What is choline? Learn more about this essential nutrient, why it’s important, especially for pregnant women, and how to make sure you’re getting enough.
This post is sponsored by “Balchem, a nutritional ingredient supplier.”
Today we’re kicking off something new and exciting on the blog today. As you guys know, I’m a Registered Dietitian. I’ve always had a passion for child nutrition and since becoming a mom myself, my interest in pre- and postnatal nutrition for moms has also grown. I’ve been thinking for a while now about starting a series that’s a bit more nutrition-focused to compliment the healthy recipes I share on the blog. I want to help educate moms about some of the nutrients that are most important for moms and kids!
When I saw the American Medical Association (AMA) release a statement on the importance of choline for developing infants, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to kick off the series! So, let’s get started.
First of all, what is choline? If you’re not sure, don’t worry, you’re not alone! Although it’s been recognized as an essential nutrient for almost 20 years, research has found that 65% of Americans do not even know what choline is. And, not only are we not aware of it, we’re also not consuming enough of it. In fact, according to a recent study, 90% of people are not consuming adequate amounts of choline.1 For reference, the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) is 550mg per day.2. However, most women are getting less than half of the choline they need, even though it’s super important during pregnancy for both mom and baby.
Why is it so important? Similar to folic acid, choline protects against neural tube defects in early pregnancy and is important for healthy brain growth in babies. In fact, the importance of choline for both mom and baby prompted the AMA to release this statement, which mandates that all prenatal vitamins should now include evidence-based amounts of choline. Currently, most prenatal vitamins only include 0-55mg of choline, leaving the majority of pregnant and lactating women without enough dietary choline to protect the health and development of their babies.
So, you may be wondering, what’s the best way to ensure you’re consuming enough choline? First, consider including foods abundant in choline into your diet. Here are the top 8 Choline food sources: beef liver, wheat germ cereal, brussels sprouts, beef and poultry, collards, lima beans and edamame, whole eggs and salmon.
If you’re pregnant and looking to add more foods high in choline into your diet, here’s a sample meal plan that may give you some ideas. It’s also important to note that since the highest amounts of choline tend to be found in meat and eggs and other animal based foods, some vegans and vegetarians may find it difficult to consume enough choline through diet alone. Further, even if you are not following a vegan or vegetarian diet, it still remains challenging to meet the RDI of 550 mg per day through food sources. If you’re worried about your intake, talk to a Registered Dietitian or healthcare professional about adding a choline supplement or a multivitamin to your daily routine.
For more information on choline, and to learn more about how choline can fit into a variety of meal plans, be sure to check out these meal planning resources.
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I hope you guys found this helpful! If there are other nutrients or nutrition topics related to pregnancy, child nutrition, etc. that you’d like to see covered in this series, be sure to let me know in the comments or via email!
1.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.
- 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.