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Top 8 Foods High in Choline and Their Health Benefits
Foods high in choline provide an essential nutrient that plays a vital role in brain development, liver health, and cell membrane structure. Though choline is critically important, it often gets overlooked in discussions of essential nutrients.
In this article, we’ll explore the best high-choline foods while spotlighting the health benefits of this remarkable nutrient. Incorporating these choline sources into our diets, we can unlock improved cognitive function, liver support, and overall well-being.
Table of Contents
What is Choline and Why Do you Need it?
Choline is an essential “compound.” Interestingly, it’s neither a vitamin nor a mineral. Yet it functions in the body similarly to B vitamins and is often grouped alongside them.
The word “essential” in nutrition-speak has a very specific meaning; even though your body may create some of it on its own, you still need to get most of the choline you need from dietary sources.
Benefits of Foods High in Choline
- Takes part in the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory, learning, and cognitive function
- A key component of phospholipids that provide cell structure and integrity
- Supports proper communication between cells, the transport of nutrients, and the disposal of cellular waste products
- Research suggests that choline may help to improve memory and cognitive function, particularly in older adults.
- Involved in DNA replication and cell division
- Choline-derived metabolites play a role in immune response and are critical for overall health and disease prevention
- Crucial during pregnancy due to its role in neural tube development in the fetus leading to long-term effects on brain health and cognitive function
What if You Don’t Eat Enough Foods High Choline?
Considering how many bodily functions choline plays a role in, it’s no surprise that when you don’t get enough choline in your diet, the consequences are equally wide-ranging and potentially severe. These include
- Impaired brain function leading to poor memory and reduced cognitive performance.
- Liver damage and fatty liver disease because choline plays a role in transporting fat out of the liver.
- Impairment of muscle function, weakness, and reduced performance. This is because choline plays a role in the neurotransmitter acetylcholine responsible for muscle contraction and movement.
- Impaired fetal development and life-long cognitive problems
- Increased risk of pregnancy complications, including preeclampsia, premature birth, and low birth weight
- Increased inflammation
How Much Choline Do You Need?
The current recommended daily intake of choline is 550 mg/day for men and 425 mg/day for women.
Furthermore, there are different RDIs depending on age and gender:
- Infants (0-6 months): 125 milligrams per day
- Infants (7-12 months): 150 milligrams per day
- Children (1-3 years): 200 milligrams per day
- Children (4-8 years): 250 milligrams per day
- Children (9-13 years): 375 milligrams per day
- Adolescents (14-18 years): 550 milligrams per day
- Adults (19 years and older): 425 milligrams per day for women and 550 milligrams per day for men
You may be at higher risk of choline deficiency if you identify with one or more of the following groups:
- Endurance athletes: Long periods of exercise deplete choline reserves
- Heavy drinkers: Alcohol increases the need for choline which can result in deficiency
- Postmenopausal women: Estrogen is important for the production of choline in the body. Deficiency can occur when estrogen levels drop during menopause
- Pregnant women due to the critical role choline plays in
Top 8 Foods High In Choline
The foods with the highest concentrations of choline are all derived from animals. This may come as a surprise to people steeped in the prevailing plant-based dogma.
Yet the truth is that the most nutrient-dense foods on earth in terms of nutrient concentrations and bioavailability are all animal products.
1. Beef Liver
Beef liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth. In addition to high concentrations of choline, a modest 100-gram (3.5oz) serving of beef liver provides a hyper-abundance of vitamin A retinol (860% RDI), and various B vitamins, including 3464% of B12.
|100g Beef Liver||418.2mg||76% RDI|
2. Ribeye Steak
Ribeye steak is one of the most complete foods on earth. It’s loaded with healthy fats, complete proteins, and an array of essential micronutrients.
A single 227g (8oz) ribeye provides over 100% RDI of B3, B6, and B12, selenium, zinc, along with 70% of vitamin D, and 70% of choline.
In fact, ribeye steak is so nutritious that it’s possible to thrive on a carnivore elimination diet of only ribeye, salt, and water. This approach, known as the Lion Diet, has been popularized by carnivore enthusiasts like podcaster Joe Rogan and psychologist Jordan Peterson, among others.
|227g Ribeye Steak||385mg||70% RDI|
Eggs are nature’s second richest source of choline.
One large egg provides 147 mg per large egg, which is approximately 25% of your RDI.
This means that your typical 2-3 egg breakfast supplies 50-75% of your RDI.
But to get this choline, you have to be sure to eat the yolk. This is where essentially all of the choline in eggs is stored.
If we were to count the choline in egg yolk alone, it would top our list with 680 milligrams per 100 grams of yolk.
|2 Large eggs||294mg||50% RDI|
4. Salmon Roe
Salmon roe is an underrated superfood in modern cuisine. But for traditional cultures it was prized as a fertility-boosting superfood.
When pioneering nutrition researcher Weston A. Price traveled to the Andes in the early 1900s, he discovered that people would walk hundreds of miles to get fish eggs to supply women of childbearing age. Though the native cultures didn’t know choline existed, they were clearly aware of the benefits of high-choline foods for fetal health.
|100g Salmon eggs||247.5mg||45% RDI|
Like most of the other foods on this list, oysters provide a matrix of critical nutrients.
These mighty bivalves are the world’s richest source of zinc (825% RDI per 100g). Zinc has been shown to have profound benefits for sperm quality. The combination of zinc and choline makes oysters a fertility superfood with the nutrients to help conceive and develop a healthy baby.
|12 oz can of smoked oysters||220.3mg||40%|
6. Sockeye Salmon
Sockeye salmon is a fatty fish with an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids to go along with over 300% of your RDI of vitamin B12, and a significant dose of choline.
|6oz filet (170g) Salmon||191.4mg||35% RDI|
7. Pork Chops with Fat
Pork is an underrated source of various nutrients, including B vitamins, selenium, and choline. While one of the greatest benefits of pork is it’s affordability when compared to the other premium foods on this list like ribeye, oysters, and salmon roe.
|1 Pork chop (206g)||167.7mg||30% RDI|
8. Chicken Leg with Skin
Chicken legs are one of the less nutritious foods on this list. Yet they do pack a decent punch when it comes to choline.
|1 Chicken Leg (258g)||191.4mg||35% RDI|
Other Sources of Choline
Because choline plays such a crucial role in fetal development, pregnant and breastfeeding women may benefit from high-quality prenatal supplements that contain choline.
Foods High in Choline: The Takeaway
Choline plays a vital role in brain development, cognitive function, liver health, and immune function, making it crucial to your overall health and well-being.
Incorporating these choline-rich foods into your diet will help ensure an adequate choline intake.
Liver, steak, eggs, oysters, fish, pork, and chicken are all great sources of this crucial nutrient.
For hard-training athletes and mothers-to-be, choline supplements may be a good way to meet your increased choline needs.