Choline – an essential nutrient for pregnancy

Posted on June 29th, 2016

Choline is an essential prenatal nutrient. Are you getting enough in your diet? By Tammy Jacks

The importance of choline

We all know that eating a healthy diet, and taking the right supplements to cover any nutritional gaps, is key during pregnancy as your body needs vital nutrients to support your growing baby. From the moment you fall pregnant, your healthcare provider will more than likely recommend that you up your intake of calcium, iron, iodine and folic acid.  But,  what about choline?

Recent studies, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, show that although the body does make some choline, the amount of this essential phospholipid you need during pregnancy, and especially in the third trimester, is much higher than usual, as it’s critical for foetal brain development and protection against birth defects like spina bifida. In fact, researchers found that choline helps to build the cell membranes that directly affect the areas of the brain responsible for memory and life-long learning ability.

To avoid choline deficiency, breastfeeding moms need to up their intake of the nutrient because of its high concentration in breast milk, which is passed on to their baby.  So what can you do to ensure you’re getting the recommended 450mg of choline per day (550mg if you are breastfeeding)?

Also see: 6 nutrients you should include in your pregnancy.

Eat more eggs

Egg yolks are an excellent source of choline, providing about 125mg, or roughly one-quarter of the recommended daily amount. “As one of the most convenient and low-cost food sources of this nutrient, eggs are a food that I commonly encourage pregnant and breastfeeding women to consume,” says paediatric physician assistant Chris Barry.

Up your intake of these foods:

Dr Michael Murray, naturopathic physician and author of the Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements, says choline is also found in:

  • Animal proteins, such as meat, fish and chicken
  • Grains
  • Nuts and legumes, such as peanuts, lentils and chickpeas
  • Certain fruits and vegetables, such as cucumber, oranges and cauliflower

The trick is to eat a wide variety of foods, including wholegrains, good-quality proteins, fruits, nuts and vegetables throughout your pregnancy, so you will be well on your way to meeting your essential choline requirements.

Do I need a choline supplement?

If you’re a vegetarian or suffering from severe morning sickness and can’t rely on your diet for sufficient choline intake, speak to your doctor about taking a supplement.
 

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About Tammy Jacks

Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike.