Choline Controversy

In the world of nutrition, a little known nutrient made major headlines and caused ripples among the diet trends and social belief systems that are growing more popular in the wake of knowledge of food production/handling and health. What little tidbit could cause that much of a shake-up, you might wonder. Well, that little nutrient that carries that much weight is choline.
New York Post: Plant-based diets risk ‘dumbing down’ the next generation, nutritionist warns

Ouch!

Choline is water-soluble compound, similar to a vitamin, but neither vitamin nor mineral, that is essential to health. It impacts liver function, brain development, muscle movement, nervous system, and metabolism. Choline is needed to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating memory, mood, and intelligence. Having only been discovered in the late 90s, we are continuing to learn the vital impact diet plays in our lives and the role it had in our evolution.

Stirring up choline so we don’t stir up trouble.

If relying mostly or strictly on plant foods for nutrition fuel, you can still have balanced diet full of the nutrients you need if you plan accordingly. It’s so important for you to do your own research and to listen to your body when it comes to meeting your specific and unique needs. Varying your diet as much as your body will tolerate should help you meet your nutritional requirements. To get some ideas on what you might incorporate into your diet, read this article on Live Kindly. And for the top plant foods that contain Choline, read SELF Nutrition Data: Know What You Eat.

Combating controversy with super ingredients!

Here, I’m featuring a recipe using some of the top plant foods with a more abundant amount of Choline: cauliflower, shiitake mushrooms, tofu or tempeh, and cashew butter.

Cauliflower and Tempeh Stir-Fry
with Mushrooms and Cashew Sauce

Ingredients:
block of extra firm tofu or tempeh, diced
3/4 of a large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets, approximately 2 cups
5 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced or chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrots
half cup cashew butter
8 oz quinoa pasta (or use quinoa grain for more choline)
seaweed (normally, I use fresh seaweed salad from the sushi section when the grocer has it; dried seaweed works in a pinch *see above pic*)
half a yellow onion, diced
veggie broth, approximately 1 cup
2 Tbs maple syrup
2 Tbs sesame oil
2 Tbs tamari
1/2 to 1 Tsp crushed red papper (spice to your preference)
1/2 Tsp Chinese Five Spice Blend
salt and pepper
4 or 5 sprigs of fresh cilantro, chopped
*avocado oil, optional

Double, double stirs no trouble; Fire burn and choline bubble.

Recipe:
Start boiling water and cook pasta acccording to instructions. When done, drain and set aside. Prepare cauliflower and tofu and add shredded carrots to deep pot or large wok with about a 1/4 cup broth over medium-high heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally until cauliflower is softened and broth is absorbed. Add more broth if cauliflower needs more cooking. Season with about 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper. Add oil, if using, mushrooms and onion, cooking for about 3 minutes, stirring about every minute. Add 1/4 cup more broth, red pepper, five spice, and bring back up to a simmer. Turn heat to low. While veggies cook, in a medium bowl, mix cashew butter, tamari, sesame oil, and maple syrup. Add 1 Tbs of broth at a time until you reach a thick sauce or desired consistency. Add pasta, sauce, seaweed, cilantro, salt and pepper to taste, mixing to incorporate. Garnish with chopped cilantro and crushed red pepper.

Not shaken, not stirred. Just toss.

Not only did I and my taste testing partner (or guinea pig my husband may consider himself sometimes – love you, babe) find that this dish satiated the appetite, it also met our wishes for a full flavor profile and contained a proportionate amount of choline.
Estimates:
Cashew butter – 60 mg
Cauliflower – 120 mg
Shiitake – 83 mg
Tempeh – 130 mg
*I couldn’t find choline data for quinoa pasta. For a higher amount of choline, you might consider using quinoa grain, in which case, 1 cup cooked yields 43 mg.*
Total choline for this dish: 366 mg without the quinoa information.

My new favorite broth!
The one I normally use omits the sugar cane. This one contains 1g of sugar per 1 cup of broth.
Ocean’s Halo Seaweed Broths

Considering that this meal was split about evenly between me and my partner, that puts our choline intake at roughly 183 mg. This is why I also include in my daily routine a smoothie that consists of pumpkin seed powder (1 cup of dried pumpkin seeds contains 87 mg of Choline), chickpea powder (1 cup canned contains 78 mg), flax seed powder (1 oz contains 22 mg), quinoa powder, and chia seed powder (not a reliable source for choline but a great nutritional source, otherwise).
National Institute of Health – Choline: An Essential Nutrient

Considering the seriousness of choline deficiency and the unique needs every individual has in relation to bio-availability in certain foods, you should consider the choices you make for you and your family and the investment you make each day for your health. Nothing pours from an empty vessel, so be mindful that you fill it and what you fill it with.

Enjoy your art and may you live well!

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