Have you heard about choline? This brain-boosting, liver-loving nutrient is the new favorite to make sure you include in your diet. Food Processing magazine named choline among the emerging ingredients of 2018.
Here's why: As the brain's instant messenger, choline provides a connection between the brain and muscles, helping to support memory and retention. Choline is especially critical to visual memory -- the kind you need to remember a new route after driving it only once.
Not only does choline aid in liver function and normal brain development, but it also is important for eye health and vision, nerve function and muscle movement and supports energy levels for a healthy metabolism, according to the Institutes of Medicine. Along with its impact on the brain throughout life, choline helps prevent neural tube defects in fetal development.
And while choline has always been considered an important nutrient by dietary professionals, it was thrust to the forefront when the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee listed it as a critical but under-consumed ingredient. Currently, more than 90 percent of the U.S. population doesn't meet the Institutes of Medicine recommendation for choline. An analysis of U.S food patterns found that the recommended amounts of each food group in the USDA Food Patterns met or came close to meeting almost all nutrient goals. However, adequacy goals weren't met for choline, nor were they met for potassium, vitamin D and vitamin E.
The Food and Drug Administration established a reference daily intake for choline of 550 mg for adults and children ages 4 and older. And last June, the American Medical Association announced its support for the addition of choline in all prenatal vitamins to ensure proper development of a baby's brain and spinal cord. Currently, prenatal vitamins routinely provide 0 to 55 mg choline, though the AI during pregnancy is 450 mg per day.
Because of choline's importance, when the new Nutrition Facts labels go into effect, you may eventually see choline amounts as manufacturer's voluntarily add it.
How can you get more choline in your diet? Choose eggs, liver, beef, chicken, fish, broccoli, lima beans, Brussels sprouts and toasted wheat germ. It's also available in supplement form, including pre-natal vitamins.
Q and A
Q: Is monk fruit sweetener safe?
A: Native to China, monk fruit, also known as luo han guo, is a round, green fruit, which has been gaining popularity as a natural sweetener. Monk fruit sweetener is created by removing the skin and seeds of the fruit, crushing the fruit to collect the juice, and drying the juice to make a powdered extract. The sweetener is 150-200 time sweeter than sugar, contributing zero calories and a minimal impact on blood glucose and insulin. The sweetness comes from the mogrosides found in the fruit, which have been found to contain antioxidant properties. Although many find the taste pleasant, an aftertaste has been noted by some individuals. Monk fruit can be used as a substitute for sugar in beverages, sauces and dressings and because it is heat stable, the sweetener can be included in baked goods. Monk fruit sweetener is considered "Generally Recognized as Safe" by the FDA for various populations, including children, pregnant women and people with diabetes. Consumers should be aware that some monk fruit sweeteners may contain added sugar alcohols, sugars or molasses. -- Environmental Nutrition.
Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Nutrition Rd. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.