Choline might be lesser-known than other nutrients, but its role in promoting optimal health cannot be underestimated – from boosting brain health to preventing heart disease. Unfortunately, many of us aren’t getting enough of the stuff! Here are 5 choline-packed foods to chow down on.
Despite only being discovered in 1998, choline is no less a vital nutrient, and it’s often grouped with the B vitamins, playing a crucial role in various bodily functions, including brain health, cell structure and metabolism. Despite its significance, many people are unaware of choline's importance, where to find it and what it even is. That’s why it’s time to shine a spotlight on this powerhouse nutrient, starting with why it’s so good for us.
The Benefits of Choline
Brain Health and Cognitive Function: Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential for memory, learning, and muscle control. Research suggests that choline intake during pregnancy and infancy may have long-lasting effects on cognitive development in children. Choline's role in maintaining healthy brain function continues throughout life. Choline has impressive brain-boosting properties, including upping our memory and processing functions, according to a number of studies. One study found that supplementing with choline improved both short and long-term memory in adults who had previously reported poor memory function. Choline may have some promising role in fighting Alzheimer’s disease too, with studies finding those in the early stages of the condition benefited from increased memory function in just 6 months. Another study on those with dementia, unfortunately, did not show these benefits, but researchers believe choline could be one of the many factors affecting the development of the condition.
Neural Tube Development: Adequate choline intake is crucial during pregnancy for the development of the foetal brain and spinal cord. Insufficient choline during pregnancy has been associated with neural tube defects and cognitive impairments in offspring.
Cardiovascular Health: Choline is involved in lipid metabolism, helping to transport fats and cholesterol in the body. Some studies suggest that higher dietary choline intake may be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease – research shows that higher intakes of this nutrient are directly associated with a reduced risk for the disease which remains one of the leading global killers. The reason for this is because, like folate, choline is known to help convert homocysteine – an amino acid – into methionine, so without this important conversion step, many of us end up with too much homocysteine in our blood. And high homocysteine is linked with an increased risk of heart disease. Choline may be one of the essential pieces of the puzzle to keeping heart disease at bay.
Liver Health: Choline is necessary for proper liver function, including fat metabolism and detoxification. Choline deficiency has been linked to fatty liver disease, as choline helps prevent the accumulation of fat in the liver.
Muscle Function: Choline is involved in nerve-muscle communication. Studies have shown that choline supplementation may enhance endurance performance and delay fatigue during intense physical activity.
Inflammation and Disease Risk: Adequate choline intake has been associated with reduced inflammation markers, and chronic inflammation is linked to various diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Choline's role in reducing inflammation may contribute to disease prevention, not to mention boosting our gut health and mood.
Mental Health: Emerging research suggests a potential link between choline intake and mental health. Adequate choline levels could play a role in reducing the risk of mood disorders and cognitive decline. Research suggests that a lack of this nutrient could play a significant role in the development of anxiety, while a study shows that supplementation of choline may be beneficial for the treatment of mania in bipolar disorder, and it’s worth noting that choline levels are sometimes used as a marker for a range of mood disorders. Studies have shown a concerning link between choline deficiency and behavioural issues in children, which may lead to the development of mental illness later in life.
Genetic Expression and Epigenetics: Choline is involved in DNA methylation, an epigenetic process that regulates gene expression. Epigenetic changes can influence health outcomes, and choline's role in this process highlights its impact on overall health.
So, where can you find this nutrient? Let’s take a look at 5 impressive sources!
Eggs are a nutritional powerhouse and an excellent source of choline. The yolk, in particular, contains a substantial amount of this essential nutrient. Choline in eggs aids in brain development, cognitive function, and maintaining healthy cell membranes. Incorporating eggs into your diet provides a convenient and versatile way to boost your choline intake.
Organ meats like liver are among the most concentrated sources of choline. A small serving of beef liver can fulfill your daily choline requirements and offer a host of other nutrients like iron, vitamin A, and B vitamins. While liver might not be a regular feature on everyone's plate, including it occasionally can provide a significant choline boost.
Salmon is well-known for its omega-3 fatty acids, but it's also a good source of choline. These fatty acids support heart health and cognitive function. The choline content in salmon complements its other nutritional benefits, making it a smart choice for those looking to enhance their nutrient intake.
For those following a plant-based diet, soy products like tofu and tempeh are excellent sources of choline. Not only do they provide protein, but they also contribute to your choline intake. Incorporate tofu into stir-fries or enjoy tempeh in sandwiches for a nourishing dose of choline and other essential nutrients.
Brussels sprouts, a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, contain choline along with an array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These tiny green wonders support detoxification, immunity, and digestive health. Roasting or sautéing Brussels sprouts can unlock their rich flavour and nutritional benefits – trust us, add a little olive oil and salt to your sprouts, toss them on a tray and in the oven.
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