This is one in a series of fact sheets containing information to help you select foods that provide adequate daily amounts of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber as you follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Guidelines are -

  • Eat a Variety of Foods
  • Maintain Desirable Weight
  • Avoid Too Much Fat, Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol
  • Eat Foods with Adequate Starch and Fiber
  • Avoid Too Much Sugar
  • Avoid Too Much Sodium
  • If You Drink Alcoholic Beverages, Do So in Moderation


A good food source of niacin (also known as B3) contains a substantial amount of niacin in relation to its calorie content and contributes at least 10 percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (U.S. RDA) for niacin in a selected serving size. The U.S. RDA for niacin is 20 milligrams per day. (The U.S. RDA given is for adults, except pregnant or lactating women, and children over 4 years of age.)

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The U.S. RDA for niacin is the amount of the vitamin used as a standard in nutrition labeling of foods. This allowance is based on the 1968 Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for 24 sex-age categories set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences. The 1989 RDA has been set at 15 milligrams per day for women 19 to 50 years of age and 19 milligrams for men 19 to 50 years of age.

In 1985 and 1986, 44 percent of the niacin in the diets of women came from meat, poultry, and fish. Grain products such as breads and cereals supplied about 31 percent of the niacin consumed. Foods that contain small amounts of niacin but are not considered good sources can contribute significant amounts of niacin to an individual's diet if these foods are eaten often or in large amounts.


Niacin, a water-soluble vitamin, helps the body release energy from protein, fat, and carbohydrate during metabolism. Niacin assists in the functioning of the digestive system, skin, and nerves.


According to USDA surveys, the intake of niacin by American women and men 19 to 50 years of age averaged above the RDA.

Niacin is a type of B vitamin. It is water-soluble, which means it is not stored in the body. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water. Leftover amounts of the vitamin leave the body through the urine. That means you need a continuous supply of such vitamins in your diet.

Niacin can be formed in the body from tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Therefore, if your diet contains these foods, your need for niacin from other sources will be reduced.


Recommended daily allowances (RDAs) are defined as the levels of intake of essential nutrients that the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine has found to be adequate to meet the known nutrient needs of most healthy persons.

The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends the following dietary intake for niacin:


  • 0 - 6 months: 2 milligrams per day (mg/day)
  • 7 - 12 months: 4 mg/day


  • 1 - 3 years: 6 mg/day
  • 4 - 8 years: 8 mg/day
  • 9 - 13 years: 12 mg/day

Adolescents and Adults

  • Males age 14 and older: 16 mg/day
  • Females age 14 and older: 14 mg/day

Specific recommendations depend on age, gender, and other factors (such as pregnancy). Women who are pregnant or producing breast milk (lactating) need higher amounts. Ask your health care provider which amount is best for you.


Eating a variety of foods that contain niacin is the best way to get an adequate amount. Healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet rarely need supplements. The list of foods will help you select those that are good sources of niacin as you follow the Dietary Guidelines. The list of good sources was derived from the same nutritive value of foods tables used to analyze information for recent food consumption surveys of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Human Nutrition Information Service.

Niacin (also known as vitamin B3) is found in dairy products, poultry, fish, lean meats, nuts, and eggs. Legumes and enriched breads and cereals also supply some niacin.


Niacin is fairly stable, but some niacin can be lost during cooking as it dissolves in the cooking liquid. Losses in preparation and storage are slight. To retain niacin:

  • Cook vegetables in a minimal amount of water.

  • Roast or broil beef, veal, lamb, and poultry. (Pork keeps about the same amount of niacin regardless of cooking method.)

Click here for nutrition table for 7,248 foods.


Pasta and most breads made from refined flours are enriched with niacin because niacin is one of the nutrients lost in processing. Other nutrients added to refined flours and pasta are iron, thiamin, and riboflavin. Enriched products or products made from enriched flour are labeled as such.

Most ready-to-eat and instant-prepared cereals are fortified with niacin. Fortified ready-to-eat cereals usually contain at least 25 percent of the U.S. RDA for niacin. Since cereals vary, check the label on the package for the percentage of the U.S. RDA for a specific cereal.


The serving sizes used on the list of good sources are only estimates of the amounts of food you might eat. The amount of nutrient in a serving depends on the weight of the serving. For example, 3 ounces of cooked lean pork loin roast contains more niacin than a cooked pork chop, because the chop has less than 3 ounces of lean meat. Therefore, a serving of the pork loin roast has 25 percent of the U.S. RDA while the pork chop has less than 20 percent.


     FOOD                             SELECTED      PERCENTAGE OF

                                      SERVING SIZE  U.S. RDA (1)


Bagel, plain or whole-wheat 1 medium + Bulgur, cooked or canned 2/3 cup + English muffin, plain or whole-wheat 1 + Muffin, bran 1 medium + Oatmeal, instant, fortified, prepared 2/3 cup + Pita bread, plain or whole-wheat 1 small + Pretzel, soft 1 + Ready-to-eat cereals, fortified 1 ounce ++ Roll, hoagie or submarine 1 +

VEGETABLES<p> Mushrooms, cooked 1/2 cup + Potato, boiled, with skin 1 medium +


Meat and Poultry Beef: Brisket, braised, lean only 3 ounces + Ground; extra lean, lean or regular; baked or broiled 1 patty + Roast, rib, roasted, lean only 3 ounces + Steak, baked or broiled, lean only 3 ounces + Stew meat, simmered, lean only 3 ounces + Chicken, without skin: Breast, broiled or roasted 1/2 breast +++ Leg (thigh and drumstick), broiled or roasted 1 leg ++ Light or dark meat, broiled, roasted, or stewed 3 ounces ++ Cornish hen, roasted, without skin 1/2 hen +++ Ham, roasted, lean only: Fresh 3 ounces + Smoked or cured 3 ounces + Lamb, lean only: Chop, shoulder; baked, braised, or broiled 1 chop ++ Roast, shoulder, roasted 3 ounces +

Liver, braised: Beef, calf, or pork 3 ounces ++ Chicken 1/2 cup, diced + Liverwurst 1 ounce + Pork, lean only: Chop, baked or broiled 1 chop + Roast, loin, roasted 3 ounces ++ Turkey: Ground, cooked 3 ounces + Light or dark meat, roasted, without skin 3 ounces + Veal, lean only: Chop, braised 1 chop +++ Roast, leg, roasted 3 ounces ++

Fish and Seafood Catfish, flounder, haddock, pompano, or pike; baked or broiled 3 ounces + Crabmeat, steamed 3 ounces + Croaker, porgy, or trout; baked or broiled 3 ounces + Mackerel: Baked or broiled 3 ounces +++ Canned, drained 3 ounces ++ Mullet, baked or broiled 3 ounces ++ Salmon: Baked, broiled, poached, or steamed 3 ounces ++ Canned, drained 3 ounces ++ Shrimp; boiled, broiled, steamed, or canned; drained 3 ounces + Swordfish steak, baked or broiled 3 ounces +++ Tuna, canned, drained 3 ounces +

Nuts and Seeds Peanuts, roasted or dry-roasted 2 tablespoons + Peanut butter 2 tablespoons +

(1) A selected serving size contains -

+ 10-24 percent of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age
++ 25-39 percent of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age
+++ 40 percent or more of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age

(2) Breads and cereals listed are enriched unless otherwise noted. See section on enriched or fortified foods.

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