When I first found out I was pregnant, I instantly began to worry about pretty much everything. Was the water I was drinking pure enough? Would doing crunches at the gym squish my baby? Was I eating enough fruits and vegetables to make sure my growing baby had the nutrients he needed? But do you know the one thing that stressed me that I never thought would be an issue? Finding a prenatal vitamin that contained choline. In fact, almost every prenatal supplement I found contained either no choline at all or very little it. That’s why I am so excited to be able to partner together with Balchem, a nutritional ingredient supplier, to bring you more information on this essential nutrient.
What is choline?
Before you start asking me why I was stressing out over something so small, let me first explain a little bit more about choline and why having enough in my diet was such a concern for me. Choline is an essential nutrient for health at all life stages,1 yet only 10 percent of all Americans get enough each day.2 This is a problem for all of us, but for babies – whose brains grow rapidly- not getting enough choline in utero can impact health and well-being for life. Adequate choline intake during pregnancy may be associated with good mental health for children later in life. In addition, choline may help with memory and knowledge retention, which is beneficial at all ages. And like folic acid, choline protects against neural tube defects in early pregnancy. So, no matter how old or young you are, choline is critical to your health.
How much choline do I need?
550mg is the magic number! Whether you are pregnant, nursing, or taking care of your own general needs, this is the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) level recommended for optimal health.3
Can I get enough choline through my diet?
Choline can be found in a number of foods such as Brussels sprouts, collard greens, wheat germ, beef liver, whole eggs, salmon, poultry, and beef. However even if you eat all of these foods regularly, your intake of choline may still be lacking. Take a look at this Choline Pregnancy Menu Fact Sheet. You You can see that even when focusing on choline as an essential nutrient, you are still likely to fall short of that magic number of 550mg per day.
Do prenatal vitamins contain choline?
Get ready to learn something crazy! Most prenatal vitamins DO NOT contain choline! Or if they do, they contain very small amounts of it (around 55mg or less). Until now, you had to take your prenatal vitamin, eat a diet rich in choline, and still supplement with additional choline in order to reach your daily needs. Now if you suffered with nausea during pregnancy like I did, taking one supplement a day was pretty tough to endure. Taking two was torture! But there is some great news on the horizon. The American Medical Association now recommends including evidence-based amounts of choline in all prenatal vitamins. So hopefully we will start seeing this essential nutrient readily available in all prescription and over the counter prenatal vitamins very soon.
Should I care about choline if I am not pregnant or nursing?
Um yes! If you are a man, women, 5 months old or 75 years old, choline is an essential nutrient for us all. Choline is a key nutrient for promoting metabolism (and who doesn’t want a healthy metabolism) and helps to support a healthy liver throughout life. On top of that, choline can aid in learning, concentration, and memory at any age.
How can I make sure I am getting enough choline?
Eating foods with choline daily can help. But even when doing that, it can be hard to meet the adequate intake recommendations for this nutrient daily. A choline supplement is the best way (in combination with a balanced diet) to make sure you meet your needs. I personally think every one of us can benefit from supplemental choline each day, but if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, supplementation is essential, so be sure to talk to a healthcare professional about the best supplement for you. You can also check out the Maternal and Infant Health Fact Sheet for more information.
Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Balchem, a nutritional ingredient supplier. All opinions are my own.
- Sanders LM, Zeisel SH. Choline: Dietary Requirements and Role in Brain Development. Nutrition Today. 2007;42(4):181-186.
- Wallace TA and Fulgoni VL 3rd. Assessment of Total Choline Intakes in the United States, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2015.1080127. Published online February 17, 2016.
- US 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.