Thank you to Balchem, a nutrition ingredient supplier, for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions and messaging are my own.
When I think back to my three pregnancies and how my diet played a role in delivering healthy babies, I can’t help but laugh because really, during the first trimester for each pregnancy, my diet [and proper nutrition] was the last thing on my mind. Honestly, I was in survival mode, as in eat whatever you can stomach without feeling nauseous. So, that meant lots of Goldfish and cheese pizza [delivered, of course]. But once that second trimester hit and I could actually eat adequate amounts of protein and green vegetables without feeling nauseous, I felt like I was giving my body – and babies – what they deserve.
Now when it comes to pregnancy and proper nutrition, your doctor will likely stress the importance of taking a prenatal vitamin because of nutrients like folic acid, Vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. But what if I told you there’s another nutrient that’s just as important for the growth and development of your baby: choline.
This visual breaks down the science behind choline and maternal and infant health. You can also download it as a PDF here.
In fact, choline plays such an important role in nourishing a growing baby that the American Medical Association (AMA) recently recommended that evidence-based amounts of choline be included in all prenatal multivitamins because of choline’s role in preventing neural tube defects and promoting cognitive development in newborns. Recent research has also reinforced the need for supplemental choline, particularly as a critical and essential component of a healthy pregnancy, as most prenatal vitamins today contain 0-55 mg of choline (only 10% of the Recommended Daily Intake [RDI]).
A recent NHANES analysis found that less than 9 percent of pregnant women meet the Adequate Intake (AI) for choline1. This reinforces the need to help this group consume more of this essential nutrient, through choline-abundant foods or supplements, to support maternal wellness and infant health and development.
Science aside, you might be thinking, “well can’t I just obtain choline from food sources instead of taking another vitamin?” Because choline may or may not be included in your prenatal supplement, it’s even more important to read the Nutrition Facts label and consider smart swaps to get the most choline in your diet for a healthy pregnancy. It will soon be easy to determine which foods contain higher amounts of choline, as the Food and Drug Administration has recently called on manufacturers to voluntarily label choline as part of the first update to the label in 20 years.
For reference, moms and moms-to-be should aim for the RDI of 550 mg of choline per day for optimal health before and after pregnancy.2 And remember, it’s always important to rely on whole food sources along with supplements, so consult with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional to determine the best option to meet your individual needs.
Need some ideas on how to get started? Check out this sample one-day pregnancy meal plan before stocking your pantry full of choline-abundant foods.
For more menu planning ideas, be sure to check out this link.
So tell me: Have you found it hard to stomach certain foods and nutrients at the start of your pregnancy? What prenatal vitamins are you taking and do they contain choline?
- Wallace TA and Fulgoni VL 3rd. Usual Choline Intakes Are Associated with Egg and Protein Food Consumption in the United States, Nutrients, DOI: doi:10.3390/nu9080839. Published online August 5, 2017.
- 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.