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When you think of crucial nutrients during pregnancy, what comes to mind? Maybe iron, folic acid, or omega-3’s?  While these are certainly critical nutrients during this time, there are others that are equally as important.

Have you heard of Choline?  It is a lesser known nutrient that is VITAL especially if you’re pregnant, expecting, or are breastfeeding. So what exactly is it? It is an essential* nutrient present in certain foods that has been shown to play a role in improving cognition and memory in offspring as well as later on in life.  An essential nutrient is one that you body does not make enough of, so you need to get it through your diet to meet your needs.  Choline works to “switch-on” a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which controls many neurological functions such as mood, memory, and proper muscle control in baby.   Studies have show a possible correlation between low choline levels in the body and increased risk of neural tube defects.  Moms with the highest intake of choline during pregnancy showed improved cognitive abilities in their offspring as well as memory tasks.  These benefits also extended into the time they were school-aged.

Did you know that up to 95% of pregnant women do not meet the recommended guidelines for choline? The recommended adequate intake (AI) for choline intake during pregnancy should be 450mg per day. Breastfeeding additionally increases the need for choline up to 550mg/day. Studies are continuing to be conducted to determine if that amount needs to be further increased.

It is always best to get your nutrients through diet but it is not always possible.  You can meet your choline needs through your diet if you consume enough choline-rich foods.  If you are a vegetarian, it is more difficult to meet your choline needs through diet alone as choline is primarily present in animal sources.  If you’re unsure if you are getting enough, then a supplement should be taken.

Here are several choline-rich foods and their amounts. 

Some prenatal vitamins contain choline but most only supply up to 100mg at best.  Ask your Ob-Gyn for a supplement recommendation or try these from Nature’s Way which contain 500mg/serving https://www.amazon.com/NATURES-WAY-Choline-500mg-Tablets/dp/B00024CRC8?th=1.  Always consult with your Physician prior to starting any new supplements.

Beyond baby, choline may also play a role in cholesterol and lipid (fat) transport in the body, reducing the risk of cholesterol build-up in the arteries and heart disease.  More research is needed but it is clear that there are many benefits from consuming choline in both diet and supplement form to meet your specific needs.

Do you have a question, comment or story to share? Please contact me I would love to hear from you! Stay tuned for November’s blog topic – Meal Planning!  This is one of my favorite topics and I can’t wait to share my strategies with you to make your life easier.  🙂