Choline may be an essential nutrient you’re missing, Dr. Joanna Macmillan explains why we need it

Choline is an essential nutrient that is produced in the liver. However, our bodies cannot produce enough to meet our daily needs, so it must be supplied through the food we eat, such as eggs.

Until recently, choline’s role as part of a balanced diet has been largely ignored.

Research has shown that choline plays an important role in the development of the brain and spinal cord during pregnancy, and has also been linked to childhood cognition and cognitive well-being in older adults as well.

Read more: Why a plant-rich diet is better for you and the planet

Most of us do not meet our daily requirement for choline, so it must be supplied through food. (iStock)

Basically, if we want to break it down, choline has three main functions in our bodies:

  1. To help us form healthy cells
  2. To help us with liver function and transport cholesterol throughout the body
  3. To help us control muscles, memory, concentration, and regulate heartbeat.

How much choline should an adult take daily/weekly?

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that adults should get 550 mg per day for men and 425 mg for women.

For pregnant women, the recommended amount increases to 440 mg. Due to its role in developing a healthy brain and nervous system, choline is especially important during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

To estimate this – one large egg contains 164 milligrams which is about 30-38 percent of the recommended amount for adults, so two eggs a day for breakfast puts you in a good position to reach your recommended daily amount!

Choline is especially important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Why do you think people don’t get enough?

Australian and international studies are increasing our awareness and understanding of the essential nutrient choline, but many people still don’t know what it is or why it is so important to our health.

This may be because while choline is essential for normal health, it is not technically a vitamin due to its similarity in function to b vitamins, so it is most commonly grouped with them.

It is important to understand the role it plays in our overall health, so you may consider incorporating choline-containing foods, such as eggs, into a balanced daily diet.

What other foods, including eggs, can we eat to get more

Eggs provide some of the highest amounts of choline of any food – so they’re definitely a good option if you’re looking to boost your intake!

Choline can also be found in foods such as meat, fish, and milk, as well as some green vegetables and whole grains. Other choline-containing foods include beef or chicken liver, fish, and shellfish, including cod, salmon, and tuna. Chicken, red meat, tofu, quinoa, and vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli.

A dozen eggs, a carton, a chicken farm, boiled eggs
Eggs provide some of the highest amounts of choline of any food. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Any other advice for hitting choline targets and why it is so important

Hitting choline targets is especially important during pregnancy. Choline is an essential micronutrient that plays an important role in maintaining health throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Choline is needed to make the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in muscle control, cognition (including many aspects of brain function such as memory) and mood during pregnancy.

It has also been recognized as one of the six key nutrients important for fetal brain development along with folic acid, iodine, iron, vitamin D and omega-3 DHA, which can all be found in eggs.

Eating eggs is completely safe during pregnancy, if they are cooked thoroughly in accordance with food safety advice. With its nutritional density, eggs are a great pregnancy food option to help meet the extra nutritional requirements of the mother and baby during this period of life.

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