While choline is commonly regarded as a vitamin, it is not. This is because the body can actually manufacture its own choline. Because choline is water soluble and its structure and function are related to the vitamins, it is usually classified under the vitamin B complex. Choline is recognized to be crucial in the actions of the vitamin folic acid (or folate) and the amino acid methionine.
If you are a woman, your adequate intake of choline should range from 425 to 550 mg; if you are a man, it should be 550 mg. If you are pregnant, you should increase your intake of choline-containing foods, because a deficiency of this nutrient may lead to malformations of the nervous system of the fetus (such as neural tube defects) and increases the risk for prematurity and low birth weight. Here are five ways to increase choline intake in your diet:
The main functions of choline are to maintain the integrity of the outermost layer of your cells called cell membrane, allow the transmission of signals among your neurons and help in the synthesis of different substances needed by your body. Scientists believe that choline helps maintain your normal liver function and prevent the deposition of fat into your blood vessels (atherosclerosis).
You could increase your intake of choline by eating foods with lecithin, a food additive that comes from soybeans or egg yolks. It acts as an emulsifier and keeps the components of food together. By virtue of the sources of lecithin, you can eat soy products (such as tofu and soy milk) and egg products directly for your choline needs.
2. Animal Sources
By including milk, liver, chicken, beef and fish in your diet, you can get sufficient amounts of choline. Five ounces of raw beef liver can give you 473 mg of this nutrient, while a large hard-boiled egg can give you 113 mg. A quart of milk can give you 173 g of choline, while half a pound of codfish can give you 190 g.
3. Vegetable Sources
A pound of cauliflower has 177 mg of choline, while 1 lb. of spinach has 113 mg of this nutrient. A cup of cooked broccoli contains about 62 mg, while 1 cup of Brussels sprouts has about 63 mg.
4. Nut Sources
A cup of peanuts gives about 77 mg, while a cup of almonds gives about 74 mg.
5. Choline Supplements
Various choline supplements are available in the market. These include lecithin, phosphatidylcholine and choline chloride. Sometimes, choline chloride is better tolerated than phosphatidylcholine because of the latter’s side effects. Some infant formulas, which are not manufactured from cow’s milk, are fortified with choline.
It also appears that choline may decrease the risk for breast cancer and may help in the resolution of inflammation. This is because choline appears to prevent the accumulation of the substance homocysteine. This substance is produced in inflammation. By decreasing the homocysteine levels, choline is able to decrease the risk for heart disease and osteoporosis. Therefore, if you cannot get enough choline from your diet, you should take choline supplements instead. Make sure though that you consult your doctor first before taking any supplements.