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30 Choline Vegan Foods, Benefits and Deficiency Symptoms

In this article, we discuss choline, an important micronutrient that is often hard to get on a plant-based diet. Read on to find the best and the most efficient choline sources, it's benefits, requirements, and signs of deficiency.
Jyothi Shenoy, MD, MBA

Written by Jyothi Shenoy, MD, MBA. Updated on January 16, 2023.

Choline is one of the key nutrients that the body needs to maintain optimal functioning. It is a macronutrient important for supporting brain and liver functions.

It can also support brain development, improve nerve functions, regulate muscle movement, increase energy levels, and maintain a healthy metabolism.

Here is a brief discussion about the health benefits of Choline and the symptoms caused due to the deficiency of this nutrient.

Vegan Choline Food Sources

It can be challenging for vegans or people on a plant-based diet to get enough choline, as it is mostly found in animal-based foods such as eggs, dairy, and meat.

However, there are some plant-based sources of choline, such as flaxseed, dried seaweed, cashews, cauliflower, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts.

Additionally, some plant-based protein powders and fortified foods like plant-based milks, breakfast cereals, and nutritional yeast are also good sources of choline.

Vegan foods that provide a significant amount of choline include:

  • Seaweeds: Particularly dried seaweed
  • Nuts: Cashew, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans
  • Seeds: Flaxseeds, pine nuts, sesame seeds
  • Grains: Buckwheat groats, rye, whole-wheat flour
  • Legumes: Navy beans, lima beans, chickpeas
  • Vegetables: Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, ginger, peas, asparagus
  • Leafy greens: Swiss chard, red leaf lettuce, spinach, rapini, watercress

We’ve ranked high-choline food sources in two ways:

  • Choline content per 100 grams
  • Choline content pre 100 kcal

Plant-Based Choline Food Sources per 100 g

In the following table, you can find the 30 foods with the highest amount of choline per 100 grams.

FoodCholine (mg) per 100 grams
Seaweed (dried)65.7
Pine nuts55.9
Buckwheat groats54.2
Navy beans44.7
Lima beans44.1
Brussels sprouts40.6
Black beans32.6
Wheat flour (whole-grain)31.2
Fava bean30.6
Kidney beans30.5
Rye grain30.4
Mung bean29.4
Brazil nut28.9
Sesame seeds25.6

Plant-Based Choline Food Sources per 100 kcal

Some people might prefer a list ranked by the energy foods provide and find these lists more actionable and useful.

That’s why we created a list of 30 choline-rich foods ranked by 100 calories.

FoodCholine (mg) per 100 calories
Brussels sprouts113
Swiss chard94.9
Lettuce (red leaf)91
Bok choy50
Green bean49.4
Lima beans35.9
Navy beans31.9
Mung bean28
Fava bean27.8
Green bell pepper27.3

What is Choline?

Choline is an important micronutrient that performs a number of functions in the body.

It is a water-soluble nutrient related to other vitamins, including those in the B vitamin complex family and folate.

Choline is present in the body in the form of a compound called phosphatidylcholine, which makes up a large part of the structural component of fats.

Hence, it is commonly found in foods that contain fats.

Choline is not considered a vitamin or a mineral.

It is known to be a micronutrient, which is needed for performing functions related to the brain’s cognitive functions. It plays a key role in supporting energy generation and maintaining brain function.

It also helps keep the metabolism active by regulating the breakdown and assimilation of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

Choline also helps to support the process of methylation, which is involved in the creation of DNA, detoxification, and nerve signaling.

It is important for the normal functioning of neurotransmitters, especially acetylcholine, which helps the nerves communicate, allowing the muscles to move.

Choline can also act as a natural anti-aging neurotransmitter, thereby reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

These benefits mark the importance of avoiding choline deficiency for supporting various systems in the body and enhancing the body’s natural protective mechanisms against disease development.

Choline Requirements

According to NIH, adequate daily intakes vary by age and sex. Also, during pregnancy and lactation, choline requirements are slightly increased:

Birth to 6 months125 mg/day125 mg/day
7–12 months150 mg/day150 mg/day
1–3 years200 mg/day200 mg/day
4–8 years250 mg/day250 mg/day
9–13 years375 mg/day375 mg/day
14–18 years550 mg/day400 mg/day450 mg/day550 mg/day
19+ years550 mg/day425 mg/day450 mg/day550 mg/day

What are the Health Benefits of Choline?

Formation of DNA and Cellular Structures

Choline is needed to absorb fat, which, in turn, is used by the body to create various cellar structures and membranes.

Choline is needed for the creation of DNA. Hence, it is considered responsible for building the entire body structure.

In combination with other nutrients like folate, Choline is also involved in the methylation processes that the body uses to form the genetic material needed for building the organs and tissues of the body.

The role of choline in gene expression and DNA also makes it one of the vital nutrients needed for protecting healthy tissues against cancer and other diseases linked to genetic mutations.

Without an adequate supply of choline, the cells in the body can not properly maintain their normal structure or send signals to other body parts.

