Biotin is a type of vitamin which is soluble in water. It helps in the healthy growth of cells by enabling the conversion of carbohydrates and fats. Though conclusive evidences are yet to be established, biotin is often prescribed as a diet-based supplement for better growth of nails and hair. Good news is a deficiency of biotin is a very rare occurrence. This is because of two main reasons – (1) many foods have biotin in them and (2) the level of biotin your body needs is quite low. In any case, it helps to know the foods that contain biotin in them. Once you get to know these foods, you can plan and pursue a diet that can provide adequate amounts of biotin.
Biotin is a variant of vitamin-B naturally present in foods. But, intake of foods rich in proteins, carbohydrates and fats is needed to put biotin to use. Biotin is widely associated with the health of your skin, nails and hair.
So, how to tell if the biotin levels in your body are low?
It can be done with a simple sign. If your hair is thinning, it may be a symptom of deficiency of biotin. Foods you eat and a few supplements are most common ways in which you can get this essential vitamin. As an added source, a few types of bacteria in your gastric system are known to make biotin.
Major advantages of taking biotin include-
Maintenance of proper levels of blood sugar – In combination with minerals like chromium, biotin may reduce blood-sugar levels among people living with diabetes. This is possible because biotin activates insulin production, which is essential to bring down the levels of blood sugar.
Health of nails, hair and skin – Biotin can stimulate production of enzymes and proteins needed for healthy hair. In general, health of your nails, skin and hair are based on the availability of a protein component known as keratin. By boosting the synthesis of keratin, biotin ensures proper supply of this protein to your nails, skin and hair. Caution: An excessive supply may lead to nails turning brittle and can weaken your hair follicles.
Stimulates active metabolism – Vitamin B complex – especially B7 – plays a vital role in transforming foods you eat directly into energy. Biotin helps in better metabolism by breaking down fats and carbohydrates present in foods into fatty acids and glucose, respectively.
Biotin has multiple variants; of these, the most naturally available form is known as biotin-D. On an average, daily intake of biotin is observed as almost 50 micrograms among adults. But, nutritional agencies in US have not yet scientifically ascertained the exact levels of biotin consumption per day. This is because of the lack of precise information about the presence of biotin in foods you eat.
Foods that are widely considered as rich sources of biotin are-
Eggs – Vitamin B forms are available in egg yolks. But, a few people stay away from eating the yellow parts of eggs. The risk here is – eating egg whites alone can create vitamin-B deficiency by intervening in its absorption. This intervention is done through a protein called avidin.
The good news is – cooking the egg segregates avidin from biotin. One egg (cooked) can thus supply nearly 10 micrograms of biotin.
Liver (of beef, pork and chicken) – Meat – especially liver, is a reliable source of biotin. A standard serving of 3-ounce of naturally-raised cow’s liver can give as high as 30 micrograms of biotin. You may also consider eating other parts such as kidneys – yet another good source of biotin. Pork also has biotin in it but in relatively lesser levels than beef.
Milk-based foods – Dairy products – such as yogurt, cheese and milk – have different proportions of biotin in them. For instance, an ounce of cheese can give nearly 0.5 microgram while a standard serving of yogurt may have upto 0.25 microgram of biotin in it. Apart from these benefits, cheese (cheddar) is a good source of proteins as well as calcium. A caution: some variants of cheese may have high levels of sodium in them. Those who are on a sodium-free / sodium-conscious diet may need to be more cautious while taking such types of cheese.
Sweet potato – This is another rich source of biotin. A cup of sweet potato can provide upto 5 micrograms of biotin. It is also taken for its added benefits such as high fiber content, presence of a host of vitamins as well as minerals such as potassium. It is also a good dietary supplement to gain beta-carotene – an intermediary form of nutrient which converts itself into vitamin A. This is also a food item that can remove a substantial amount of oxidative stresses from your body.
Fish (such as salmon) – Salmon is known for the copious presence of omega-3 fatty acids. A standard serving of 3-ounce of cooked salmon can give upto 5 micrograms of biotin. Along with biotin, these fatty substances in this fish can boost healthy growth of hair. Salmon is also consumed to boost good cholesterol levels (known as high density lipoprotein – HDL) which can lead to cardiac wellbeing.
Avocado – This plant-based food is a powerhouse of health benefits due to the presence of monounsaturated fatty substances, fiber, vitamin B, K, E, C, etc. It is highly recommended to include it as part of your diet to boost skin health. The presence of an abundant amount of vitamin E is another reason for it. One avocado is estimated to have nearly 5 micrograms of biotin.
Other foods rich in biotin include almonds (half-cup can give you nearly 3 micrograms of biotin), spinach (half cup contains almost 0.45 micrograms), broccoli (has almost the same amount of biotin as present in an equal serving of spinach), oatmeal (a full cup gives upto 0.25 micrograms), bananas (half-cup of this fruit can yield about 0.22 micrograms of biotin), etc.
Intake of biotin – either in its natural form through naturally sourced foods or as dietary supplements – is unlikely to trigger any major adverse effects. But, you may need to be cautious as biotin may adversely interact with a few drugs. If you are taking anti-seizure drugs or anticonvulsants such as phenytoin, carbamazepine, etc. may need to talk to your doctor before stating to take biotin-rich foods. Also, if you are pregnant, some of the health supplements prescribed to you may already have biotin in them. You may need to talk to your doctor if you still need a separate supplement for biotin.
In its supplemental forms, biotin is usually present in multi-mineral as well as multivitamin supplements. These supplements are usually packed as 10 mcg, 50 mcg or 100 mcg variants. Before choosing and starting to eat any of these, it is highly recommended to consult a qualified medical professional.