Why the Seafood Diet Gives You Energy: 5 Common Pescatarian Foods High in Niacin

Why the Seafood Diet Gives You Energy: 5 Common Pescatarian Foods High in Niacin

Can you name three common foods high in niacin?

One of the biggest concerns people have when switching from a meat-containing diet to a pescatarian or vegetarian diet is nutrient deficiencies.

But the truth is, it’s possible to be nutrient deficient on any kind of diet if you’re not eating nutrient-dense foods.

Who’s at a higher risk of developing a vitamin deficiency, somebody with no dietary restrictions who eats only refined carbs, sugary drinks, and fried food, or a vegan who eats mostly vegetables, legumes, and whole grains?

Whether your vegan, pescatarian, paleo, gluten-free, or on a diet consisting of nothing but bananas and protein shakes (which I don’t recommend), variety is key to make sure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.

Importance of Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Niacin, otherwise known as vitamin B3, is critical for energy metabolism (a fancy way of saying it makes energy). Since it’s water-soluble, your body excretes extra niacin that you consume. While this makes overdosing quite difficult, it also means you need to consistently consume niacin in your diet. Health Canada recommends that adults women consume at least 14mg per day while adult men should consume 16mg per day.

The upper limit for both adult men and women is 35mg per day.

Although deficiency of niacin is rare in western countries, there are benefits to making sure that you stay on top of your niacin intake.

Niacin Effects on Brain Function

Not only does your body need energy to move, but your brain also requires energy to think.

Many kinds of seafood are great sources of niacin and omega 3s (an essential fatty acid that has benefits for your brain health).

Deficiency of niacin is thought to be a contributing cause for the development of some types of schizophrenia. Niacin supplementation has been found to potentially alleviate symptoms (1).

A study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry found that in a group of more than 6000 people, those with the highest intake of niacin were least likely to develop Alzheimer’s (2).

Niacin and Cholesterol

Research has shown that niacin supplementation can help lower LDL or bad cholesterol by up to 20% and raise good HDL cholesterol by as much as 35%(3). Plaque filled arteries caused by high cholesterol is a major contributing factor to your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

By improving cholesterol scores, niacin helps keep your heart beating strong.

Niacin Promotes Healthy Skin

When you keep your niacin levels primed, you help your skin look youthful even as you get older. As people age, the amount of UV radiation their skin is exposed to over their lifetime increases. One of the most serious consequences is the development of skin cancer.

However, a trial study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2015 found that oral niacin supplementation in the form of nicotinamide given to participants with non-melanomic skin cancer had a 23% slower growth in cancer than the placebo group (4)

Do You Need to Take a Niacin Supplement?

Supplementation of niacin shouldn’t be necessary if you’re a healthy individual eating a balanced diet. Instead of running to the pharmacy to get all the benefits of niacin supplementation, focus on incorporating these pescatarian foods into your diet. Nutritional data is from whfoods.com.

Pescatarian-Friendly Foods High in Niacin

Here are some of the most niacin-dense foods you can eat on a pescatarian diet.

  1. Tuna

The great thing about tuna is that you can find it in almost every grocery store in North America, it’s easily transportable, and it’s basically pure protein. And here’s one more benefit: in a 4oz serving of tuna, there’s about 25mg of niacin.

However, because tuna can be contaminated with heavy metals like mercury, it’s best to keep your intake under about 2.5 cans a week for a 150lb individual (5).

  1. Cremini mushrooms

You can usually find cremini mushrooms by the white mushrooms at your local grocery store. Cremini mushrooms look similar to their white counterparts except for their tops are brown.

In a 1 cup serving, you receive about 2.7g of niacin for only 16 calories. Add them to your salads, sandwiches or just snack on them for a midday niacin boost.

  1. Salmon

It’s hard to say enough good things about salmon. It’s hands down one of the all-around healthiest foods you can eat.

In a 4oz serving, you receive 9mg of niacin (not to mention omega 3 fatty acids and a spectrum of other vitamins and minerals). If you’re eating a pescatarian diet, this is a great staple food.

  1. Asparagus

Like mushrooms, asparagus offers a high amount of niacin per calorie. In a 1 cup serving you’ll receive 1.95mg of niacin for less than 40 calories.

The downside?

Your urine may smell like asparagus.

  1. Tomatoes

In a cup of tomatoes, you’ll receive 1.1mg of niacin. Again, like the other vegetables on this list, they provide a high nutrient density with very few calories (32 per cup).

Honourable mentions

The following all have more than 1.0g of niacin.

  • Sardines (3.2 ounces)  – 4.8mg
  • Peanuts (¼ cup) – 4.4mg
  • Shrimp (4 oz) – 3.0mg
  • Brown rice (1 cup) – 3.0mg
  • Sweet potato (1 cup) –  2.97mg

Eat a Healthy Diet to Get Enough Niacin

By consuming adequate amounts of these five foods, you shouldn’t have any problem hitting your daily niacin needs. Vitamins and minerals don’t work in isolation, sometimes they interact with each other or fight for absorption which is why it’s better to focus on a diet filled with whole foods opposed to trying to supplement all your nutrients.

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