If you're looking to boost brain power, you'll need to add choline-rich foods to your diet.
This article will discuss choline, why it's so good for the brain, and what foods are richest in this nutrient.
What is Choline, and Are You Eating Enough Choline-Rich Foods?
Choline is an essential nutrient (1) required for normal brain development. It is also a crucial component of numerous bodily functions and health.
Your body makes some choline but not enough for your daily needs. Therefore, you must get dietary choline through the foods you eat or by a supplement.
How much choline do you need?
According to the Institutes of Health, healthy adult males 19 and older need 550 mg/day, 425 mg/day for adult females. (2)
Though this is a relatively small amount that can readily be obtained through diet, research suggests the dietary choline intakes are too low for most people.
For example, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that males aged 20-59 consume around 406-421 mg per day of choline, and females of the same age group get just 290-303 mg. (3)
Signs of Choline Deficiency
Though true choline deficiency is extremely rare (4), especially in healthy people, having insufficient choline intake can severely affect physical and mental health.
After all, choline is critical for the structure and signaling abilities of the cells. (Cell signaling is crucial for proper muscle function.) It's also used to make neurotransmitters and is required to transport fat from the liver.
Therefore, a choline deficiency can negatively affect many organ systems throughout the body. Conditions and symptoms that may be caused by a choline deficiency include:
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
Cirrhosis of the liver
Nerve pain or tingling
Lack of focus and attention
Signs of Consuming Too Much Choline
Though rare, it is possible to consume too much choline.
The signs and symptoms of choline overconsumption may include: (10)
Fishy body odor
Low blood pressure
It may also increase your risk of heart disease.
Why is Choline So Good For Brain Health?
Choline is beneficial for the brain because it is the precursor or "building block" for acetylcholine, the chief neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system, and plays a significant role in the central and peripheral nervous systems.
Research suggests that acetylcholine plays a vital role in cognitive function, including learning and memory. (8) For example, those with Alzheimer's disease have been shown to have decreased concentrations of acetylcholine. (9)
Acetylcholine also enables cell communication throughout the body, which is called synaptic signaling, and it coordinates the movement of muscle and the activities of organs. Therefore, acetylcholine is essential for all bodily functions, including the brain.
What Foods Contain Choline?
Choline is found in various animal- and plant-based foods, so if you're eating a balanced diet, it's not difficult to get enough of this nutrient. However, the highest nutrient sources come from animal products, i.e., meat, poultry, and dairy.
Here are ten choline-rich food that you should add to your diet.
Eggs are known as a "brain food" for a good reason -- they are loaded with choline.
One hard-boiled egg contains 147 mg of choline, concentrated in the yolk. (11) To obtain the optimal choline amount, you must eat a whole egg or egg yolk. This is because just a tiny amount of choline is found in egg whites.
Further, eating just three whole eggs, roughly 200 calories, yields 379.1 mg of this essential nutrient or 69% of the daily value. So, it doesn't take many eggs to get the recommended amount of choline.
Eggs are also a rich source of protein and B vitamins that support mental and physical health.
But what about heart disease risk? Research shows that while eggs are relatively high in cholesterol, consuming them does not significantly impact blood cholesterol levels in most people. (12)
Eggs are also a very versatile food. You can enjoy them boiled, fried, added to recipes, etc.
If eggs are known as brain boosters due to their choline content, consuming beef liver should make you a genius! After all, just 3 oz of pan-fried beef liver contains 356 mg of choline! (13)
So, why aren't people eating more beef liver? Simple. Many people do not like the look or the taste of it.
That's unfortunate because the beef liver is one of the healthiest animal foods you can eat. It is a rich source of protein, vitamin B-12, and vitamin A along with choline.
Salmon is one of the best foods high in choline. Indeed, consuming salmon a few times a week is an excellent and delicious way to get the choline you need.
For example, just three ounces of salmon contains 87 mg of choline or 34% of your daily needs (14)
In addition, oil fish contain a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids that may reduce inflammation in the body and the brain. Numerous studies on fish oil consumption suggest that it may boost brain function, slow cognitive decline, and prevent brain atrophy in older adults. (15)
So, if you want to ward off brain fog and other cognitive issues, science indicates that adding salmon and other oily fish to your diet may be helpful.
Beef is another rich source of choline. A three-ounce serving contains 115 mg or 21% of the recommended daily allowance of this essential nutrient. (16)
But beef is also one of the top sources of protein and iron, both necessary for health.
And the great thing about beef is its versatility. For example, it comes in steak, roast beef, hamburger, and more. You can bake, broil, fry, or grill it. You can also add it to recipes, i.e., spaghetti sauce.
Beef can contain a significant amount of saturated fat, increasing cardiovascular disease risk. So, you'll want to trim off any visible fat and avoid adding unhealthy fats during the preparation process.
Eating chicken breast is also an excellent way to increase your choline intake.
Just three ounces of roasted chicken breast contains 72 mg of choline or 13% of the daily value. (17)
In addition to choline, chicken breast is an excellent source of lean protein needed to build muscle, promote structural integrity to the body, support a healthy immune system, and more.
To make chicken breast a lean protein source, you must remove the skin and bake, broil, or grill it. Like beef, chicken is a versatile food with many preparation options.
A 1/2 cup of chopped, boiled broccoli contains 31 mg of choline or 6% DV. (18)
You probably won't eat enough broccoli to get the recommended amount of dietary choline, but having it as a side dish to your meat or fish entree will help you get there.
Plus, broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable known for its health benefits. It is high in fiber, iron, potassium, and more.
Steam or lightly cook broccoli to seal in its nutrients to supercharge its potential health benefits. You must also avoid adding creamy, fattening butter and sauces to your broccoli.
One cup of navy beans contains 81.4 of choline or 15% of the daily value, making it a significant dietary choline source.
In addition, navy beans are rich in fiber, magnesium, potassium, and much more. Both of these essential minerals are required for numerous bodily functions.
Like many other foods above, navy beans have versatile dietary uses. For example, they can be added to soups, stews, and various recipes.
How Do You Increase Choline in the Brain?
You can increase choline in the body by regularly consuming the above foods, which will help with numerous functions. You can also get it in supplement form, such as choline bitartrate.
However, since choline does not readily cross the blood-brain barrier, adding choline to your diet may not be enough to fix brain-related issues.
But nature -- and science -- has found a way around this issue -- citicoline.
What is Citicoline?
Citicoline -- also known as CDB choline or cytidine diphosphate choline -- is a naturally occurring nutrient found in every cell of your body. It is also commonly found in brain-enhancing supplements.
Studies show that when citicoline is taken orally, it is broken down into choline and cytidine, and the cytidine is converted into uridine. (Uridien has incredible brain-health benefits, including improved memory.) Both choline and uridine are rapidly absorbed through the intestines and circulated throughout the body, including the brain.
Unlike choline, citicoline easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. So, it gives your brain an extra dose of brain-healing choline. How awesome is that?
Unfortunately, there are few food sources of citicoline. However, you can get some citicoline from consuming choline foods. You can also get it through choline supplementation, or more effectively, by taking citicoline from a brain-health supplement.
Best Form Of Citicoline Supplementation? Citicoline Sodium!
Research shows that the brain-boosting benefits of Citicoline Sodium are many. For instance, several studies show that citicoline supports focus, attention, and even psychomotor speed.
One of the most impressive results shown in studies is that citicoline increased brain energy by 14% and increased the speed of brain membrane formation. The net result is that you may enjoy a sharper, more powerful mind when taking citicoline.
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