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Pregnancy

How Choline Benefits Baby’s Development

A forgotten nutrient with numerous benefits.
Written by the Theralogix team of Registered Dieticians
Choline benefits your baby's development in a number of important ways. In this article, learn how supplementing with choline benefits your growing baby.

Nutrition plays a vital role in a healthy pregnancy – that’s no secret. Some nutrients get a lot of attention, like folate, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, while other important nutrients fly under the radar. 

Although choline is an essential nutrient (especially during pregnancy), it doesn’t often get the recognition it deserves. Many have never even heard of choline, but that changes now. Find out why this nutrient should be an important part of your nutrition and supplement routine.  

What is Choline?

Choline is a vitamin-like nutrient that helps support cell membrane formation, healthy metabolism, and liver health. It also plays an important role in brain function and helps regulate memory, mood, and muscle control.  

Although your body can make small amounts of choline, it cannot make enough for your body to function properly. Choline-rich foods and supplements can fill in the gaps and help you meet the rest of your choline needs.   

How does choline benefit your baby’s development? 

Consider choline a cousin to folate – they’re not quite the same, but they share some traits and functions. Similar to folate, choline helps support healthy brain, neural tube, and spinal cord development. Choline may also help support brain functions like learning and memory. Overall, adequate choline intake can help support a healthy pregnancy.  

How much choline do you need during pregnancy?  

Choline needs are higher during pregnancy than almost any other time in a woman’s life, second only to when breastfeeding. The Adequate Intake (AI) for choline during pregnancy is 450 mg per day.  

About 90–95% of pregnant women don’t get enough choline through their diet alone. Most prenatal supplements also don’t contain significant amounts of choline, which can make it difficult to reach your choline goal. This issue has gained traction within the medical community, and the American Medical Association has voiced their support in recent years to include choline in prenatal vitamins.  

What foods are high in choline?  

Rich food sources of choline include beef, poultry, liver, egg yolks, and dairy products. Some plant foods also contain choline, such as soybeans, peanuts, quinoa, potatoes, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts.  

How can you make sure you get enough choline? 

Focus on foods first. Choose choline-rich foods at each meal and snack to help increase your choline intake. If you need some inspiration for ways to include high-choline foods in your diet, check out the recipe below. Quinoa, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ skyrocket the choline content of this oatmeal, and it’s full of fiber to keep you satisfied until it’s time for a mid-morning snack.  

Oatmeal with Quinoa, Dates and Sunflower Seeds

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup quinoa, cooked amount
  • 1/3 cup dry oatmeal
  • Dash salt
  • 1 teaspoon light butter
  • 1 Medjool date, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ

Directions:

  1. Prepare quinoa and oatmeal according to package directions.
  2. In a bowl toss together quinoa, oatmeal, salt and light butter.
  3. Add the chopped date and sunflower seeds and stir together.
  4. Sprinkle wheat germ over the top.
Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 461 calories, 15 grams protein, 66 grams carbohydrate, 17 grams fat, 3.2 grams saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 11 grams fiber, 186 milligrams sodium, 103.8 mg choline
nutrition and pregnancy

*Prepare your breakfast even faster by cooking a large batch of quinoa in advance. Store in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to seven days.  

Even with a healthy, balanced diet, you still may struggle to reach the recommended amount of choline (450 mg) during pregnancy. You’re not alone. A high-quality prenatal vitamin with choline can help bridge the gap and make sure that you get all the nutrients you need to support a healthy pregnancy. 

Choline now joins the ranks with folate, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids as a stand-out nutrient during pregnancy. Include choline-rich foods daily and choose wisely when it comes to a prenatal vitamin. Discuss with your healthcare provider to make sure your prenatal vitamin choice contains an adequate amount of choline to benefit you and your baby.  

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