Choline: The Impostor Vitamin You’re Probably Missing

Our resident dietitian gives a primer on this important nutrient.


Photo by: FatCamera


Choline is a vitamin-like substance that has historically has been lost in the shadows. Information presented at the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Chicago just a few days ago is beginning to shine a light on this misunderstood nutrient. Health care professionals are buzzing about choline and here’s why you should be too.

What Is Choline?

Choline is similar to a water-soluble vitamin...but it’s not technically a vitamin. It plays a role in body-wide functions including liver health, cell structure, athletic performance, brain function and proper neurological development. This nutrient is especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding women to help support baby’s neurological development. Be on the lookout for choline in everything from prenatal vitamins to the nutrition facts panel in the coming months.

Who Needs More Choline?

The short answer is … everyone. According to the Choline Council more than 90% of Americans aren’t getting enough of this important nutrient. A study published in August 2017 reported that a mere 8.03% of adults and 8.51% of pregnant women are meeting their daily needs for choline. Children require 125 mg a day at birth, and this number continues to increase until adult requirements reach 550 mg for men and 425 mg for women. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are even more in need: the recommendations jump to 450 and 550 mg a day, respectively.

Choline-Rich Foods

Your liver does possess the capability to make some choline, but needs can’t be met without eating choline-rich foods. Some of the very best sources include: beef liver, eggs, lean beef, chicken, fish, potatoes, soybeans, mushrooms, quinoa, milk and yogurt. While the list of sources crosses many food groups, to get the most choline, animal-based foods like beef, eggs and fish are most plentiful. The same study that identified poor intakes for most Americans also suggested that eggs and dietary supplements may be the most plausible answer to helping at risk populations get more. Two large eggs contain 294 mg of choline. Three ounces of cooked lean beef contains 117 mg and the same 3-ounce portion of chicken breast or cod contains around 70 mg.

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