Choline is a nutrient people are talking about.

Why? Some omnivores are wondering where we get our choline from!  (At least it keeps them from asking the same about protein, am I right?!?)

So let’s talk choline:

  • Choline was only just discovered and acknowledged as a required nutrient in 1998.

  • Choline is considered to be a quasi-vitamin because it does not meet all of the criteria of vitamin status.  It is a dietary nutrient that is used as a structural component of the cell membranes of phospholipids and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. 

  • Our livers can make some choline but we still need to get some from the foods we eat.

  • The importance of choline intake varies throughout the lifecycle.  For instance, if a pregnant woman is indeed deficient (very rare), there is a correlation with certain infant birth defects like neural tube defects, cleft lip, and cardiac defects.

  • The cognitive and neuroprotection effect of choline observed in animal studies has also been studied in humans, but the results are inconsistent and more research is needed.

How do we get our choline?

  • Human milk is loaded with choline and is considered to be the optimal food source for human infants.  Maternal choline intake may affect the concentration of choline in breast milk. Infant formulas are fortified with choline.

  • The Adequate Intake (AI) for choline varies with age.  For example:

    • Infants 0-6 months need about 125mg/day and are easily able to obtain this from breastmilk or formula

    • Children aged 4-8 years need about 250mg/day

    • Adults over 19 need about 425mg/day (women) & 550mg/day (men)

    • Pregnant woman should take in about 450mg/day

  • While animal products are high in choline, there are plenty of plant-based sources out there:

    • ½ cup Roasted Soybeans 107mg

    • ½ Cup Cooked Shitake Mushrooms 58mg

    • 1 Cup Soy Milk 57mg

    • 3 oz. Almonds: 53mg

    • 1 Cup Cooked Quinoa 43mg

    • 3 oz. Broccoli 40 mg

    • ½ Cup Tofu 35mg

    • 3 oz. Baked Beans 31mg

    • 3 oz. Red Potato 19mg

    • 1 Cup Brown Rice 19mg

    • ½ Cup Mandarin Orange Slices 10mg

There are smaller, but substantial, amounts of choline in other foods including oats, cauliflower, pinto beans, tomato sauce, whole wheat bread and peanut butter.

In summary, choline is a fairly ubiquitous nutrient and we rarely see deficiencies in the general public.  People who may be at risk of choline deficiency include endurance athletes, alcoholics, postmenopausal and pregnant women. As in most cases, too much of a good thing is not always good. Too much choline could increase your risk of heart disease and colon cancer.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/

  2. Krause’s Food, Nutrition, & Diet Therapy 11th Edition

  3. https://www.pcrm.org

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Registered Dietitians/Nutritionists are the food and health experts who can translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living. Marla Ablon uses her nutrition expertise to help individuals of all ages make unique, positive lifestyle changes. 


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