You may have heard that biotin is essential for healthy hair, skin, and nails, but what is biotin? And where can you find vegan biotin sources?
In this post we’ll discuss what biotin is, its health benefits, vegan foods high in biotin, and whether biotin supplements are helpful or not.
What is biotin?
Biotin, also known as Vitamin B7, is a water-soluble vitamin with many important functions. It aids the body in converting food into energy, producing fatty acids, and processing amino acids.
A small amount of biotin is produced by gut bacteria in the large intestine, but it isn’t enough to meet the body’s requirements. For this reason, we must get biotin from dietary sources (1).
Health benefits of biotin
Biotin deficiencies are rare, but serious when they do occur. A biotin deficiency1 can result in hair loss, ataxia (loss of coordination and balance), red skin rashes, fatigue, and seizures. Experts are investigating whether a marginal biotin deficiency during pregnancy may increase the risk of congenital abnormalities.
How much biotin do you need?
Health authorities recommend an Adequate Intake (AI) level of 30 micrograms (mcg) per day of biotin. This is the average amount estimated to meet the biotin needs of the whole population, meaning some people may require more or less than 30 mcg per day.
This recommendation was extrapolated2 from the amount of biotin that infants get from breastmilk, and may be higher than what is actually required by adults.1 However, most experts agree with the recommendation for 30 mcg per day.
Pregnant women do not have higher biotin needs, but the recommendation increases to 35 mcg per day when breastfeeding.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much research specifically looking at the biotin status of vegans. One 1989 study3 assessed the biotin status of vegans, lacto-ovo-vegetarians, and omnivores in the US by measuring the levels of biotin in their blood and the amount removed from the body through their urine. The study authors concluded that the vegan group likely was not deficient in biotin.
A more recent study4 from 2017 looking at the biotin status of vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores in Switzerland also found that vegans had adequate levels of biotin in their diets and in their blood. 7.5% of vegans in this study were deficient in biotin, but this was not specific to veganism since a similar number of vegetarians and omnivores were also deficient.
31 best vegan biotin sources from food
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Unfortunately, information on the biotin content5 of foods is scarce. The available data6 we have is based on only a few studies that have measured7 it in certain foods.
It’s important to note that the biotin content of foods varies based on the soil and area of the world in which the crop was grown, so the biotin content of some foods may vary from this list. For example, the biotin content of the instant coffee listed here from Brazil may differ from that of instant coffee sourced from Guatemala.
1. Instant coffee – 25 mcg
One rounded teaspoon of dry instant coffee from Brazil was found to have 25 mcg of biotin in a Japanese study (6), almost 100% of the daily recommendation!
2. Nutritional yeast – 0.6-21 mcg
Nutritional yeast is a dry, flaky powder made from deactivated yeast which can be used to add a cheesy flavor to many dishes. Its biotin content seems to vary widely based on the brand, if reported at all. The brands I was able to find that report biotin content include:
- Frontier Co-op (not fortified): 0.6 mcg in ¼ cup
- KAL: 3 mcg in 6 tablets
- Foods Alive (non-fortified): 7.5 mcg in 1.5 Tbsp
- Red Star: 21 mcg in 1.5 Tbsp
3. Fava (broad) beans – 16.3 mcg
Fava beans have been increasing in popularity recently, and for good reason. A half-cup serving contains 16.3 mcg of biotin, just over 50% of the recommended intake.
4. Chickpeas, boiled – 11.6 mcg
Chickpeas have long been a staple in vegan and plant-based diets for their protein content and versatility. A half-cup serving contains 11.6 mcg of biotin, so enjoy some hummus and falafel or snack on roasted chickpeas this week!
5. Peas – 7-11 mcg
Green peas have been a popular side dish for years as a source of protein and complex carbohydrates, not to mention their beautiful color. A half-cup serving has been found to contain between 7-11 mcg of biotin.
6. Rolled oats – 7.6 mcg
A half-cup serving of rolled oats served hot or cold as overnight oats contains 7.6 mcg of biotin. If you’re not an oatmeal fan, try making oat-based energy bites or baking with oat flour.
