Choline – Are you Getting Enough in your diet?

Posted on October 03 2016

By Elena Razmpoosh, MS, RD, CD



Did you know that you may not be getting enough choline in your diet if you follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet or if you are a pregnant or breastfeeding? Curious to find out more about choline? Read the summary below for more information.

What is Choline?

Choline is considered an essential micronutrient. Even though your body can make small amounts of choline, this nutrient must also be consumed in the diet to meet the body’s needs.

What does choline do?

Choline is needed for many different physiological processes as for instance for fat transport from the liver and for the production of every living cell in your body. Choline is also a key ingredient of methylation, which is an important step in almost all of your body’s functions, like detoxification in your liver, communication throughout the body via neurotransmitters, building and repair of DNA (plays a key role in cell division and fetal growth).

Choline has shown to play a role in cardiovascular health, memory loss, and fatty liver. Furthermore, studies suggest that increased choline intake by mothers can reduce baby’s response to stress and can improve cognitive function and decrease the baby’s risk for hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and depression later in life.

What are some good food sources?

Choline is especially abundant in animal foods such as shrimp, eggs (note: most choline is found in the yolk), or chicken. If you avoid animal foods in your diet, you can still get choline from a variety of plant foods such as legumes, beans, collard greens, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables but plant foods tend to be less concentrated in choline than animal foods.

How much choline do we need?

Choline is a nutrient that has been added to the list of required nutrients fairly recently. So far, only AI (adequate intake) values have been established which is 425mg for women and 550mg for men.

AI is used when there is not enough scientific evidence to establish an RDA (recommended dietary allowance) which pretty much means that scientists make a good guess to determine what should be adequate for most. The UL (tolerable upper limit) for adults is 3,500mg.

Who is especially at risk of not getting enough?

Studies show that the average intake in the US is far below the recommended AI for choline which means that we all could benefit from evaluating our total choline intake. Furthermore, if you follow a strict vegetarian and vegan diet, you may be at greater risk for choline deficiency because most high-choline food sources are animal foods. If you follow a strict plant-based diet, you can still meet your AI but must be more diligent with consuming a great variety of plant foods. Below is one example of what an adult woman, following a vegan diet, would need to consume in order to meet the AI (425mg choline/day).

Type and amount of food

Mg of choline/amount of food

 1 cup Brussels sprouts


 1 cup Broccoli


1 3/4 cup cooked Pinto beans


1 cup quinoa


3 slices whole wheat bread


3 Tbsp peanut butter


1 cup spinach


Food additives (e.g. soy lecithin)

Average American gets about 100mg of choline from processed foods

 As you can see in the example above, plant foods alone can provide you with the AI of choline, but meals should be chosen wisely to include high-choline foods as often as possible (see below).

In addition to strict vegetarians/vegans, pregnant and lactating women are also at a greater risk for deficiency because of their increased needs. Studies show that only 10% of pregnant women in the US meet the AI values for choline. The AI for pregnant women is 450mg and for lactating women 550mg per day. Although, research suggests that these values are far too modest and that women who are pregnant or lactating should aim even higher than the AI. Larger amounts are needed because there is an increased loss of choline in urine during pregnancy and because baby obtains choline from mother. Also important to note is that most prenatal vitamins do not contain choline!

What can you do to ensure you are getting adequate choline in your diet?

Include foods in your diet that are high in choline. Examples of non-animal food sources that provide good amounts of choline are legumes, beans, nuts, cruciferous vegetables, and quinoa. If you are concerned that you are not getting enough choline in your diet, you may want to speak to a dietitian or to your health care provider about a choline supplement.




Caudill MA. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110:1190-1206.

Health Canada. Accessed September 26, 2016.

 Jiang X, et al. FASEB J. 2012;26:3563-3574.

Mahan LK, et al. Krause’s Food and Nutrition Therapy. 12thed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Publishing Co; 2008.

MeckWH, Williams CL. NeurosciBiobehavRev. 2003;27:385-399.

StipanukMH,CaudillMA.Biochemical,Physiological,andMolecularAspectsofHumanNutrition.3rded.Philadelphia,PA: SaundersElsevier;2012.

USDA. Accessed September 26, 2016.

Yan J, et al. Am J ClinNutr. 2012;95:1060-1071.





Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing

Recent Posts

  • Spring Quinoa Bowl With Lemon Tahini Dressing

    Apr 24 2019

    This bright Spring-inspired bowl is a great plant-based lunch or dinner! Full of fresh greens, seasonal veggies, seeds, and a...

  • Jujubeet's "The Program"

    Nov 07 2018

    Welcome to our newest, top shelf, artisan made juice cleanse "The Program." After over a year of researching and testing by our on staf...

  • Herbal Remedies For Stress

    Oct 16 2018

    By: Katya Difani, herbalist and founder of Herban Wellness   Stressed or Burned Out? Why Herbal Remedies Can Help. We all experience str...

Like us on Facebook

Join our Mailing List

Sign up to receive our weekly email and get __% off your first purchase from!