Biotin is known as the hair, skin and nails nutrient, but the B vitamin does a whole lot more.
Also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H, biotin plays a key role in digestion, gene expression and communication between cells in the body, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
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FYI, It's true that biotin supports hair and nail growth, but it's not guaranteed to strengthen and lengthen if you aren't actually deficient in the B vitamin, according to an August 2017 review in Skin Appendage Disorders. So if you're eating biotin-rich foods for hair growth, know that the vitamin probably can't lengthen your locks.
And considering a true biotin deficiency is rare, most of us don't need to take biotin supplements.
While there's no evidence that high-dose biotin supplements cause harm, they may alter lab results like vitamin D and thyroid hormone levels, according to the NIH. Always tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking before getting lab work done.
How Much Biotin Do You Need Per Day?
Many vitamins come with a recommended dietary allowance (RDA), which represents the amount of a nutrient most people should eat daily in order to meet their needs. When there isn’t sufficient research to determine an RDA, experts apply an adequate intake, or AI, instead. AIs represent the daily intake level that’s likely to meet most people's needs for a specific nutrient.
That’s where biotin comes in. The vitamin comes with an AI instead of an RDA. The AI for all people over 19 years of age (including those who are pregnant) is 30 micrograms (mcg) of biotin per day. Lactating people require slightly more biotin, with an AI of 35 mcg per day.
Biotin is water-soluble, which means your body does not store it and so you have to get the nutrient from food.
Here are 10 vitamin B7 foods to add to your diet, per the NIH. The Daily Value (DV) percentages below are based on an AI of 30 micrograms of biotin per day.
1. Beef Liver: 30.8 mcg, 103% Daily Value (DV)
Beef liver is an undeniably stellar source of B vitamins like riboflavin, B12 and folate. It's also the best source of biotin. A 3-ounce serving of beef liver provides more than your full day's worth of biotin and an astounding 2,944 percent of the DV for B12, per the NIH.
2. Egg Yolks: 10 mcg, 33% DV
The egg yolk contains the biotin, and one whole, cooked egg serves up 33 percent of the DV. Not only are eggs one of the top food sources of biotin, but they're also rich in key nutrients like protein, vitamin D and choline.
Friendly reminder: Vitamin D is essential for bone health and immune function, while choline is critical for neural development in fetuses. Give your hand a go at these tasty egg recipes you haven't tried yet.
3. Salmon: 5 mcg, 17% DV
Salmon is loaded with good-for-you nutrients, including immune-supportive vitamin D, omega-3s and — you guessed it — biotin. Three ounces of canned salmon provides 17 percent of the DV for biotin.
Plus, canned salmon is a great source of calcium, as it's typically packed with its bones. The bones are ultra-thin and often crushed up, so you won't run the risk of choking on them like you may when you find a stray bone in your salmon filet.
Go ahead and get creative with these protein-rich canned fish recipes.
4. Pork Chops: 3.8 mcg, 13% DV
A 3-ounce cooked pork chop provides 13 percent of the DV for biotin. Pair the protein with antioxidant-rich vegetables like spinach and sweet potato, both of which also provide biotin, for a balanced meal.
Pork tenderloin is the leanest cut of pork. Opt for tenderloin over fattier cuts like pork belly or ribs if you're looking to eat less saturated fat.
5. Beef: 3.8 mcg, 13% DV
There's biotin in that burger. A 3-ounce beef patty provides 13 percent of DV for biotin, plus iron and protein.
If it's doable for you, consider opting for grass-fed beef, which tends to be higher in antioxidants like vitamin E as well as anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, per the Mayo Clinic.
6. Sunflower Seeds: 2.6 mcg, 9% DV
One of the richest sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, sunflower seeds are also one of the best vegetarian biotin-rich foods.
You'll get 9 percent of the DV for biotin from a 1/4-cup serving of roasted sunflower seeds. Feel free to sprinkle the seeds on your salads for extra nutrients.
7. Sweet Potato: 2.4 mcg, 8% DV
An excellent source of energizing carbohydrates, sweet potatoes also serve up some biotin. A ½-cup serving of cooked sweet potatoes offers 8 percent of the DV for biotin.
Sweet potatoes also put key antioxidants like beta-carotene to your plate, plus fiber and potassium. If you're bored of the standard baked spud, try one of these surprising sweet potato recipes — cookies and nachos included.
8. Almonds: 1.5 mcg, 5% DV
We're pretty nuts for nuts. Not only are nuts a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, but they also deliver fiber and vitamin E.
That nutrient-dense makeup may be part of the reason why studies have shown that eating just 1 ounce of nuts daily is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer, per a December 2016 systematic review in BMC Medicine.
A ¼-cup serving of roasted almonds will bring you 5 percent of the DV for biotin. Add them to just about any meal of the day, like oatmeal in the a.m. and a grain bowl at dinner.
9. Tuna: 0.6 mcg, 2% DV
Though the same portion of canned salmon contains more biotin, canned tuna also provides a bit of the B vitamin. A 3-ounce serving of canned tuna delivers 2 percent of the DV for biotin.
10. Spinach: 0.5, 2% DV
Though better known for its non-heme iron, potassium and vitamin K, this leafy green is a vegan source of biotin. A1/2-cup serving of boiled spinach has 2 percent of the DV for vitamin B7.
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin. That means boiling foods that contain biotin may result in less of the nutrient in the final product, as the vitamin can leach into the water during boiling. Instead of boiling spinach, try steaming it, eating it raw or reserving the water left over from boiling for use in soups.
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- National Institutes of Health: "Biotin Fact Sheet for Health Professionals"
- Mayo Clinic: “Grass Fed Beef: What are the Health Benefits?”
- Skin Appendage Disorders: “A Review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss”
- BMC Medicine: “Nut Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Total Cancer, All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies”
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin B12 Fact Sheet for Health Professionals"