Choline-Rich Foods: Why You Should Add Them To Your Diet

Written by Sindhu Koganti , BTech (Biotechnology), Diploma In Nutrition

Choline is a much-needed nutrient for many bodily functions. But our body produces choline only in small amounts. Hence, it is important to get this nutrient through diet. Choline is readily available in several plant and animal food sources. It may help improve cognitive performance, enhance cardiovascular health, and reduce the risk of cancer.

In this article, we explore the top choline-rich foods, the nutrient’s health benefits, and how much of it you need. Keep reading.

Choline-Rich Foods

1. Whole Eggs

Eggs are the best and primary source of choline. One large egg with yolk contains 147 mg of choline, which is more concentrated in the yolk (680 mg/100g) than the egg white (1 mg/100 g) (1 ),(2). This essential nutrient gets absorbed easily when consumed in its natural form (bound to phospholipids) than as a supplement. Studies suggest that phospholipids in egg yolk improve choline absorption (3). Higher choline intake can, in turn, improve cognition function in humans (4).

2. Fish

Seafood is a rich source of several nutrients like choline. Fish like tuna, salmon, and haddock have high choline content — and three ounces of smoked salmon contains 187 mg of choline (5). A study by the Child and Family Research Institute, Canada, found that higher fish intake improves blood concentrations of vitamin D, choline, and DHA (omega-3 fatty acid) (6).

3. Organ Meat

Consuming at least 90g of meat per day along with eggs (one per three days) and milk products helps meet the daily choline requirement in children (7). One slice (85g) of beef liver contains 359 mg of choline (8). Beef was shown to improve iron content in blood and enhance cognitive function in young women. However, it had no specific benefit over non-beef protein with regard to iron levels ( 9). Three ounces of chicken liver, chicken broiler, and turkey contain 247 mg, 56 mg, and 71.7 mg of choline, respectively (1),(10).

4. Soy

Raw soybeans (100g) contain 116 mg of choline (11). They can be the ultimate source of choline for vegetarians. Such individuals can also take soy products like tofu, soy milk, tempeh, and edamame.

5. Cruciferous Vegetables

Green vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are rich sources of choline. One cup each of chopped broccoli (91g) and chopped cauliflower (107g) contains 17 mg and 47.4 mg of choline, respectively (12 ),(13). Besides, one cup (160g) of cooked Brussels sprouts provides 31.2 mg of choline (14 ).

6. Potatoes

One medium potato (173g) contains 24.9 mg of choline (15 ). Red potatoes are another great source of choline with carbs. One baked small red potato (138g) provides 26.1 mg of choline (16).

7. Beans

Studies suggest that immature lima beans are the best source of choline for vegans (17). One cup (170g) of lima beans contains 75 mg of choline (18). Also, 100g of kidney beans provides 30.5 mg of choline (19).

8. Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are rich in flavor. Cooked shiitake mushrooms (100g) provide 36.8 mg of choline, and these can be added to your soups, pasta, or stir-fries (20 ). Their regular intake can help improve immunity and reduce inflammatory markers (21). They also have anti-oxidative and anti-atherosclerotic properties that help reduce cardiovascular diseases (22).

9. Cottage Cheese

Dairy products like low-fat milk and cottage cheese are excellent sources of choline. One cup (210g) of cottage cheese contains 38.6 mg of choline (23). It is also rich in calcium, which is essential for maintaining bone health and weight loss (24), (25). Besides, it has a mild taste and is easy to incorporate into your diet. Add it to your salads, baked items, smoothies, or use it as an alternative to sour cream.

10. Almonds

Almonds are highly nutritious tree nuts with many health benefits. One cup (141g) of unroasted almonds contains 73.5 mg of choline (26). You can have them in your breakfast or blend them to make smoothies.

Besides, fruits like kiwi and apples are also rich sources of choline. A half-cup each of raw kiwi and chopped raw apples contain 7 mg and 2 mg of choline, respectively (27).

Consuming foods with choline is associated with many health benefits. Keep scrolling to know them.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Choline?

  • May Improve Brain Function

Choline is an essential nutrient that produces acetylcholine (neurotransmitter). Loss of cholinergic neurons is associated with impaired cognitive function, particularly memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. Higher choline intake is found to improve cognitive performance. A review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that dietary choline intake has neuroprotective effects and can improve cognitive function (28). Choline intake during pregnancy can also improve fetal brain development (29).

  • May Support Heart Health

Long-term choline intake may reduce the risk of inflammatory conditions and cardiovascular diseases (30). A study by Wageningen University, The Netherlands, on post-menopausal women found that high choline intake can lower homocysteine (an amino acid) levels. High homocysteine levels are associated with an increased risk of CVD ( 31).

  • May Help Reduce Cancer Risk

High choline intake may help prevent the development of breast cancer in post-menopausal women. Choline may also help reduce breast cancer mortality once diagnosed (32),( 33). However, limited studies are available to support this claim.

