Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin and an essential nutrient. Also called vitamin B-7, biotin helps convert food into fuel for the body.
A lack of biotin can lead to problems with the nervous system, skin, hair, and nails, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). It may also support the immune system.
Many people take biotin to improve the condition of their hair and nails, but little evidence supports this use, in most cases.
Biotin is water-soluble, which means that the body cannot store it — a person needs to get it from their diet. The gut can create some biotin, but experts do not know how much of this the body can absorb.
Biotin is present in many foods, including egg yolk, liver, avocado, and some vegetables. It is also available as a supplement.
In this article, find out more about foods that provide biotin and ideas for incorporating them into the diet.
Eating a varied diet can usually provide enough biotin for most people's needs.
Below are some good dietary sources of biotin.
Liver and other meats
Including liver in the diet can boost a person's biotin intake.
A 3-ounce serving of cooked beef liver contains about 31 micrograms (mcg) of biotin.
Other organ meats, such as kidney, are also good sources.
Different types of meat contain less biotin, but they are still relatively good sources. For example, a 3-ounce pork chop provides nearly 4 mcg, as does a cooked hamburger patty.
A 3-ounce serving of meat is approximately the size of a deck of cards.
Liver is also a good source of iron. Here, find out why we need iron.
Egg yolk is a good source of biotin. A whole, cooked egg provides up to 10 mcg.
To maximize the intake of biotin and for safety reasons, always cook eggs before eating them.
Raw egg white contains a protein called dietary avidin, which binds to biotin and makes it harder for the body to absorb it. Cooking separates the biotin from the avidin, helping the digestive tract to absorb the vitamin.
What else is there to know about egg yolk? Learn more here.
Both brewer's yeast and nutritional yeast are good sources of biotin. However, the biotin contents can vary by brand.
Brewer's yeast is an active yeast that people use to make beer and bread. Nutritional yeast is inactive. People use it to add a cheesy or nutty flavor to foods.
According to the manufacturers of a popular brand of nutritional yeast, 1 serving — of 2 heaping tablespoons — provides nearly 21 mcg of biotin. This translates to 7% of an adequate intake.
How can nutritional yeast boost a person's health? Find out here.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are generally good sources of biotin, although the amount of the vitamin varies. Almonds, peanuts, walnuts, and pecans, for example, all provide biotin.
A quarter-cup of roasted almonds contains 1.5 mcg of biotin. A quarter-cup of roasted sunflower seeds contains 2.6 mcg.
Which nuts are the most healthful? Find out here.
A 3-ounce cooked serving of salmon contains 5 mcg of biotin.
What are the health benefits of eating salmon? Find out here.
Milk, cheese, and yogurt all contain biotin in varying amounts.
According to the ODS:
- an ounce of cheddar cheese provides 0.4 mcg of biotin
- a cup of 2% milk has 0.3 mcg
- a cup of plain yogurt contains 0.2 mcg
What are the health-related pros and cons of eating cheese? Find out here.
A 100-gram serving of avocado contains 3.2 to 10 mcg of biotin.
Avocados may be a good option for people looking to protect skin health because, like nuts and seeds, avocado is rich in vitamin E.
Sweet potatoes are rich in biotin. A half-cup of cooked sweet potato contains approximately 2.4 mcg of the vitamin.
What other health benefits can sweet potatoes offer? Find out here.
A half-cup of fresh broccoli provides 0.4 mcg of biotin.
- Here are some tips for using broccoli:
- Steam it for 5 minutes and serve it as a side dish.
- Break it into florets and add them to any stir-fry.
Here, learn about the health benefits of broccoli's cousin — cauliflower.
Scientists do not know exactly how much biotin a person should consume each day.
However, according to the ODS, a daily adequate intake for adults is 30 mcg. During breastfeeding, they recommend 35 mcg.
Research suggests that the average diet of Western populations provides 35–70 mcg of biotin per day.
People who may be at risk of a deficiency include those who:
- are pregnant or breastfeeding
- regularly consume high amounts of alcohol
- have a biotinidase deficiency, meaning that the body is unable to release biotin from dietary protein
A deficiency can lead to hair and skin problems, while a severe deficiency can result in neurological problems and a range of other symptoms.
Fresh foods may be better sources of biotin than processed foods. Canning, for example, can reduce biotin levels. The amount of biotin in any food may also depend on the season.
If a person has a deficiency, a biotin supplement can boost levels in the body. However, anyone considering taking a supplement should consult a doctor first.
Learn more about the possible health benefits of biotin here.
Biotin supplements are available from pharmacies and online shops.
Consuming biotin in food is unlikely to pose a risk. Even in people who take supplements, there is no evidence that high levels of biotin are toxic.
However, biotin supplements may interfere with other medications, including those that treat seizures.
Women taking prenatal supplements that contain biotin are unlikely to need an additional biotin supplement.
Speak to a doctor before trying any supplement. This is especially important for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and people who are taking any medications.
Most people consume enough biotin in their diet. A biotin deficiency is rare, though pregnancy, breastfeeding, and a few other factors can increase the risk.
People can ensure that they have a sufficient biotin intake by consuming foods rich in the vitamin. Some examples include liver, eggs, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
Can biotin really help improve my hair, skin, and nails? I hear conflicting stories.
Answer: Biotin is an essential nutrient that plays a role in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
Most people get more than enough biotin through their diet. However, many take biotin supplements to boost the health of their skin, hair, and nails.
Many say that the supplement works wonders, though research suggests that it will only help if a person has a health condition, such as a biotin deficiency or brittle nail syndrome.
Since biotin supplementation is safe for most people, trying out a hair, skin, and nail supplement will likely not cause damage. However, you may end up spending money on something that is ineffective.
The best way to improve the health of your hair, skin, and nails — as well as your overall health — is to follow a nutritious, well-rounded diet.Jillian Kubala, MS, RD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.