Some nutritionists suggest that people following a plant-based diet should consider supplements to boost choline intake – however, that’s not true.
It has always been everyone’s business to tell you vegans – just how nutrient lacking your diet is.
While vegans have been chronically protein and vitamin B12 deficient (don’t miss the pun), there are other nutrients vying for recognition by being ominously absent from an assumed quintessential vegan diet.
Choline has generated a lot of buzz recently.
This powerful essential nutrient – which is neither a vitamin nor a mineral, yet similar to the vitamin B complex – is necessary for healthy brain function. It is also vital for maintaining energy levels, providing nervous system support as well as liver function.
This nutrient is also summoned for its help in cellular maintenance and producing a brain signalling chemical called acetylcholine, which occurs throughout the nervous system and has numerous functions in the body from the movements of the stomach and heart to the blink of an eye.
How much choline is needed and do vegans need to supplement?
Being an essential nutrient, the body is unable to produce choline in sufficient amounts on its own, and therefore relies on food to get its regular fix.
According to the recommended daily requirements, women should consume about 425 mg of choline and men should aim for around 550 mg per day.
Choline is generally associated with animal-based foods such as egg yolks, which is why some nutritionists suggest that people following a plant-based diet should consider supplements to boost choline intake.
Nutritionist Emma Derbyshire in a BMJ Journal said: “If people are eating a plant-based diet, particularly if they are women of childbearing age, they should look at supplements.”
However, Bahee Van de Bor from the British Dietetic Association — begs to differ. According to her: “You absolutely can meet the requirements with a vegan or plant-based diet. But you have to have a plan. Foods can be vegan but do not provide the necessary nutrients.”
Choline is widely distributed in plant foods. Van de Bor. Heather Russell — a registered dietician working for The Vegan Society added: “Choline is widely distributed in plant foods because it’s present in cell membranes. Soya products, quinoa, and broccoli are some of the best plant-based sources.
“You do not need to take a choline supplement when you switch to totally plant-based nutrition if you eat a balanced and varied diet containing plenty of minimally processed plant foods. The evidence base shows that this way of eating can support excellent health.”
Vegan choline rich foods
Here is a handy list of the top five vegan choline foods that can help you check this nutrient off your list. Are you having enough of these?
Soy products such as soybeans and tofu are not only protein-rich sources but are fantastic to meet your choline requirements as well.
“Tofu, as well as soybeans (edamame) and soy milk, contain choline and will help you meet your daily needs,” registered dietitian Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD told WELL+ GOOD.
“There is about 60 mg in just a cup of soy milk, and there is a whopping 81.7 mg of choline per cup of boiled edamame.
Similarly, “one cup serving of tofu provides 71.4 mg of choline.”
This is another versatile power packed pseudograin (I didn’t give it this name).
Quinoa is a vegan favourite because it has an excellent nutritional profile, plenty of fibre, plus it’s gluten-free.
“In addition to packing a ton of choline, quinoa is a source of complete protein, as it has a full amino acid profile as a plant food. This is hugely beneficial to vegan eaters,” Best said.
“One cup of cooked quinoa contains over 40 mg of choline, which is why this ancient gluten-free grain is one of the best carbohydrate sources for greater focus and brain-power.”
As well as being a source of protein, and fibre, mushrooms also contain choline. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) one serving (1/2 cup pieces) of shiitake mushrooms contains around 58 mg of the nutrient.
In addition, shiitake mushrooms are also rich in other nutrients like vitamin B5, selenium, and copper.
4. Cruciferous vegetables
Certain cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are not only high in essential vitamins and minerals they also contain a decent amount of choline.
For instance, one cup of cooked cauliflower packs 72 mg, while the same amount of cooked Brussels sprouts and broccoli each provide around 30 mg of choline.
5. Nut Butter
If peanut butter suits you, then you’ll be happy to hear that the spread is a good choline source. One serving of peanut butter contains around 11 milligrams of choline.
Similarly almond butter, cashews, and walnuts, also offer around 10-15 mg per serving.
Other sources include potatoes, wheat germ, beans, green peas, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, rice, cabbage and mandarin oranges.
You are at no risk of developing a choline deficiency if you’re on an adequate, and a well-balanced, minimally processed plant-based diet. Also, you will definitely not need a choline-based supplement if you make sure to add some tofu, broccoli, beans and peanut butter to your shopping cart the next time you go grocery shopping.
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