7. Edamame – 3-7 mcg
Edamame, or immature soybeans, can be found still in their pods or shelled. In a half-cup serving of edamame pods, the edible portion (the soybeans) can contain between 3-7 mcg of biotin. Try them in their pods drizzled with soy sauce, or use the shelled edamame in stir-fries, Buddha bowls, or roasted for a delicious snack.
8. Kidney beans – 5 mcg
A half-cup serving of cooked kidney beans contains 5 mcg of biotin, so now may be a good time to try a recipe for vegan red beans and rice or 3-bean chili.
9. Peanuts – 5 mcg
1 ounce (about a handful) of roasted, salted peanuts also contains 5 mcg of biotin. Eat them as a snack, add a crunchy element to oatmeal or non-dairy yogurt, or spread peanut butter on a banana or slice of whole grain toast.
10. Cashews – 4.7 mcg
Like peanuts, 1 ounce of roasted, salted cashews contains almost 5 mcg of biotin. They can be eaten in a trail mix with dried fruit for a balanced snack or soaked and blended into cashew queso or a creamy pasta sauce.
11. Tofu – 4.3 mcg
There are about 4.3 mcg of biotin in one-fifth of a block of firm or silken tofu, another extremely versatile plant protein. Firm tofu can be crumbled and sauteed, air-fried, or marinated and baked, while silken tofu can be blended into sauces or eaten raw with flavorful toppings.
For more ideas on how to prepare tofu, check out my blog post entitled “What Does Tofu Taste Like?”.
12. Pumpkin seeds – 3.6 mcg
1 ounce of pumpkin seeds provides 3.6 mcg of biotin and 9 grams protein in addition to iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. They are delicious on their own, on top of oatmeal or yogurt, in homemade fruit-and-nut bars, or in place of pine nuts in pesto.
13. Brown rice – 3.4 mcg
Cooked brown rice is a whole grain with 3.4 mcg of biotin in a half-cup serving, making it a great base for stir-fries, curries, or Buddha bowls.
14. Hemp Seeds – 2.7 mcg
Hemp seeds are very nutrient-dense, containing omega-3 fatty acids, 3 grams of protein, and 2.7 mcg of biotin in just 1 tablespoon! Add hemp seeds to smoothies, cereal, non-dairy yogurt, baked goods, or grind them with nutritional yeast to make vegan “parmesan” for pasta dishes.
15. Sunflower seeds – 2.6 mcg
A quarter cup of roasted sunflower seeds provides 2.6 mcg of biotin.
16. Mushrooms – 2.6 mcg
A 4-ounce can of mushrooms or ⅔ cup fresh contains 2.6 mcg of biotin, so don’t hesitate to add mushrooms to your favorite veggie-filled meals. If you don’t like the texture of mushrooms, try chopping them into very small pieces in a food processor and sauteing them as a base for vegan “meat” or Bolognese sauces – you probably won’t even notice them!
17. Sweet potato – 2.4 mcg
Sweet potatoes are a great source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and antioxidants, along with providing 2.4 mcg of biotin in a half-cup serving.
18. Buckwheat (soba) noodles – 2.3 mcg
Soba noodles originate from Japan and are made specifically with buckwheat flour. There are 2.3 mcg of biotin in a 3.5 ounce serving of cooked soba noodles.
19. Frozen corn – 2 mcg
Frozen corn is an affordable and convenient source of complex carbohydrates, with 2 mcg of biotin in a half-cup serving.
20. Soybean miso – 1.7 mcg
Miso is a salty paste made from fermented soybeans, most commonly used in miso soup. It contains 1.7 mcg of biotin in 2 teaspoons and can be added to sauces and soups for a salty, umami flavor.
21. Strawberries – 1.7 mcg
Strawberries are a common favorite thanks to their fresh, sweet flavor and beautiful red color, not to mention how well they pair with dark chocolate! A half-cup serving contains 1.7 mcg of biotin, so try eating them raw or on top of oatmeal, cereal, or almond butter toast.
