Do you know what choline is? Most people do not, including women who may be pregnant, will become pregnant, or are nursing a child.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, choline happens to be very important during pregnancy and nursing, and women in this vulnerable population are coming up short for choline: only 14% of pregnant American women get enough choline in their diets.
Here’s why choline is critical. Choline helps to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) that form very early in pregnancy, often before a woman knows she’s pregnant. During pregnancy, choline fosters brain development. Because choline is part of all cells, it is necessary to support growth during pregnancy and infancy; nursing mothers need more choline than pregnant women.
Mom and dad require choline, too. Choline helps to head off heart disease and breast cancer, and it’s necessary for muscle and liver health.
Prescription and over-the-counter prenatal pills, and multivitamins, do not contain enough choline to meet your needs. Nonpregnant women require 425 milligrams of choline daily; pregnant women need 450 milligrams; and nursing women, and men over the age of 13 should consume 550 milligrams of choline every day.
The great thing about choline is that it’s found in a wide variety of foods you probably have in your kitchen right now. Foods rich in protein, including eggs, pork, beef, and salmon, have the most choline. Plant foods provide less, but it is possible to get enough choline from a vegetarian eating plan that is careful to include an array of foods.
Meet your choline needs by including choline-rich foods every day as part of a balanced diet. Here’s a chart of the choline content of some favorite foods, adapted from Expect the Best, to help:
• Egg, 1 large*, cooked any way: 125 milligrams
• Ground beef, 3 ounces, cooked : 83 milligrams
• Pork tenderloin, 3 ounces, cooked: 76 milligrams
• Salmon, 3 ounces, cooked: 65 milligrams
• Chicken, 3 ounces, cooked: 65 milligrams
• Navy beans or kidney beans, 1 cup, cooked: 45 milligrams
• Milk, 1% low fat, 1 cup: 45 milligrams
• Broccoli or cauliflower, 1 1/4 cups, cooked: 40 milligrams
* All of the choline is found in the egg yolk.
To learn more about choline, visit www.cholineinfo.org.