Choline and Pregnancy: What You Need To Know

Thursday, July 27, 2017

pregnant women in the kitchen

By Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN

This post was sponsored by Balchem, a nutritional ingredient supplier. All thoughts are my own.

I’m a mom of three beautiful children and know firsthand what a mom-to-be goes through worrying about the health and well-being of their unborn child. As research evolves, more information becomes available as to which nutrients are important during pregnancy. One of the nutrients is choline, which most pregnant women don’t get enough of. That is why as of June 13, 2017 the American Medical Association (AMA) recommended evidence-based amounts of choline be included in all prenatal vitamins.1 If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant in the near future, here’s what you need to know about this important nutrient.

Why is Choline Important?
Nine out of 10 Americans are not getting enough choline in their diets.2 The RDI for choline is 550 milligrams,3 and it can be challenging to reach this goal even when choosing choline-containing foods like beef, eggs, wheat germ and Brussels sprouts. This nutrient is especially important during pregnancy for both mom and baby because it helps support healthy brain growth and helps protect against neural tube defects. Prenatal vitamins typically contain between 0-55 milligrams of choline, leaving many women and babies vulnerable to health and developmental issues. This is why the AMA voted to add choline into prenatal vitamins.1 If you plan on becoming pregnant, start your prenatal vitamins a few months beforehand so you’re adequately nourished when you do get pregnant.

Foods with Choline
A mixed diet rich in meats, whole eggs and green vegetables can help people get enough choline. However, it can still be difficult to meet choline needs through diet alone, so be sure to talk to a Registered Dietitian or health professional to consider supplements as needed, to round out a balanced diet. Curious as to what foods are the best sources of choline? Here’s where you can find it:

 

Hamburger with burger, arugula and pine nuts, selective focus

 

  • Egg (1 whole): 126 milligrams
  • Lean beef (3 ounces): 94.3 milligrams
  • Nonfat milk (1 cup): 38.2 milligrams
  • Lentils (1/2 cup cooked): 32.4 milligrams
  • Canned salmon (3 ounces): 24.6 milligrams
  • Sunflower seeds (2 tablespoons): 8.8 milligrams

 

Fresh milk pouring from the glass bottle to the glass

For more helpful tips and ideas for how to incorporate choline into the diet, be sure to check out this 1-day pregnancy meal plan. Bottom Line: To ensure your health and the health of your baby, make sure your prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, iron, DHA (omega-3s), vitamin D and choline. Complement this with a well-balanced diet that includes foods abundant in choline.

 

1. American Medical Association House of Delegates. Report of Reference Committee E. https://www.ama-assn.org/sites/default/files/media-browser/public/hod/ a17-refcomme-annotated-updated.pdf. Submitted June 11, 2017. Accessed June 20, 2017.
2. Wallace TA and Fulgoni VL 3rd. Assessment of Total Choline Intakes in the United States, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2015.1080127. Published online February 17, 2016.
3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Food Labeling: Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels. 21 CFR §101. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/ pkg/FR-2016-05-27/pdf/2016-11867.pdf. Revised May 27, 2016. Effective July 26, 2016. Accessed May 25, 2017.

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