Meeting your choline requirements during pregnancy and lactation is essential for baby’s health (1). It is important to include choline-rich foods in your diet in order to meet your requirements during pregnancy and lactation, because choline is not typically found in prenatal supplements (1, 2). Read on to learn more about meeting your choline requirements during pregnancy and lactation. 

The Role of Choline During Pregnancy

Choline is an essential mineral that promotes a pregnant mama’s liver function, helps with placental function, and helps with baby’s brain development and memory, among other important things (1). It has been shown that low choline during pregnancy can negatively affect mom and baby’s response to stress (1). Low choline intake can also lead to a higher risk of neural tube defects and oro-facial clefts (1).

Meeting Your Choline Requirements During Pregnancy and Lactation

Choline requirements change depending on your stage of the life cycle (2).

Preconception (Before Pregnancy): 14 – 18 years old: 400 mg/ day, 19+ years old: 425 mg/day

Pregnancy: 450 mg/day

Lactation: 550 mg/day

Mamas must meet their choline requirements during both pregnancy and lactation because a large amount of choline is delivered across the placenta to the baby while pregnant, and in breast milk during lactation (1). Additionally, recent studies have shown that good maternal choline intake can protect the fetus from environmental insults such as alcohol (1). Low maternal dietary choline intake can lead to negative effects for both mom and baby, including birth defects, preeclampsia, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and inadequate brain development (1,2). If you are unable to meet your choline requirements from food sources alone, a supplement can be considered (1).

Choline Rich Food Sources

In order to meet your choline requirements during pregnancy and lactation, it is important to consume choline-rich foods. Choline is primarily found in animal products such as red meat, poultry, fish, and dairy. However, it can also be found in plant sources such as cruciferous vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains (3).

Examples of animal products that contain choline (3):

  • Eggs (1 large, hard boiled): 147 mg
  • Chicken (3 oz): 72 mg
  • Ground Beef (3 oz): 72 mg
  • Fish – Cod (3 oz): 71 mg
  • Milk (1 cup): 43 mg
  • Cottage Cheese (1 cup): 26 mg

Examples of plant products that contain choline (3):

  • Soybeans (1/2 cup): 107 mg
  • Potatoes (1 large): 57 mg 
  • Kidney Beans (1 cup): 45 mg
  • Quinoa (1 cup):  43 mg
  • Broccoli (1/2 cup): 31 mg
  • Cauliflower (1/2 cup): 24 mg

If you don’t feel you are meeting your choline requirements with food sources alone, consult a Registered Dietitian to discuss the possibility of adding a choline supplement to your diet.

The Bottom Line

Meeting your choline requirement of 450mg per day during pregnancy and 550 mg per day during lactation is important for both the health of mom and baby. Focus on eating both animal and plant source of choline each day.

Looking for individualized nutrition recommendations for pregnancy?

Contact a Registered Dietitian today!

References

  1. Zeisel SH. Nutrition in pregnancy: the argument for including a source of choline. Int J Womens Health. 2013;5:193-199. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3639110/

  2. Korsmo HW, Jiang X, Caudil MA. Choline: exploring the growing science on its benefits from mom and babies. Nutrients. 2019;11(8).    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6722688/

  3. National Institute of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements [Internet]. Maryland: U.S Department of Health & Human Services; 2020 [updated 2020 Jul 10; cited 2020 Dec 28] Choline: fact sheet for health professionals; [about 6 screens].  https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/

~ Written by Hailey Belaire