it a highly nutritious option (24).
Summary Ground beef is a good source of niacin. Leaner varieties contain 1/3 more niacin than fattier ones. What’s more, grass-fed beef may be higher in antioxidants and omega-3s than conventional grain-fed beef.
Peanuts are one of the best vegetarian sources of niacin.
Two tablespoons (32 grams) of peanut butter contain 4.3 mg of niacin, roughly 25% of the RDA for men and 30% for women (25).
Peanuts are also rich in protein, monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese (26).
While peanuts are relatively high in calories, research shows that eating them daily is associated with health benefits like a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, daily peanut consumption does not lead to weight gain (27, 28).
Summary Peanuts are very rich in niacin, providing roughly 1/3 of the RDA for men and women in just 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. They’re also a good source of heart-healthy fat and many vitamins and minerals.
One medium avocado contains 3.5 mg of niacin, or 21% and 25% of the RDA for men and women, respectively (29).
They’re also rich in fiber, healthy fats and many vitamins and minerals.
In fact, one avocado contains more than twice the potassium of a banana (29, 30).
Avocados are also excellent sources of monounsaturated fats, which may help reduce your risk of heart disease when consumed regularly (31).
Summary One avocado provides over 20% of the RDA for niacin and is rich in fiber, heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and minerals like potassium.
11. Brown Rice
One cup (195 grams) of cooked brown rice contains 18% of the RDA for niacin for men and 21% for women (32).
However, some research suggests that only 30% of the niacin in grains is available for absorption, making it a less optimal source than other foods (33).
In addition to its niacin content, brown rice is high in fiber, thiamine, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and selenium (32).
Swapping out white rice for brown has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve markers of heart health in overweight and obese women (34).
Summary One cup (195 grams) of cooked brown rice contains roughly 20% of the RDA for niacin, but some research suggests that nutrients from grains are less absorbable than from other food sources.
12. Whole Wheat
Whole-wheat products — such as whole-wheat bread and pasta — are also high in niacin (35, 36).
That’s because the niacin-rich outer layer of wheat kernels — known as the bran — is included in whole-wheat flour but removed from refined white flour (37, 38).
For example, one whole-wheat English muffin contains roughly 15% of the RDA for men and women, but an English muffin made from unenriched white flour supplies only about 5% (35, 39).
However, like brown rice, only about 30% of the niacin in whole-wheat products is digested and absorbed (33).
Summary Whole-wheat products contain niacin, but like brown rice, their niacin is less available for absorption than animal or vegetable sources.
Mushrooms are one of the best vegetable sources of niacin, providing 2.5 mg per cup (70 grams) — that’s 15% and 18% of the RDA for men and women, respectively (40).
This makes these tasty fungi a good option for vegetarians or vegans looking for natural sources of niacin.
Mushrooms grown under sunlamps also produce vitamin D and are one of the best plant-based food sources of this vitamin (41).
Interestingly, studies have found that consuming vitamin D through mushrooms is as effective as supplements for raising vitamin D levels in deficient adults (42).
Summary Mushrooms are a good source of niacin, containing about 15% and 18% of the RDA for men and women, respectively, per cup (70 grams). When grown under sunlamps, they are also a very good source of vitamin D.
14. Green Peas
Green peas are a good vegetarian source of highly absorbable niacin, boasting 3 mg per cup (145 grams) — about 20% of the RDA for both men and women (33, 43).
They’re also rich in fiber, at 7.4 grams per cup (145 grams) (43).
One cup of green peas supplies over 25% of the daily fiber needs for someone consuming 2,000 calories per day (44).
Studies show that peas are also high in antioxidants and other compounds that may reduce your risk of cancer, lower cholesterol levels and promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria (45).
Summary Green peas are a good source of highly absorbable niacin, providing approximately 20% of the RDA per cup (145 grams). They’re also rich in fiber, antioxidants and other compounds associated with a variety of health benefits.
White potatoes are a good source of niacin — with or without the skin (46, 47).
One large baked potato provides 4.2 mg of niacin, which is roughly 25% of the RDA for men and 30% for women (47).
According to one review, brown Russet potatoes pack the highest amount of niacin out of any type of potato — with 2 mg per 100 grams (48).
Sweet potatoes are also a good source, providing roughly the same amount of niacin as the average white potato (47, 49).
Summary White and sweet potatoes are both good sources of niacin and contain around 10% of the RDA for men and women per 100 grams. Of common potato varieties, Russet potatoes pack the niacin.
16. Fortified and Enriched Foods
Many foods are fortified or enriched with niacin, transforming them from poor sources of this nutrient to good ones.
Fortified foods are supplemented with extra nutrients, while enriched foods have nutrients added back that had been lost during processing (50).
Many breakfast cereals and refined grain products like white bread and pasta are enriched or fortified with niacin to improve their nutrient content (51).
One study found that the average American gets more niacin in their diet from fortified and enriched products than from natural food sources (50).
Summary Many foods, especially cereals and refined grain products, contain additional niacin added during processing. These types of food supply more niacin in the average American diet than natural sources.
The Bottom Line
Niacin, or vitamin B3, is an essential nutrient, which you must consume through your diet as your body can’t synthesize or store it. Among other things, niacin aids your metabolism and nervous system.
Many foods are rich in niacin, especially animal products like meat, fish and poultry.
Vegetarian sources include avocado, peanuts, whole grains, mushrooms, green peas and potatoes.
Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals and refined grain products are typically fortified or enriched with niacin, making them one of the main niacin sources in the average American diet.