El Choline and Vitaminlike Substances

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Choline can be made in the body in small amounts. It is needed to make the neu-rotransmitter acetylcholine and the phospholipid lecithin, the major component of cell membranes. Lecithin is also a required component of VLDL, the lipopro-tein that carries triglycerides and other lipids made in the liver to the body cells. Without enough lecithin, fat and cholesterol accumulate in the liver.

Choline is considered a conditionally essential nutrient, because when the diet contains no choline, the body can't make enough of it and liver damage can result. It is rare for the diet to contain no choline because it is so widespread in foods (rich sources include milk, eggs, and peanuts). The Food and Nutrition Board has set an Adequate Intake and a Tolerable Upper Intake Level for choline based on gender and age.

Vitaminlike substances such as carnitine, lipoic acid, inositol, and taurine are necessary for normal metabolism, but the body makes enough, and so they are not considered vitamins at this time.

Other substances are promoted as being vitamins, or at least important to human nutrition, that are clearly not vitamins or will never be vitamins. Examples include para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), bioflavonoids (incorrectly called vitamin P), pangamic acid (incorrectly called vitamin B15), and laetrile (incorrectly called vitamin B17—a supposed cancer cure that is, in fact, harmful).


  1. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins. The B vitamins work in every body cell, where they function as coenzymes. A coenzyme combines with an enzyme to make it active. Without the coenzyme, the enzyme is useless.
  2. The body stores only limited amounts of water-soluble vitamins (except vitamins B6 and B12). Due to their limited storage, these vitamins need to be taken in daily.
  3. Dietary intakes of vitamin C are low enough to be of concern for many American adults.
  4. Excesses of water-soluble vitamins are excreted in the urine. Even though excesses are excreted, excessive supplementation of certain water-soluble vitamins can cause toxic side effects.
  5. Figure 6-9 lists the recommended intakes, functions, and sources of the water-soluble vitamins.


Vitamin Vitamin C




Recommended Intake


Men: 90 mg Women: 75 mg Upper Intake Level: 2000 mg


Men: 1.2 mg Women: 1.1 mg Upper Intake Level: None RDA:

Men: 1.3 mg Women: 1.1 mg Upper Intake Level: None RDA:

Men: 16 mg niacin equivalent Women: 14 mg niacin equivalent Upper Intake Level: 35 mg niacin equivalents (synthetic forms from supplements and/or fortified foods)


Collagen formation Wound healing

Synthesis of some hormones and neurotransmitters Healthy immune system Antioxidant Absorption of iron Part of coenzyme in energy metabolism Nerve function

Part of coenzymes in energy metabolism Formation of vitamin B6 coenzyme, and niacin

Part of coenzymes in energy metabolism


Citrus fruits, bell peppers, kiwi fruit, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes; fortified juices, drinks, and cereals

Pork, dry beans, whole-grain and enriched/ fortified breads and cereals, peanuts, acorn squash Milk, milk products, organ meats, whole-grain and enriched/fortified breads and cereals, eggs, some meats Meat, poultry, fish, organ meats, whole-grain and enriched/ fortified breads and cereals, peanut butter, milk, eggs

(Continued )

figure 6-9 (Continued)

Vitamin Vitamin B6

Recommended Intake

Upper Intake Level: 100 mg


Part of coenzyme involved in carbohydrate, fat, and especially protein metabolism Synthesis of hemoglobin (in red blood cells) and some neuro-transmitters Important for immune system Conversion of tryptophan to niacin


Meat, poultry, fish, potatoes, fruits such as bananas, some leafy green vegetables, fortified cereals



400 micrograms dietary folate equivalent Upper Intake Level: 1000 micrograms dietary folate equivalents (synthetic forms from supplements and/or fortified foods)

Part of coenzyme required to make DNA and new cells

Amino acid metabolism

Fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables, legumes, orange juice, fortified breads

Vitamin Bi2


2.4 micrograms Upper Intake Level: None

Conversion of folate into active coenzyme form Part of coenzyme that makes new cells and DNA Normal functioning of nervous system Healthy bones

Animal foods such as meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, and milk products

Pantothenic Acid

Upper Intake Level: None

Part of coenzyme in energy metabolism Involved in making lipids, neuro-transmitters, and hemoglobin

Widespread Fortified cereals, beef, poultry, mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes


30 micrograms Upper Intake Level: None

Part of coenzyme involved in amino acid metabolism and synthesis of fat and glycogen

Widespread Egg yolks Made in intestine


(Conditionally essential)

Men: 550 mg Women: 425 mg Upper Intake Level: 3500 mg

Synthesis of neurotransmitter Synthesis of lecithin (a phospholipid) found in cell membranes

Widespread Milk, eggs, peanuts




Fruits and vegetables generally have the following characteristics:

  • Low in kcalories
  • Low or no fat (except avocados)
  • No cholesterol
  • Good sources of fiber
  • Excellent sources of vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamins A and C (see Figure 6-10)

Low in sodium (except for some canned vegetables)

Also, dried fruits such as raisins and apricots provide some iron.