22. Almonds – 1.5 mcg
A quarter cup of roasted almonds provides 1.5 mcg of biotin, 7 grams protein, and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. In addition to eating whole almonds, use almond butter on toast and bananas or in smoothies, oatmeal, and baked goods.
23. Popcorn – 1.2 mcg
No need to skip popcorn on movie night! 3 cups of oil-popped, salted popcorn contains 1.2 mcg of biotin. You can pop your own and top it with nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor and even more biotin. Just watch out for movie theater popcorn or bags of microwavable popcorn containing butter or dairy ingredients.
24. Mandarin oranges and orange juice – 0.8-1 mcg
An 8-ounce glass of orange juice from concentrate contains a small amount of biotin, about 1 mcg, while a half-cup serving of mandarin oranges has about 0.8 mcg.
25. Whole wheat bread – 0.9 mcg
1 slice of whole wheat bread contains 0.9 mcg, which can certainly contribute to a person’s overall biotin intake considering that a sandwich is typically made with two slices.
26. Walnuts – 0.8 mcg
1 ounce of walnuts provides 0.8 mcg of biotin and even more omega-3 fatty acids than hemp seeds do! They make a great snack or crunchy topping for baked oatmeal.
27. Pecans – 0.6 mcg
There are 0.6 mcg of biotin in 1 ounce of fresh pecans. While perhaps best known as the main ingredient in pecan pies during the winter holidays, pecans are also a great topping for summer fruit like peaches.
28. Tomatoes – 0.6 mcg
A half-cup serving of raw tomatoes also contains 0.6 mcg of biotin, great news considering how popular and versatile tomatoes are. Using them to top bruschetta and vegan pizza, in ratatouille, or adding Pico de Gallo to burrito bowls are just a few ideas for including more tomatoes in your diet.
29. Spinach, boiled – 0.5 mcg
Best known for its iron content, boiled spinach also provides 0.5 mcg of biotin in a half-cup serving. Frozen spinach is convenient and affordable, and can easily be added to soups or vegan stuffed pasta shells.
30. Broccoli – 0.4 mcg
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable providing 0.4 mcg of biotin in a half-cup serving. If you don’t like broccoli, consider trying it prepared in a new way, whether steamed, roasted, or blended into a soup.
31. Avocado – 0.4 mcg
Avocados are well-known for their heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and creamy texture. A ¼ cup serving contains 0.4 mcg of biotin, so try adding this unique fruit on tacos, burrito bowls, toast, Buddha bowls, or even in smoothies.
Should vegans take a biotin supplement?
While there are a plethora of claims touting the benefits of biotin supplements for healthy skin, hair, and nails, there isn’t much evidence to support this. Since most people get enough biotin from foods and deficiency is rare, getting extra biotin from supplements likely won’t provide much of a benefit since the body removes excess biotin through urination.
There are currently no studies8 showing that biotin supplementation9 in healthy people without a biotin deficiency is useful for improving the quality of hair and nails.
Studies that did show improvements were conducted in people who were deficient in biotin or who had other underlying conditions, such as alopecia or uncombable hair syndrome leading to hair loss/poor hair quality or brittle nails.
Because biotin is present in a variety of plant-based foods and vegans have been shown to have adequate amounts of biotin in their diets and in their blood, biotin supplements are generally not recommended for vegans. If you find you are not getting enough biotin in your diet, it’s best to try eating more biotin-rich foods first.
If you wish to take a biotin supplement, choose one that is third-party tested to ensure that the amount of biotin listed on the bottle is accurate. Also be aware of non-vegan ingredients commonly found in supplements, such as gelatin, beeswax, and carmine (a red food dye obtained from the cochineal beetle).
Can you get too much biotin?
Biotin supplements are available in a range of doses, most commonly between 600-5,000 mcg, with some containing up to 10,000 mcg. Compare this to the AI for biotin, which is only 30 mcg.
Although there is no established Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for biotin and toxicity is rare, there are still some risks to consuming excess biotin from supplements.
High dose biotin supplementation using doses of 30-100 milligrams (mg) per day have been shown to interfere with diagnostic tests10 for thyroid function, natriuretic peptide (a marker of congestive heart failure), and troponin (a marker for heart attacks), causing inaccurate results and potentially leading11 to false diagnoses.