The deficiency of this nutrient would hamper the DNA formation processes.

It may also result in DNA mutations at the cellular level, thus triggering the development of cancer.

Supports Neurological Functions

One of the most prominent benefits of choline is linked to its ability to support nerve functions.

It can help manage normal nerve signaling mechanisms, thus ensuring that the different body parts can communicate efficiently.

This is an essential function that can allow all the organs and systems of the body to stay in a state of balance.

It can also protect the brain cells’ membranes against any damage, thereby improving nerve functions.

Choline is also important for the formation of the tissues of the nervous system. It plays a role in the development and growth of the brain.

It is believed that choline can enhance the signaling capacity of the nerves and support their structural integrity. It may also protect the membranes of the nerve cells called neurons.

These properties of choline are highly regarded as they can offer significant protection against the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Choline can also act as a precursor to neurotransmitters, especially acetylcholine, which helps maintain healthy muscle and nerve functions.

It can help to improve communication throughout the body by constantly relaying information from one organ to others in an efficient manner.

Maintains Liver Functions

Choline is needed to transport fat from the liver to all the organs and cells in the body.

This benefit of choline can promote the cleansing of the liver, thus keeping the hepatic cells clear of the build-up of excess fat.

This suggests that choline can help to transport the excess fats accumulated in the liver to the other organs of the body, where it can be used to perform certain functions.

This can prevent the risk of liver conditions such as fatty liver disease that occurs due to the build-up of excess fats in the liver cells.

Choline also plays a role in transporting cholesterol and triglycerides.

These are the two most important forms of fats carried from the liver to the other tissues and organs where needed.

Patients who have a deficiency of choline are at a high risk of having abnormal levels of cholesterol and triglycerides due to which they may experience liver damage and even hepatic failure.

Improves Cognitive Performance

A higher intake of choline-rich foods could elevate the secretion of acetylcholine in the body.

The increased levels of acetylcholine would, in turn, support nerve and brain functions. It would enhance the brain’s cognitive functions, including memory, learning, focus, and attention span.

On the other hand, reduced choline intake could diminish the acetylcholine levels in the brain, due to which you may experience a decline in the brain’s cognitive functions at a much younger age.

It could result in poor concentration, reduced memory, frequent mood changes, lower attention span, and other cognitive impairments, especially in those having a family history of dementia and other neurodegenerative disorders.

This is why it is important to avoid a choline deficiency by consuming foods rich in this nutrient or using supplements.

Prevents Fatigue and Weakness

Supplementation with Choline has been found to work well for reducing fatigue and exhaustion.

It would boost energy levels and revitalize the body. It is particularly beneficial for people who tend to feel tired after limited physical activities.

People with poor sleep, anxiety, and mental stress, who experience a lack of energy and weakness, are likely to have a deficiency of this nutrient.

Consuming foods rich in choline can help these patients to induce physical and mental relaxation, allowing them to get a sound sleep.

It would also improve their energy levels and reduce fatigue, enhancing their exercise performance.

Choline may also improve the strength of the muscles and increase their ability to perform strenuous workouts and physical tasks.

This is why people who regularly work out in the gym are advised to consume foods rich in choline.

It would help them gain muscle mass without increasing the fat content.

Athletes and sportspersons are also advised to increase their intake of choline-rich foods or use supplements containing this nutrient to enhance their physical performance, stamina, and endurance.

Maintains Heart Health

In combination with folate, Choline has been found to support the conversion of an amino acid called homocysteine.

Homocysteine enters the body through the intake of protein sources, especially meat. A high level of homocysteine has been correlated with the development of diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels.

The ability of choline to convert homocysteine and reduce its availability in the body could be beneficial for reducing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Choline can also help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood and, thus, lower the risk of heart disease.

Healthy Pregnancy

The developing fetus uses choline to form the brain, nerve channels, and cellular structures.

Women who consume adequate choline-rich foods have a higher chance of delivering a healthy baby with more efficient brain functioning and a reduced risk of brain abnormalities.

On the other hand, pregnant women with a deficiency of choline are likely to give birth to a baby having neural tube defects or developmental problems.

Choline Deficiency Symptoms

The common symptoms linked to the deficiency of choline include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Low energy levels and fatigue
  • Cognitive decline
  • Memory loss
  • Muscle aches
  • Learning disabilities
  • Mood disorders


Choline is considered a vital nutrient needed for the optimal functioning of several organs of the body, including the nerves, brain, and liver.

The deficiency of choline can hamper normal bodily functions putting you at risk of developing a range of health issues such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Consuming adequate choline can improve your exercise performance, enhance stamina, increase memory, and boost energy levels.

This emphasizes the need to create awareness about the importance of consuming choline-rich foods or using supplements containing this nutrient in order to maintain optimum health and fitness.

How we ensure this article is accurate?
  1. It's written and or reviewed by an expert.
  2. We cite relevant studies and trusted sources.
  3. It's regularly updated.

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