A plant-based diet, or a vegan diet, is a diet consisting mostly or entirely of foods derived from plants, including vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits.
Most people believe that a plant-based diet is a healthier eating pattern that can help lose weight and improve health. But some nutritionists warn that it may affect your brain health due to the low intake of an essential nutrient, choline.
Choline is an essential dietary nutrient found mainly in animal foods. It plays a crucial role in brain health, particularly during fetal development. "It also influences liver function, with shortfalls linked to irregularities in blood fat metabolism as well as excess free radical cellular damage", writes Dr. Emma Derbyshire.
Your liver can produce a certain amount of choline, but it is not enough to meet the requirements of the human body. So you need to take enough choline from your daily food.
A plant-based diet can worsen your brain health
The primary sources of dietary choline are found in beef, eggs, dairy products, fish, and chicken, with much lower levels found in nuts, beans, and cruciferous vegetables. In other words, you may not have enough choline if you keep a plant-based diet.
According to the US Institute of Medicine, the recommended minimum daily intake is:
—425 mg/day for women.
—550 mg/day for men.
—450 mg/day to 550 mg/day for pregnant and breastfeeding women, because of the critical role the nutrient has in fetal development.
But national dietary surveys in North America, Australia, and Europe show that habitual choline intake, on average, falls short of these recommendations because more and more people are turning to plant-based diets.
It may be time for healthcare professionals and consumers to realize the possible shortage of a plant-based diet and pay more attention to a choline-rich diet because choline is very critical to your brain and infant development.