However, since these studies used much higher doses of 30-100 milligrams as compared to most over-the-counter supplements with doses in micrograms, it is unclear whether taking a lower dose biotin supplement as found in most stores would have the same effect on diagnostic test results.
Biotin, also called Vitamin B7, is an important B-vitamin that helps the body produce energy and supports healthy hair growth, nails, and skin.
Biotin deficiencies are rare, even on a vegan diet, since biotin is present in a wide variety of plant-based foods. The best vegan sources of biotin include instant coffee, nutritional yeast, certain beans and legumes, some soy foods and whole grains, nuts and seeds, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and strawberries.
While biotin supplements for healthy hair, nails, and skin are quite popular, there is no evidence supporting their use in people who do not have a biotin deficiency or related health condition leading to hair loss or poor-quality nails and skin. Very high dose biotin supplements can cause inaccurate results on diagnostic tests for thyroid and cardiac function.
Vegans should be able to get plenty of biotin by eating a variety of biotin rich foods. If you struggle with getting enough variety or are not sure what to eat on a vegan diet to best support your health, consider speaking with a vegan registered dietitian.
- Higdon, Jane. Biotin. Linus Pauling Institute website. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/biotin. Accessed August 17, 2022.
- Institute of Medicine (US) Subcommittee on Interpretation and Uses of Dietary Reference Intakes; Institute of Medicine (US) Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes. DRI Dietary Reference Intakes: Applications in Dietary Assessment. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2000. 5, Using the Adequate Intake for Nutrient Assessment of Groups. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK222886/.
- Lombard KA, Mock DM. Biotin nutritional status of vegans, lactoovovegetarians, and nonvegetarians. Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 Sep;50(3):486-90. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/50.3.486. PMID: 2773827.
- Schüpbach R, Wegmüller R, Berguerand C, Bui M, Herter-Aeberli I. Micronutrient status and intake in omnivores, vegetarians and vegans in Switzerland. Eur J Nutr. 2017 Feb;56(1):283-293. doi: 10.1007/s00394-015-1079-7. Epub 2015 Oct 26. PMID: 26502280.
- Staggs CG, Sealey WM, McCabe BJ, Teague AM, Mock DM. Determination of the biotin content of select foods using accurate and sensitive HPLC/avidin binding. J Food Compost Anal. 2004 Dec;17(6):767-776. doi: 10.1016/j.jfca.2003.09.015. PMID: 16648879; PMCID: PMC1450323.
- Hayakawa K, Katsumata N, Abe K, Hirano M, Yoshikawa K, Ogata T, Horikawa R, Nagamine T. Wide Range of Biotin (Vitamin H) Content in Foodstuffs and Powdered Milks as Assessed by High-performance Affinity Chromatography. Clin Pediatr Endocrinol. 2009;18(1):41-9. doi: 10.1297/cpe.18.41. Epub 2009 Feb 19. PMID: 24790379; PMCID: PMC4004883.
- Watanabe T. Biotin content table of select foods and biotin intake in Japanese. Int J Anal Bio-Sci Vol.2, No 4 (2014).
- Patel DP, Swink SM, Castelo-Soccio L. A Review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss. Skin Appendage Disord. 2017 Aug;3(3):166-169. doi: 10.1159/000462981. Epub 2017 Apr 27. PMID: 28879195; PMCID: PMC5582478.
- Soleymani T, Lo Sicco K, Shapiro J. The Infatuation With Biotin Supplementation: Is There Truth Behind Its Rising Popularity? A Comparative Analysis of Clinical Efficacy versus Social Popularity. J Drugs Dermatol. 2017 May 1;16(5):496-500. PMID: 28628687.
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Biotin – Health Professional Fact Sheet. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-HealthProfessional/#en5. Accessed August 18, 2022.
- Chun KY. Biotin Interference in Diagnostic Tests. Clin Chem. 2017 Feb;63(2):619-620. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2016.267286. PMID: 28130485.