“Choline has been shown to be ranked last among common nutrients as a nutrient to recommend for a healthy diet, and only about 10% of health professionals indicate moderate familiarity with choline.”1 With growing research indicating that this under-consumed nutrient is critical for neurocognitive development and health throughout the lifespan, health professionals should be aware of foods that provide choline and ways to incorporate them into the diet.
An article featured in Nutrition Today summarizes the peer-reviewed literature and discussions from the 2018 Choline Science Summit, a symposium with leaders on this topic from government, academic, industry, and nongovernmental associations. As an essential nutrient, choline is important for various functions in the body, including liver, muscle, and brain health. Recent human studies have found links between perinatal choline intake and cognitive benefits in infants, with some evidence of lasting benefit in school-aged children. Of note, the average American, including many subpopulations like pregnant and lactating women, and vegetarians, do not meet the Adequate Intake for this essential nutrient (200-550 mg/day, depending on age and sex).
The good news is that simple shifts in food intake within a healthy dietary pattern can help people meet the AI for choline. Foods like eggs (150 mg choline/large egg), beef (110 mg/3 oz bottom rounds steak), salmon (100 mg/3 oz), chicken broilers or fryers (100 mg/3 oz), Lima beans (90 mg/half cup), shitake mushrooms (60 mg/half cup), toasted wheat germ (50 mg/oz), milk (40 mg/cup), and Brussels sprouts (30 mg/half cup), for example, can provide choline in the diet.2 As synthesis within the liver is not adequate to meet needs, and dietary supplements provide less than 5% of dietary choline, it is important to incorporate a variety of choline-containing nutrient-rich foods into healthy dietary patterns.