  • Fruits work especially well with breakfast. For example, there is fruit compote (fresh or dried fruits cooked in their juices and flavored with spices or liqueur), glazed spiced grapefruit, baked apple wrapped with phyllo dough, or steel-oat cut cakes with kiwi salsa.
  • Figures 6-11, 6-12, and 6-13 show many interesting fruits and vegetables that you can use in any menu.
  • Fruits are a natural in salads with vegetables: combine pineapple, raisins, and carrots or combine white grapes with cucumbers. Feature colorful fruits such as oranges and broccoli in a mixed salad. Cooked fruits and vegetables have many possibilities, too: sweet potatoes with apples and pears or lemon-glazed baby carrots.
  • Roasted fruits with shallots are a wonderful base on which to place proteins. For example, place a chicken paillard (a cutlet pounded and grilled or sauteed) on a bed of roasted peaches and mango with jicama or sauteed bok choy, or put monkfish on a bed of roasted pears and fennel. Fruits can also be used to make relishes, chutneys, glazes, and mojo.
  • Fruits have always been a natural for dessert: fresh, roasted, or baked into a cobbler with a oatmeal almond crust or into a phyllo strudel.
  • Fruits such as pineapple, kiwi, mango, and papaya work well in salsas and relishes.
  • Berries, such as blueberries and strawberries, are wonderful when you want vibrant colors in sauces, toppings, and garnishes.
  • Vegetables allow you to serve what appears to be a sumptuous portion without the dish being high in kcalories, fat, or cholesterol. What's also wonderful about vegetables is that they are not very expensive when in season.


In selecting your daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the National Cancer Institute recommends choosing:

  • At least one serving of a vitamin A-rich fruit or vegetable a day.
  • At least one serving of a vitamin C-rich fruit or vegetable a day.
  • At least one serving of a high-fiber fruit or vegetable a day.
  • Several servings of cruciferous vegetables a week. Studies suggest that these vegetables may offer additional protection against certain cancers, although further research is needed.

High in Vitamin A*

High in Vitamin C*

High in Fiber or Good Source of Fiber*

Cruciferous Vegetables

High in Vitamin A*

High in Vitamin C*

High in Fiber or Good Source of Fiber*

Cruciferous Vegetables



Banana Broccoli


Brussels sprouts

Blackberries Brussels sprouts

Kale, collards


Blueberries Cabbage

Leaf lettuce


Brussels sprouts Cauliflower




Mustard greens

Chili peppers




Cooked beans and peas

Romaine lettuce


(kidney, navy, lima,


Honeydew melon

and pinto beans,

Sweet potato

Kiwi fruit

lentils, black-eyed

Winter squash (acorn,




Mustard greens




Orange juice



Kiwi fruit



Potato with skin






Bell peppers





Sweet potato


  • Based on FDA's food labeling regulations. Source: National Cancer Institute.
  • Based on FDA's food labeling regulations. Source: National Cancer Institute.

ALFALFA SPROUTS are the tender young sprouts produced by alfalfa seeds and harvested only six days after they begin growing. They have a crunchy, nutty flavor.

BEAN SPROUTS grow from mung beans and are harvested and sold within six days from the time they first appear. The shorter the bean sprouts, the crispier and more tender they are.

BITTER MELON (Balsam Pear) is shaped like a cucumber, 6-8 inches long. The outer surface is clear green and wrinkled; inside it contains a layer of white or pink spongy pulp and seeds.

BOK CHOY (Chinese Chard, White Mustard Cabbage) is a combination of chard and celery with long and broad crisp white stalks with shiny, deep green leaves. The flavor is sweet but mild.


grow on a cactus plant and are light green and crisp, but also tender. Served like a vegetable, they have the texture and flavor of green beans.

CELERIAC (Celery Root) looks like celery, but only the bulb-type root is edible. The small young root knob is more tender and less woody than the larger, mature roots.

CHARD (Swiss Chard) is a lush green, leafy vegetable resembling spinach in appearance, with flavor and texture similar to asparagus. The leaves and ribs are excellent as fresh salad greens.

CHAYOTE (Vegetable Pear) has a very dark green hard surface and can be either pear shaped or round. It is 3-5 inches long, looks like an acorn squash but has a more delicate flavor, and has flesh the color of honeydew melon.

CHINESE LONG BEANS (Dow Kwok) are pencil-thin beans, 12-25 inches long, with light green tender pods. The tiny beans inside resemble immature blackeyed peas.

CORIANDER (Cilantro) resembles parsley with small leafy sprigs, but is more tender. The flavor is stronger than parsley and lingers on the tongue. Therefore, as a parsley substitute, less is used.

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