Are You Getting Enough Choline on Your Vegan Diet?
Vegans and vegetarians sometimes need to work a little harder to ensure they are getting enough of certain vitamins and minerals. A vegan diet – just as any diet – is best nutritionally when well planned to include a variety of foods.
Choline is an essential nutrient involved in many physiological processes, including normal metabolism, transport of lipids, and neurotransmitter synthesis. Humans can make a small amount of choline, but to meet your daily body needs for the nutrient, you must also consume it in the diet.
The recommended daily adequate intake of choline is 425 milligrams per day for women and 550 mg/day for men. (Women need less because estrogen can stimulate the endogenous synthesis of phosphatidylcholine, which accounts for about 95% of total choline in tissues.) However, a woman’s need for choline is increased during pregnancy as it is essential for optimal brain development in infants and may be a contributing factor in the prevention of neural tube defects.
Being deficient in choline may cause muscle damage and abnormal deposition of fat in the liver – resulting in a condition known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Less than optimal choline intakes may also be involved in processes that can lead to cardiovascular disease and cognitive dysfunction.
Eight of the top ten best sources of choline are animal products, such as beef, fish and eggs. However, a vegan can meet their dietary needs with a well planned diet.
Toasted wheat germ, for example, contains 202 mg of choline per 1 cup serving. Cooked brussels sprouts and broccoli contain 63 mg per cup each. Other good sources include collard greens, lima beans, peanuts/peanut butter, and soy foods that include soy milk, edamame and tofu.
The Vegetarian Nutrition Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers this example of a choline-rich daily meal plan:
• Breakfast – 1 cup instant oats, ¼ cup almonds, 1 cup soy milk, 1 medium orange
• Snack – ¼ cup pistachios
• Lunch – 1 cup quinoa with ½ cup edamame in a tossed salad, 1 cup grilled asparagus, 1 cup soy milk.
• Dinner – 1 cup refried pinto beans, ½ avocado, ¼ cup salsa, 2 corn tortillas
• Snack – 5 Medjool dates, 1 cup soy milk
Oregon State University – Linus Pauling Institute
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics