By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
Choline during pregnancy can help you have the perfect pregnancy diet. Learn about choline foods and choline benefits. What is choline? Find out while you eat foods high in choline!
When it comes to the perfect pregnancy diet, you hear so much conflicting information about a diet plan during pregnancy. So what are the ultimate best foods to eat and nutrients to get for pregnancy? Why should you get choline during pregnancy?
Wish there was a magic nutrient to help increase both the chances of a healthy pregnancy, as well as the health of your baby—potentially for life? You're in luck, because there just happens to be a magic nutrient out there for pregnancy.
The Benefits of Choline
There are so many foods and nutrients that make up a healthy diet for pregnancy that are important for your prenatal diet. One nutrient in particular is choline, a prenatal nutrient that's super beneficial. Read on for natural sources of choline and more–including fruits and vegetables.
As a pescatarian dietitian, eggs are one of my go-to foods. While it's common knowledge that they supply protein, they're also a fabulous source of a nutrient you may not know much about.
This nutrient is choline, necessary to help keep your body in tip-top working order. Because close to 90% of Americans don't get enough of the nutrient, I'm bringing you info about what choline is and the foods you can get it from.
Don't know much about choline? Well, it's an essential nutrient for all ages and stages of life–and there's a surprising connection between choline and prenatal health. You can get the nutrient both from foods and as a dietary supplement.
Want a quickie overview on choline? The nutrient helps your body function optimally—it’s important for heart health, brain health, memory, prenatal health, and more. It's really so amazing that choline helps brain development and cognitive functioning!
Although prenatal vitamins are of course important, choline is neither a vitamin nor a mineral. And choline isn't typically found in your pregnancy vitamins.
Women should aim for at least 425 milligrams of choline daily, and pregnant and lactating women need a little more (450 milligrams), according to the adequate intake (AI) levels set forth by the National Academies of Medicine and the Food and Nutrition Board.
If you’re pregnant, planning on getting pregnant one day, or know anyone who is planning a family, you must read the info that I’m about to share!
Choline for Prenatal Health
Let's talk about choline for prenatal health and beyond. Scientist Marie Caudill has worked on research that's specifically focused on the prenatal benefits of choline, especially regarding choline and brain health. In one of her studies, pregnant women were given higher amounts of choline (930 milligrams daily), versus a control group receiving a “normal” daily amount of 480 milligrams.
The babies born to moms getting more choline were chiller, less stressed babies—and they had lower levels of cortisol, aka the stress hormone.
Scientists have found that these lower cortisol levels could lead to a decreased risk of disease—including depression, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure—as the babies grow up.
The lower cortisol levels could also help with the babies’ attention, learning, and memory. In fact, studies shows that the babies of the moms who took in higher amounts of choline were able to process information more quickly.
So why wouldn’t you want to take in extra choline as a mom to be? I would definitely recommend including it in your perfect pregnancy diet! Learn more about what to eat while pregnant, including how to have a healthy plant-based pregnancy.
Choline Benefits for Mom
Just about 9% of pregnant women in the United States are meeting the 450 milligram AI level for choline, shows current research from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. But there’s good reason to focus on taking in enough!
As if the health benefits for babies aren’t cool enough, Caudill has performed research about how extra choline intake during pregnancy provides health benefits for the mom to be, too.
Such higher intake levels of choline resulted in lower risk of preeclampsia, a condition during pregnancy that results in risky complications such as high blood pressure. So yes, getting enough choline during your pregnant lady diet is super important for many reasons!
Getting enough choline also lowers risk of neural tube defects for the baby. In one study, moms who took in 290 mg to 498 milligrams of choline daily had a lower risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect, versus the moms consuming less than 290 milligrams of choline daily.
Foods High in Choline
Want to know about the best sources of choline? Sources include beef, lemon juice, milk, chicken breast, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. See, there are lots of ways to increase your intake of choline.
Now, go ahead and whip up some choline-boasting recipes!
Of course, you can also take a choline supplement during pregnancy. Choline tablets come in a variety of options, including vegan choline supplements. If you'd like to buy choline, here are a few options:
This blog post was updated in December 2020. This content was originally
part of a partnership with VitaCholine.
- Marie Caudill
- National Academies of Medicine and the Food and Nutrition Board
- Maternal Choline Supplementation During the Third Trimester of Pregnancy Improves Infant Information Processing Speed: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Feeding Study, FASEB Journal
- Usual Choline Intakes Are Associated with Egg and Protein Food Consumption in the United States, Nutrients
- A Higher Maternal Choline Intake Among Third-Trimester Pregnant Women Lowers Placental and Circulating Concentrations of the Antiangiogenic Factor FMS-Like Tyrosine kinase-1 (sFLT1), FASEB Journal
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I'd love to hear from you! Is prenatal choline included in your perfect pregnancy diet? What natural sources of choline do you enjoy eating? What other medical advice do you think is important during pregnancy? Are you at increased risk for any pregnancy-related health conditions?
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