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.
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 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 Typical Serving)
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||Serving||Energy (kcal)||Niacin (mg)|
|Buckwheat groats||1 cup||567||8.421|
|Rye grain||1 cup||571||7.216|
|Sunflower seeds||0.5 cup||409||5.835|
|Wheat flour (whole-grain)||100 g||332||5.347|
|White potato||1 large||255||3.934|
|Sesame seeds||0.5 cup||413||3.251|
|Pine nuts||0.5 cup||454||2.961|
|Hemp seeds||3 tbsp||166||2.76|
|Chia seeds||3 tbsp||146||2.649|
|Swiss chard||10 leafs||91||1.92|
|Lima beans||1 cup||209||1.768|
|Macadamia nut||0.5 cup||481||1.657|
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.
Peanuts are the number 1 food, but also the only legume on the list until lentils, which are much lower.
The Best Niacin-Rich Vegan Foods Per 100 Calories
If you’re counting calories, grains and seeds add up quickly.
You may be better off eating several servings of certain vegetables instead, although the volume of food is the trade-off.
These are the best vegan foods for niacin per 100 calories. So if a serving size is 20 calories, that means you have to eat 5 servings to get the amount of niacin in the far right column.
Niacin (mg) per 100 calories
|Water spinach||1 cup||11||4.58|
|Seaweed (dried)||1 tbsp||20||4.49|
|Napa cabbage||1 cup||13||3.91|
|Bok choy||1 cup||9||3.89|
|Red bell pepper||1 large||43||3.73|
|Mustard greens||1 cup||15||2.99|
|Bamboo shoot||1 shoot||17||2.54|
|Lettuce (red leaf)||0.5 head||20||2.48|
|Green bell pepper||1 large||33||2.38|
|Green bean||10 beans||17||2.38|
|Cantaloupe||1/8 of melon||35||2.14|
|Swiss chard||10 leafs||91||2.11|
There were few vegetables on the first list, but almost the entire list here consists of vegetables.
Mushrooms are the best for niacin by far.
Other than that, spinach and other leafy greens dominate the top of the list. Red bell peppers are excellent not only for niacin, but are also a great vegan source of vitamin C.
Here’s where you need to do some math. If you’re going to avoid grains and seeds altogether, you’ll need several servings of vegetables each day to meet your niacin goals.
If this doesn’t seem doable on a regular basis, include at least some of those seeds or grains in your diet.
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.