Q: I recently heard that choline is important during pregnancy, but you don’t hear much about it. Can you please explain its importance, how much I need during pregnancy, and where I can get it?
A: Joan, this is a great question! Choline plays a very important role during pregnancy and beyond. It is a vital nutrient in the normal functioning of cells, particularly those in the brain, the liver, and the central nervous system. In fact, choline works with folic acid to promote the proper development of the nervous system during pregnancy, helping protect your growing baby from neural tube defects. Additionally, it plays a large role in the development of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center.
It has been estimated that 90% of women (both pregnant and non-pregnant) are not getting the recommended amounts of choline. Women who follow a very low fat diet are at particular risk.
The recommended amounts are:
|Upper Limit||3,500 mg/day|
Unfortunately multi-vitamins and prenatal vitamins do not supply a lot of choline so it is important to ensure that you are meeting your nutrient needs through a choline-rich diet. Here are some of the foods with the highest concentration of choline:
|Egg, 1 large (note: the choline is found exclusively in the yolk)||125 mg|
|Cod, Atlantic, 3 ounces, cooked*||84 mg|
|Ground Beef, 3 ounces, cooked*||83 mg|
|Pork Tenderloin, 3 ounces, cooked*||76 mg|
|Shrimp, 3 ounces, cooked*||69 mg|
|Salmon, 3 ounces, cooked*||65 mg|
|Chicken, 3 ounces, cooked*||65 mg|
|Broccoli or cauliflower, 1 ¼ cups, cooked||40 mg|
|Wheat germ, 2 Tbsp||21 mg|
*When selecting fish as a choline source, remember to opt for wild caught (over farm raised) to ensure that you are not consuming unnecessary chemicals. Likewise, look for meat sources that are organic or raised on farms that are antibiotic-free, steroid-free, hormone-free, free-range, and grass or vegetarian-fed.
Reference: Expect the Best, American Dietetic Association/Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D.