Biotin exists in a variety of foods, both as non-vegan and vegan biotin depending on the food source.
While more concentrated in non-vegan sources like organ meats and eggs, vegan biotin is easily consumed in sufficient amounts on a plant-based diet if consuming a variety of foods.
Learn more about biotin, its effectiveness for hair, skin, and nails, and a list of sources for vegan biotin below.
What Is Biotin?
Biotin is one of the water-soluble B vitamins, meaning fat does not have to be present for it to be absorbed when consumed.
Its main function is as a coenzyme for specific proteins in carboxylation reactions.
Coenzymes are like ‘assistants’ attached to enzymes to help the enzyme complete its function.
In other words, the enzyme cannot function without the coenzyme.
Biotin specifically functions as several of these ‘assistants’ in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and protein, and several other cellular processes like gene expression.
As a coenzyme, biotin is typically bound to protein both in food and when moving in the body.
Because of this, it requires an enzyme called biotinidase to free the biotin for use in the body or storage in the liver.
Biotin is found in the diet in a wide variety of foods, but a significant amount is produced in the intestinal tract to meet the body’s needs.
The availability of biotin in many foods and our body’s ability to produce our own are two of nature’s awesome innate methods to assure we have adequate amounts of this important vitamin.
That being said, it is still important to be mindful of choosing foods that provide us with these vital nutrients – so scroll down for a handy list of sources of vegan biotin!
Sources of Vegan Biotin
Biotin is generally in smaller amounts in a variety of plant foods, but there are still a few vegan options that plant-based eaters can find this vitamin in higher amounts.
Eating a varied diet with lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes (in other words, fiber!) will contribute to a healthier and more balanced gut microbiome to support optimal vitamin production, like biotin.
- soybeans (tofu, tempeh, edamame, miso, etc.)
- sunflower seeds
- sweet potatoes
Since the amount of biotin produced in the gut varies per individual, an adequate intake (AI) has been established for biotin requirements for adults.
The AI of biotin is 30 micrograms (mcg) per day for adults 19 years and older.
A ¼ cup of roasted sunflower seeds contains 2.6 mcg of biotin, for reference.
Always aim to get your nutrient requirements from food before supplements, when possible.
Important cooking note:
Biotin is water-soluble, so much of the vitamin will be lost in the cooking water for foods that are boiled, and the water is discarded.
Try steaming foods for more nutrient preservation.
The biotin content of cereal grains and canned foods may be lower due to changes from soil, weather, and processing techniques.
Vegan Biotin Supplements and Possible Interactions
You can find biotin in biotin-only, B-complex vitamin, and some multivitamin supplements.
While biotin deficiency is rare, there are some key things to know if you or your doctor decide you need to supplement with biotin.
Hair, Skin, and Nails – Does It Really Help?
Probably its most popular reason for use, biotin has long been known for its claimed use of promoting healthier hair, skin, and nails.
I am no stranger to this claim and believing it to be true. In fact, I used to take a biotin supplement specifically for this health claim.
Spoiler alert: it never worked.
As it turns out, there are limited studies on the effectiveness of biotin supplementation on hair, skin, and nails.
And the studies that do exist?
Current studies on biotin supplementation effectiveness on hair, skin, and nails have poorly designed methods and procedures that lack control groups or other important measures to limit bias.
So where do the claims come from?
One of biotin’s main functions is forming new proteins. Keratin, the main protein in hair, skin, and nails, does require biotin for the process of making new protein structures.
Unfortunately, studies lack sufficient evidence that biotin supplementation has direct and significant effects on hair, skin, and nail strength.
This may be due to the fact that biotin deficiency is rare and benefits of supplementation of biotin may only occur if a person is deficient.
You can likely conclude that biotin supplements are more a waste of your dollar unless you’ve established with your doctor that you have a biotin deficiency.
Laboratory Test Interactions
Studies have found that biotin supplementation interferes with thyroid function tests, vitamin D tests, among others.
Tell your doctor if you are taking any supplements prior to any tests or procedures to assure you are getting accurate results, and therefore accurate care.
A few studies found that people taking anticonvulsant medication for epilepsy had significantly lower serum biotin levels.
It is worth discussing with your doctor to monitor biotin levels if you take anticonvulsant medication to avoid deficiency.
If you must increase your biotin intake, ask your doctor to meet with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to make a plan to increase your intake of biotin-containing foods and optimize your gut microbiome.
Antibiotics may cause reduction or elimination of gut microbes when consumed for several or more months.
Higher biotin intake may be needed for patients on antibiotic therapy for prolonged periods of time.
Work with your doctor and RDN to monitor micronutrient levels and gut health if you are taking antibiotics.
Biotin deficiency is rare but may occur if one…
- does not consume a varied diet
- consumes an excessive amount of raw egg whites regularly
- is missing biotinidase (the enzyme needed to use biotin)
- has alcoholism (interferes with digestion and absorption of most nutrients)
The avidin, or protein in raw egg whites, strongly binds to biotin making it unavailable for absorption when consumed.
While this blog is mainly discussing vegan biotin, it is worth mentioning that if you do consume egg whites to cook them to inactivate the avidin so it does not bind biotin.
Biotin deficiency may result:
- Muscle pain
- Inflammation of the tongue
There is no known toxicity associated with excessive biotin consumption, only concerns for interference with laboratory test results.
Please check with your doctor if you have concerns of biotin deficiency, although rare.
Biotin is readily available in a wide variety of foods and most people do not struggle to meet the daily requirements.
Legumes, nuts, seeds, and some vegetables are great sources of vegan biotin for plant-based folks.
If you are curious about supplementing biotin for improved hair, skin, and nails, my recommendation is to save your money!
There is no sufficient evidence to support the use of biotin supplementation for stronger hair, skin, and nails.
Sources of Information
Biotin: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals [Fact Sheet]. (2022). National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-HealthProfessional/
Schalinske, K. L., Borcherding, N., & Rowling, M. (2018). Advanced Nutrition and Regulation of Metabolism (1st ed.). Cognella Academic Publishing. (Schalinske et al., 2018).
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Rachel Badtke, RDN, CPT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) through the American Council on Exercise (ACE). She specializes in holistic wellness and whole food plant-focused nutrition. Rachel holds a Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and an ACE-approved certificate of completion in Advanced Sports Nutrition.