What is the ultimate brain food?
The simple answer is pretty much anything with choline in it. And that’s not all that choline is good for either. Choline is not only crucial for the brain, it is also highly important for healthy growth in the cells, for cancer prevention and for the activity and health of the nervous system.
The simple fact of the matter though is that on average, Americans are not getting enough choline and that’s because they aren’t eating enough choline rich foods.
In this post, we’re going to attempt to solve these issues. We will look at why choline is so important and identify some of the best choline rich foods that you can use to get more of this essential nutrient in your diet.
If you are at all interested in the idea of becoming smarter than you already are, then you may have come across the ‘nootropics’ movement. A nootropic is essentially a supplement or medication that is used in order to try and boost cognitive performance. This can be intended to enhance focus and concentration, or it can aim to increase creativity and inventive problem solving. Either way, the general idea is that popping a single pill can turn you into someone who is better able to get work done, solve problems and generally improve their performance and get more from life.
The interesting thing is that a great proportion of these include choline in some form or another. Why? Because choline is the precursor to a highly important neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is one of the most predominant neurotransmitters in the brain. This is an ‘excitatory’ neurotransmitter, meaning that it increases the activity of neurons and thereby helps to make us more alert and awake. Studies show that it can boost memory, concentration and even creativity.
Not only that, but acetylcholine is also the main neurotransmitter that is sent across the ‘neuromuscular junction’. In simple terms, this is the gap that signals need to cross in order for the brain to call the muscles into action. In other words, increasing choline could potentially improve athletic performance and muscle contractions as well.
Choline rich foods also provide us with many other amazing benefits. Choline is a key player in the synthesis of the phospholipids, phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin, which are key structural components that form the cell membranes. This may be why those that consume diets high in cholinergic foods have the lowest levels of inflammatory markers like IL-6 and TNF-alpha.
Pregnant women in particular should ensure that they are getting large amounts of choline. That’s because the nutrient is very important for the development of the foetus’ brain and nervous system. Deficiency in this crucial nutrient can lead to permanent learning difficulties.
With all that in mind then, where should you get your choline from?
The best option by far is to consume more eggs. A single egg yolk provides you with 115mg of choline and this may be why many traditional cultures encourage women to eat lots of eggs. Eggs are also highly nutritious in many other ways and are one of the few ‘complete proteins’ meaning that they provide all the essential amino acids that the body needs. What also makes eggs so great is the fact that they are so highly versatile. You can poach them, boil them, fry them or scramble them. And if you’re not a fan, you can use the egg in cooking or you can make an omelette.
Failing that, a good alternative is beef liver. 5 oz of liver contains an impressive 423 mg of choline and if you want to get the very best nutritional benefit, then be sure to consume grass-fed beef that comes from a reliable source. You can dress this up in a lot of ways if you’re not a fan of liver. Keep in mind though that eating any organ meat like this is almost always a great way to get more nutritional benefits. The organs are where the body needs its nutrients and thus it makes sense that eating the organs of animals will supply you with a ton of goodness.
Raw dairy is also a good place to get your choline. That means you can get it from yogurt, fresh milk or a range of other products. Fresh is best because it hasn’t been subjected to pasteurization. Yogurt is particularly good because it also provides you with healthy good bacteria cultures which can help to produce other key neurotransmitters for the brain and fortify the immune system and digestion against failure.
Vegans may have noticed at this point that getting their fill of choline is going to be a little harder. The best choline rich foods for vegans and vegetarians then are legumes such as the garbanzo or lima bean. These, along with lentils, have roughly 70mg of choline per cup. Sunflower seeds and almonds are also good sources.
Another good choice is cruciferous vegetables. These include cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, bok choy and more, each of which offer an impressive 65mg of choline per cup when cooked.
Vegans and meat eaters alike might also find themselves tempted to choose supplements instead of trying to get choline from the diet. Choline works best when obtained naturally through whole food, as the other ingredients tend to help with absorption and generally improve the function of the nutrients. That said though, if you’re struggling to get enough choline in your diet or if you just want to ensure you are getting the absolute maximum as a mother or as someone who uses their grey matter a lot, choosing a supplement is a good option.
And while you’re at it, why not consider a healthy nootropic? Acetylcholine-esterase inhibitors and other ingredients can help to boost the positive effects and increase the potency even further!