Inadequate intake of choline can impact your health. Let’s discuss the negative effects of choline deficiency in the following section.

Effects Of Choline Deficiency

Choline is a key nutrient in maintaining the integrity of cell structure, DNA synthesis, and metabolism. A study by the March of Dimes in Berkley, California, suggests that low dietary intake of choline in pregnant women significantly increases the risk of neural tube and oral cleft defects in babies (34). Choline deficiency in people is also associated with liver and muscle dysfunction (and damage), apoptosis, and increased DNA strand breaks (35).

You must now be willing to include choline in your diet. But how much choline should you take to meet your dietary needs?

How Much Choline Does A Human Body Need?

Adequate choline requirements for different age groups include (27):

AgeMaleFemale
0-6 months125 mg/day125 mg/day
7-12 months150 mg/day150 mg/day
1-3 years200 mg/day200 mg/day
4-8 years250 mg/day250 mg/day
9-13 years375 mg/day375 mg/day
14-18 years550 mg/day400 mg/day
19+ years550 mg/day425 mg/day

Pregnant women should take 450 mg/day of choline and increase it to 550 mg/day during breastfeeding.

The Takeaway

Choline is an essential nutrient found in both animal- and plant-based foods. Consuming it may help improve brain and heart health and reduce cancer risk. Its deficiency may cause muscle damage and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Remember that pregnant women should consume enough choline for the effective development of the fetal brain. Eat the foods listed above to ensure that your body gets enough choline.

References:

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  1. Choline
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6259877/
  2. The Golden Egg: Nutritional Value, Bioactivities, and Emerging Benefits for Human Health
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6470839/
  3. Natural Choline from Egg Yolk Phospholipids Is More Efficiently Absorbed Compared with Choline Bitartrate; Outcomes of A Randomized Trial in Healthy Adults
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6893749/
  4. A Comprehensive Review of Eggs, Choline, and Lutein on Cognition Across the Life-span
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29451849/
  5. Choline: An Essential Nutrient for Public Health
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782876/
  6. Low fish intake is associated with low blood concentrations of vitamin D choline and n-3 DHA in pregnant women
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22691303/
  7. Choline Intake and Its Food Sources in the Diet of Romanian Kindergarten Children
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579689/
  8. Beef liver braised
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1098653/nutrients
  9. Improvements in Iron Status and Cognitive Function in Young Women Consuming Beef or Non-Beef Lunches
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3916851/
  10. Turkey, whole, breast, meat only, cooked, roasted
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171496/nutrients
  11. Soybeans, mature seeds, raw
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/174270/nutrients
  12. Broccoli raw
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170379/nutrients
  13. Choline and betaine intakes are associated with reduced risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma in adults: a case–control study
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3915107/
  14. Cauliflower, raw
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169986/nutrients
  15. Brussels sprouts, NS as to form, cooked
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103467/nutrients
  16. Potatoes, white, flesh and skin, baked
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170434/nutrients
  17. Potatoes, red, flesh and skin, baked
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170435/nutrients
  18. Choline, Neurological Development and Brain Function: A Systematic Review Focusing on the First 1000 Days
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7352907/
  19. Lima beans, immature seeds, cooked, boiled, drained with salt
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169316/nutrients
  20. Beans, kidney, red, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, with salt
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/175242/nutrients
  21. Mushrooms, shiitake, cooked, without salt
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168437/nutrients
  22. Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25866155/
  23. Lentinula edodes (shiitake mushroom): An assessment of in vitro anti-atherosclerotic bio-functionality
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6302894/
  24. Cheese, cottage, creamed, large or small curd
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1098045/nutrients
  25. Calcium- and Phosphorus-Supplemented Diet Increases Bone Mass after Short-Term Exercise and Increases Bone Mass and Structural Strength after Long-Term Exercise in Adult Mice
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27008546/
  26. Role of dietary calcium and dairy products in modulating adiposity
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12733746/
  27. Almonds, unroasted
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1100508/nutrients
  28. Choline
    https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/
  29. The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252552/
  30. Choline: Critical Role During Fetal Development and Dietary Requirements in Adults
    Choline: Critical Role During Fetal Development and Dietary Requirements in Adults – PMC (nih.gov)
  31. Dietary Choline and Betaine Intakes and Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases: Review of Epidemiological Evidence
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3347848/
  32. Prospective study on dietary intakes of folate, betaine, and choline and cardiovascular disease risk in women
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17375117/
  33. High intakes of choline and betaine reduce breast cancer mortality in a population-based study
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2775010/
  34. Choline metabolism and risk of breast cancer in a population-based study
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2430758/
  35. Dietary choline deficiency causes DNA strand breaks and alters epigenetic marks on DNA and histones
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22041500/

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