The vitamin B complex is, well, quite complex with a number of vitamins involved, including niacin. Also known as vitamin B3, niacin or niacinamide is a water-soluble vitamin that we can get in many food sources, such as tuna, mushrooms, and organ meat.
But what is niacin for? It is mainly used to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. It can also improve metabolism, particularly in keeping blood cholesterol levels in check. There is a little controversy surrounding niacin though as some recent studies point out its side effects, including:
- Low blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Allergic reactions
- Increased blood sugar
- Worsened symptoms of gout
- Ulcers in the stomach or intestines
As scary as some of the side effects may sound, they only happen when you overdose on the vitamin through supplements and some medications. The general limit for adults is 35 mg; exceeding the amount can lead to toxicity. If you’re consuming the vitamin from natural sources, you don’t have to worry about the limit as you can go over it safely.
On the other hand, if you’re deficient from the vitamin, symptoms appear on the skin through inflammation and dermatitis. Diarrhea also happens and even dementia. Vitamin B3 deficiency isn’t common, but it does happen in developing countries.
How to Get the Most Out of B3
Storing natural foods isn’t a problem in maintaining the stability of the vitamin. Here is a list of the top sources of B3 starting from the highest:
- Tuna (156% RDA per four ounces)
- Chicken (97% per four ounces)
- Turkey (83% per four ounces)
- Salmon (56% per four ounces)
- Peanuts (28% per ¼ cup)
- Cremini mushrooms (17% per one cup)
You can store the foods above and vitamin B3 will remain intact. However, when you cook them, there can be a little bit of an issue. B3 is after all a water-soluble vitamin, which means that it can escape from your food and go to cooking water. It is therefore better to pan fry the rich sources of the vitamin instead of boiling them. A study showed that twice as much niacin was lost from simply boiling compared to pan frying.
Understanding vitamins, including niacin, is useful for our health. Although there are health risks, the vitamin is actually being studied for its capability to prolong life. As an antioxidant, it can help lower the risk of cancer and other diseases, while promoting lifespan by up to 1/10th longer.