We all know we don’t get enough of some key nutrients. From vitamin B-12 to Potassium, Calcium to Iron, most of us have some work to do when it comes to eating a wholesome diet. Unfortunately, new research has added yet another nutrient to that list. In this case, it’s one you may not have heard of.
It’s called choline, and we’re apparently pretty bad at consuming it.
Choline was recognized by the Institute of Medicine as an essential nutrient in 1998. The nutrient is present in eggs, dairy, and meat. For the past 12 years, the Institute of Medicine has left the recommended daily choline intake at 550mg per day for men and 425mg per day for women. That amount of choline isn’t too difficult to achieve – one egg has around 115mg of choline, and it is abundant in other animal products.
However, recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show that around 90 percent of children, pregnant women, and adults are not getting enough. Go figure.
What is Choline Good For?
Choline is essential to brain and nervous system function, as it helps regulate essential functions like memory, mood, and muscle control. The nutrient is also needed to form membranes in the body’s cells. Human bodies naturally produce choline, specifically in the liver, but most choline we need comes from the food we eat.
Where is Choline Found?
Choline occurs naturally in egg yolks, fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon), most meats, and dairy. Eggs are often cited as the best source of the nutrient, as one large egg can provide around 25 percent of the daily recommended dose of it in adults.
So, What’s the Problem?
In the recently published data, the rise of plant-based diets has worsened the choline deficiency, especially in children and pregnant women. Choline is transported to the fetus in utero, and it aids in the development of the brain and spinal cord. Without it, the cognitive development of a fetus may be affected. The body does not produce enough choline on its own to supplement the growing child. This is kind of a big deal; recent research finds that less than 9 percent of pregnant women meet the minimum daily choline requirement.
What to Do
If you’re reading this as a vegan or vegetarian, you’re probably freaking out. Don’t worry – there are other ways to get choline besides animal products. Cruciferous vegetables, like brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower, as well as wheat germ, peanuts, and many types of beans, include choline. Half a cup of broccoli has just over 30mg of the nutrient. It’s not great, but it’s something.
There are also nutritional supplements on the market to aid in achieving your daily recommended dose. If you are a vegan, be sure to find a supplement that is plant-based. However, it is not a very common ingredient in multi-vitamins, so double-check to ensure it’s present.