Feeling a little stressed? Juggling work, home and family responsibilities is enough to make anyone a little edgy. What you eat affects your mood and how you respond to stress. There’s one type of B-vitamin that most people don’t think about when they plan their diet, but maybe they should. It’s called choline, and it helps to regulate mood and how you respond to stress. Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough of it in their daily diet.
Choline: A Stress-Relieving Vitamin?
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people with the highest levels of choline in their blood were 33% less likely to be stressed out and anxious relative to those with lower levels of this B-vitamin. How does it help to ward off stress and anxiety? It alters brain chemicals and neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine that affect mood.
This isn’t the first time that choline has been linked with brain health. It’s an essential component of the cell membrane that surrounds all cells, including brain cells, and is linked with cognitive function and memory. People with Alzheimer’s disease often have low levels of acetylcholine, and choline is involved in its synthesis. Choline is shaping up to be an important nutrient for brain health.
Good Sources of Choline
So what foods should you eat if you want to benefit from the stress-reducing powers of choline? Good sources are chicken, liver, wheat germ, flaxseed, oats, spinach, bananas, beans, lentils, cauliflower and nuts. One of the best sources is eggs, although you won’t get the benefits by eating egg whites. Choline is found only in the yolk of the egg.
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, adults should get 425 to 550 milligrams of choline each day. You can get it by taking a lecithin supplement available through most health food stores, but it’s best to get choline naturally through foods. A large egg has around 110 milligrams (one EB large egg contains 125 mg of choline). Eat it with a bowl of oatmeal with wheat germ to boost levels of this stress-fighting nutrient.
What about Other B-Vitamins?
Other B vitamins are also important for a healthy nervous system, especially folate, thiamine and vitamin B12. Deficiencies in any of these vitamins negatively impacts nerve and brain cell function. Deficiencies in folate and thiamine are relatively uncommon in people who eat a healthy diet, but some people, especially older folks, have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12. Vegans are also at higher risk since vitamin B12 is found naturally only in meat and dairy products. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to brain atrophy, memory difficulties, mood changes and peripheral nerve problems.
The Bottom Line?
Choline and other B-vitamins play an important role in controlling stress. Eat a healthy diet that emphasizes whole foods, and add more choline-rich foods to your diet to help relieve stress. If you eat a vegan, diet, ask your doctor to check a vitamin B12 level to see whether you need a supplement.
Am J Clin Nutr October 2009 vol. 90 no. 4. Pages 1056-1060.
Linus Pauling Institute. “Choline”
Shape magazine. December 2009.