Choline has a number of important roles in the body. We don’t hear much about choline in the nutrition press, but some researchers have called it a “brain-building” nutrient. Here I explore what it does, why I think it deserves your attention and which foods give you this important micronutrient.
What does choline do?
It is needed for neurocognition, fat metabolism and for normal liver function. We produce some choline in the liver but this isn’t enough for the body’s needs, especially during life-stages such as pregnancy when choline requirements are higher.
How much choline should you be getting from your diet?
There are no dietary recommendations for choline in the UK but the European Food Safety Authority has set a daily adequate intake of 400mg for adults (480mg for pregnant women) .
Which foods give you choline?
Eggs, meat and dairy products are good providers of choline. That means if you’re not eating these foods, or are on a diet devoid of these foods (such as a vegan diet), your choline intake could need attention. Researchers have claimed that pulses are a realistic source of choline for people on vegan diets, and the British Nutrition Foundation and NHS Digital suggest that soya drink, soya beans, quinoa and some vegetables can be useful choline providers.
What should you do to make sure get enough choline?
The good news is that choline is present in a wide variety of foods so eating a range of different foods over the course of a week should give you a good supply. If you choose to eat only plant-based foods, you’ll see from the list of foods above that choline-providers are also typically healthy foods that bring fibre and other nutrients. For vegans, eating a range of nutritious plant-based foods will help you include choline in your diet. And vegans who could be pregnant should get expert advice on monitoring their choline intake and on how to eat a varied diet that includes choline-containing foods.