By Nadia Moredo, L.Ac.
Many of you have probably seen the recent news that vitamin B3, also known as niacin, can help prevent birth defects and pregnancy loss.
More research is needed before practitioners start recommending an increased dose of B3, and as with any vitamin or mineral, consuming it in its whole food state often results in better absorption. B3 is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that excess niacin leaves the body through urination and needs to be replenished regularly.
Here are the top foods that you can include in your diet to make sure you are getting enough B3.
- Fish is an excellent source of niacin. A portion of tuna per week, fresh or canned, can significantly increase your niacin intake. Tuna can be high in mercury, so limiting your serving to once weekly, and including other foods on this list can be a good way to increase niacin. Salmon is also a great source of niacin, and including bothe tuna and salmon in your diet can increase your omega-3 levels as well.
- Poultry. Both chicken and turkey contain moderate to high levels of niacin. Adding poultry to your diet, along with other plant-based niacin-rich foods can give you a boost.
- Meat. A serving of beef, pork and lamb all have moderate amounts of niacin. Liver has the highest amount. Including small portions of good quality, grass-fed meat in your diet can help prevent anemia in pregnancy, give a good sustained energy boost and increase niacin.
- Mushrooms. Although the most niacin-rich foods tend to be animal based, mushrooms have a good amount of B3. The best varieties to add for niacin are shiitake, oyster and portabello.
- Avocado. A great source of an array of vitamins and nutrients, fiber, and plant-based fats, avocados contain a modest amount of niacin. Adding half to a whole avocado to your diet daily can increase your overall niacin intake.
- Sea veggies. An excellent source of trace minerals and iron, seaweed and other sea veggies contain small amounts of niacin. In addition to munching on nori, try wakame salads, sprinkling dulse on soups and salads, and cooking rice and other grains with kombu to up your daily niacin.
- Whole grains. Brown rice and oats both contain moderate amounts of naturally-occurring niacin. Many pastas and cereals have been fortified with niacin, and these are fine to eat sparingly, while focusing more of your diet on whole grains.
- Green peas. Including a cup of fresh or frozen peas in your salad or main meal can increase the amount of niacin you are getting.
- Peanuts and Sunflower seeds. A great plant-based source of niacin. Eat as a snack, add to meals and include these nut butters to snacks to raise your niacin input.
If you are in your first trimester and nausea or food aversions make this list look impossible, don’t be concerned. Most good quality prenatal vitamins already contain a daily amount of niacin. Look on your label for vitamin B3, niacin, nicotinic acid or niacinamide. They are all forms of vitamin B3 and are easily absorbed.
If you are interested in supplementing your niacin intake, eat from the list above, and talk to your primary care practitioner to see if you should take a higher dose in vitamin form. In higher doses, niacin can cause flushing: redness, warmth, itching or tingling. Your practitioner can recommend a non-flush vitamin B3, a time-release vitamin B3 or increasing slowly to avoid this irritating side-effect. As always, the best way to get optimal nutrients is to eat a well-rounded, whole foods diet.
- Vitamin B3 could help prevent birth defects
- Metabolism and Congenital Malformations — NAD’s Effects on Development
- Historic Discovery Promises to Prevent Miscarriages and Birth Defects Globally