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You May Not Be Getting Enough Choline In Your Diet, According To A New Report

Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer By Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
Eliza Sullivan is a food writer and SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
colorful eggs sorted by color into an ombre pattern

There are a number of crucial nutrients we prioritize in our diets (looking at you, vitamin C). And in terms of dietary deficiencies, you most often hear about low levels of magnesium or vitamin D in the American diet.

But in their most recent report, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee brought up a lesser-known dietary compound you may be short on: choline.

What is choline?

Choline is a compound involved in metabolic processes. Neither a vitamin or a mineral, choline is still considered part of the wide world of the vitamin B complex, because of similarities to those nutrients. It's also classified as an essential nutrient—which means it's required for the body to function properly, but humans can't produce it naturally. It's particularly important for pregnant and lactating women.

"Unfortunately, consumption data tell us choline is widely underconsumed," Marie Caudill, Ph.D., R.D., said in a news release regarding the recent report, "and it's concerning that those populations who would benefit most from choline, such as pregnant and lactating women and infants and children, fall short of meeting intake targets." In fact, the report data shows that only 8% of women get their recommended amount of choline.

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Why is choline important?

According to the report, there is a "growing body of evidence that shows choline plays a critical role in health during specific life stages."

Research has shown the compound supports fetal and infant development, cognition and memory, energy, metabolism, and liver health. While it is not currently considered a "nutrient of public health concern," they say it is a "nutrient that poses public health challenges," especially for younger people.

While this report notes that most people may not get enough choline, evidence suggests that actually damaging deficiencies in choline are rare—that said, there's reason enough to at least think about adding more choline sources to your diet.

What are good food sources of choline?

While it's possible to consume choline via supplements, there are some foods that are particularly good sources of choline. According to the NIH, adults should consume at least 425 to 550 milligrams of choline per day, depending on gender. According to that data, these are some food sources of choline that could be worth incorporating into your diet:

  • 1 large hard-boiled egg: 147 mg/27% DV
  • ½ cup roasted soybeans: 107 mg/19% DV
  • 3 ounces roasted chicken breast: 72 mg/13% DV
  • 3 ounces cooked Atlantic cod: 71 mg/13% DV

If you do decide to incorporate a supplement, be sure to talk to your doctor about anything you plan to add to your routine.

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