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Vitamin B3 (niacin): foods, benefits & RDA

Siski Green / 03 February 2022

Vitamin B3 helps lower cholesterol and also aids digestion.

Fortified cornflakes in a cereal bowl
Fortified breakfast cereals contain vitamin B3 (niacin)

Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is an essential B vitamin. You need it in your daily diet.

What is vitamin B3 used for and does it really work?

Vitamin B3 is useful in the digestive process, helping to release energy from the food we eat, and also helps lower cholesterol as well as supporting nervous system function and maintaining energy levels. It’s essential to a healthy mind and body but deficiency is extremely rare as it’s readily available in a wide variety of foods (see below).

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What’s the best way to take vitamin B3?

Vitamin B3, niacin, is found in a variety of whole and processed foods so it’s not hard to ensure you get enough of it. Your RDA is 18mg and you can get that by eating red meat, chicken and other poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Cereals and bread are often fortified with vitamin B3 too. Be aware that refined grains such as white rice, flour and pasta for example may be low in vitamin B3 as the part of the grain that contains the vitamin B3 has been removed. This is why it is often added back during processing. Ideally, you would eat wholegrains and that way you’d get vitamin B3 without needing to eat processed foods.

Multivitamins often contain vitamin B3 and it’s advisable to take a supplement with a range of B vitamins.

Where can I get vitamin B3?

Good natural food sources include nuts, potatoes, chicken, fish and beans. You’ll find bread, cereal and pasta is often fortified with vitamin B3 too. You can find supplements in supermarkets, healthfood shops and online.

What are the side effects or contraindications of taking vitamin B3?

Taking more than 200mg a day can be risky and may cause flushing of the skin or even your blood pressure to fall. Check with your GP before taking large amounts.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.