Niacin, otherwise known as vitamin B3, is used to produce energy, fatty acids, cholesterol, and more.
It’s also a part of the DNA repair process.
Getting niacin exclusively from plants isn’t too difficult. Just a few servings of certain foods will get you more than the RDA.
How Much Niacin Should You Have Per Day
For adults, the recommended daily amount of niacin is 16 mg for men, and 14 mg for women.
There’s also an upper limit of 35 mg. If you reach it, you will likely experience a “flushing” reaction, usually starting with your face. It’s not serious, but could cause some discomfort.
On to the best vegan sources of niacin.
The Best Vegan Niacin Foods (Per 100 Grams and Calories)
While most people are not deficient in niacin, you will need multiple servings of even the best vegan sources to reach the RDA.
All the data in the following table comes right from the USDA’s database.
|Food||Niacin (mg) per 100 grams||Niacin (mg) per 100 calories|
|Wheat flour (whole-grain)||5.35||1.61|
|Red bell pepper||0.98||3.73|
|Green bell pepper||0.48||2.38|
|Lettuce (red leaf)||0.32||2.48|
There are a few types of foods that really stand out at the top:
- Grains – Buckwheat, rye, whole wheat, and barley are all excellent sources of niacin.
- Seeds – Sesame seeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds are all in the top half of the list. These are also good vegan sources of omega 3 fats, as well as other minerals like iron and magnesium.
- Mushrooms – A great source of niacin if watching calories. They have 3.6 mg of niacin per 100 grams, and only 22 calories.
- Leafy greens (e.g. spinach) – Great not just for niacin, but virtually almost every vitamin, and a slew of minerals like iron.
Peanuts are the number 1 food, but also the only legume on the list until lentils, which are much lower.
With so much diversity in “good” niacin sources, most people don’t have to go out of their way to get enough niacin.
The Most Efficient Sources of Niacin
Finally, let’s try to find the best niacin sources if you’re trying to limit how many calories and servings you need to reach your niacin targets.
We can do this by plotting the amount of niacin per serving against the amount per 100 calories.
That chart looks like this (click to enlarge) – note: mushrooms are not on the chart, but would score the best:
With this type of chart, the best food sources should be towards the top-right section of the chart.
Other than peanuts, nothing stands out too much. Still, it seems like the most balanced niacin sources are:
- Red bell pepper
Those foods should make it as easy as possible to get in as much niacin as you need, without having too many calories.
Types of Vegan Recipes High in Niacin
Obviously you can just eat a few handfuls of peanuts if you’re really concerned about getting enough niacin.
Otherwise, think about meals that incorporate a variety of vegetables in them, particularly mushrooms and spinach.
Here are a few examples of recipes that I’ve made in the past and enjoyed that are high in niacin: