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Niacin: What You Need to Know About This Top Vitamin for Increasing Good Cholesterol & Fighting Heart Disease

Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is one nutrient that you don't hear much about, but that is working silently behind the scenes in some very powerful ways. And, like vitamin C, niacin is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that your body excretes it in your urine -- and needs a continuous supply to stay healthy.

Crimini mushrooms

If you like mushrooms, you're in luck! Crimini mushrooms are one of the best sources of niacin out there (and eating them raw maximizes the vitamins).

What is So Good About Niacin?

Niacin's role in your body is to help your digestive system, skin and nerves to function. Meanwhile, niacin helps you to convert food into that thing that most of us can't seem to get enough of ... energy.

Meanwhile, niacin helps your body to process fats, produce DNA (niacin deficiency can even cause DNA damage), and regulate blood sugar and insulin metabolism.

Health Benefits of Niacin: From Cholesterol to Insomnia

Niacin has such a large-scale impact on the body that it's been linked to preventing or treating over 20 serious illnesses, such as:

  • Cataracts

  • Depression

  • Multiple Sclerosis

  • Insomnia

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Diabetes

  • Headaches

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Further, niacin is well known to help lower cholesterol, and is particularly useful for helping to increase good (HDL) cholesterol and decrease triglycerides (a form of fat in your bloodstream). Several studies have even found that niacin can increase HDL by 30 percent while lowering total cholesterol by 10 percent to 25 percent.

But that's not all. Because niacin can help lower high cholesterol and fat levels in the blood, it may also be useful in preventing heart disease.

And, according to a study in the August 2004 issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, eating foods rich in niacin can help protect against Alzheimer's disease and age-related cognitive decline.

Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes

Get more niacin and other healthy vitamins into your diet by trying out the quick, simple and delicious raw recipes in Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes.

What Foods are Rich in Niacin?

As with all vitamins, the best way to get enough niacin in your body is by eating whole foods. It's worth noting, though, that some of the reported benefits (like lowering cholesterol) have been achieved through prescription-strength niacin (not the type available over the counter).

Taking these types of niacin mega-doses should only be done with the supervision of your health care provider, as there can be side effects, including flushing, hot flashes, peptic ulcers, skin rashes and liver damage.

That said, getting niacin from whole foods is an excellent way to ensure that you're getting just the right amount (the RDA is 16 mg/day for men, and 14 mg/day for women). A variety of foods are rich in this powerful vitamin, including:

If you're looking to get more niacin (and a host of other healthy nutrients) into your diet, be sure to also check out Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes. This incredibly unique and highly recommended cookbook has quick and easy recipes for stuffed mushrooms, salads, and veggie dishes -- all made from raw, healthy ingredients. Best of all, the recipes can be made in a snap, so you, and your family, can eat healthy every night of the week!

Recommended Reading

The 10 Vitamins & Other Nutrients That can be HARMFUL When Taken in Excess

Do You Really Need a Multivitamin Supplement?


The World's Healthiest Foods

The Linus Pauling Institute

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