Entering the world of neuro enhancement is fun and rewarding, but nootropics aren’t necessarily the first place that you start. Your brain functions optimally with certain chemical balances, but diet plays a huge role in neurotransmitter regulation. In the case of enhancing your cognitive ability, remembering and learning better, choline is a great nutrient to include in your diet in adequate amounts. There are plenty of food sources (more below) that provide choline, but often need to supplement with a bit more. What follows is a beginners guide to help you understand choline from a practical perspective, how it may improve cognitive performance and a few steps in the right direction for supplementation.
Choline OverviewCholine is a water soluble essential nutrient that has extreme importance for the health of cell membranes. It is an essential part of every person’s diet because it is the precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This neurotransmitter is responsible for memory and muscle control yet some studies show that 10% or less of the population consumes adequate choline. Although the body synthesizes some of the choline that it needs, the diet provides the substantial amount required for health.
Types and Sources of Choline
There are many types of choline that your body can utilize as a precursor for acetylcholine production. Each has varying strength and advantages / disadvantages. Understanding the interaction between each choline type can influence your diet and other decisions.
This source of choline is one of the most common yet least impactful. Foods like eggs and soy products are filled with lecithin. Even processed foods like chocolate have lecithin added, but choline content is low.
CDP-choline is a more efficient source for providing the acetylcholine precursor.
L-Alpha Glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha GPC)
The Alpha GPC form of choline is one of the most potent. It can be found in the brain and in dairy products, but is typically produced synthetically by purifying soy lecithin.
The choline bitartrate “choline salts” are one of the cheapest sources of choline. It is a weaker choline source than CDP-choline or Alpha GPC.
Food Sources of Choline
Ensuring adequate choline consumption does not require supplementation if you are prepared to eat certain foods that are rich in this essential nutrient. Plenty of food sources provide choline, but consuming these foods daily can cause other health concerns. Here are some of the best known foods that contain choline along with some efficient sources you may have never thought of.
- Egg yolks (egg whites do not have high concentrations of choline)
- Liver – beef, chicken and turkey liver are all good sources of choline. Beef is the best.
- Turkey heart is a good source of choline
- Milk / dairy products – lower fat content increases choline
Rarer efficient choline sources
- Any caribou meat (don’t ask where to get it!)
- Of grains, quinoa and amaranth have the most choline
- Edamame and cruciferous vegetables are the best vegetable sources, but still don’t provide much compared with any animal source
Supplementation Doses for Choline
People who don’t consume enough choline often have a cognitive disadvantage when it comes to learning and recalling memories. Long term brain health can be compromised by chronic lack of choline. Those who are willing to change their diet should include more foods that are high in choline, such as eggs and organs from animals. Organ meats can be found at the local farmer’s market, but if you are feeling a bit squeamish, use dairy products like milk instead (low fat milk has more choline). For vegetarians and vegans, consuming enough choline can be a near impossible task. Unless committed to a diet very high in cruciferous vegetables, most vegetarians / vegans will not get adequate choline for good health. You can find normal recommended doses based on gender, age, and other factors.
0 – 3,500 mg Choline Bitartrate per day
Recommended starting point: 650 mg in the morning
0 – 750 mg Citicoline (CDP-Choline) per day
Recommended starting point: 250 mg in the morning 0 – 900 mg
L-Alpha Glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha GPC, choline alfoscerate) per day
Recommended starting point: 300 mg in the morning 0 – 7,500 mg
Lecithin per day
Recommended starting point: 2,500 mg in the morning or at night