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Expect the Best Pregnancy


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March 19, 2012

Q&A: How much choline and omega-3 fats do you need?

Here are two questions about choline and omega-3 fats from a reader:

Q. What are the current recommendations for choline during pregnancy? I’ve noticed there are some vitamins with choline now but I eat 7 eggs per week (not pregnant yet).

A. Choline is essential for normal functioning of all cells, especially those in the brain, liver, and the central nervous system. Choline works together with folic acid to promote proper nervous system (including the brain) during pregnancy, and preliminary evidence suggests that choline curbs the risk of neural tube defects, including spina bifida, early in pregnancy. Animal studies suggest choline is crucial for the development of the brain’s memory center.

Before pregnancy, you need 425 milligrams choline every day. During pregnancy, choline needs are 450 milligrams daily. If you breastfeed, get 550 milligrams every day. Don’t rely on supplements or prenatal pills. Most supply little or no choline, or contain a form that the body cannot readily use.

Many women begin pregnancy with a choline-deficient diet. Choline content is highest in animal foods, so women who avoid or limit eggs, meat, poultry, and seafood may be low in choline intake.

Here are some common foods with choline:

Egg*, 1 large, cooked any way: 125 milligrams
Cod, Atlantic, 3 ounces, cooked: 84 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
Broccoli or cauliflower, 1 1/4 cups cooked: 40 milligrams
Wheat germ, 2 tablespoons: 21 milligrams

(Fortified eggs, such as Eggland’s Best, also supply the omega-3 fat DHA: see below.)

Q. Also I am wondering about omega-3 supplements. If I eat 2 fish meals a week (1 with light tuna, 1 with wild salmon), is there any benefit for taking a DHA supplement? Is there any harm?

A. Omega-3 fats are healthy for mom, so it’s a good idea to follow the American Heart Association’s advice to eat two fish meals weekly before and during pregnancy. Docosohexaenoic acid (DHA) is one of the omega-3 fats most important to brain development during pregnancy and the first two years of life. DHA is the dominant fat in the brain. Research shows DHA helps to build your baby’s brain, and promotes peak vision, as DHA is part of the retina, located in the back of the eye.

Like choline, most women don’t get enough DHA. DHA is found in seafood and in fortified foods. Pregnant women need 200 to 300 milligrams DHA every day. If you don’t eat enough fish or avoid it, rely on fortified foods and dietary supplements to get the DHA you need.

Here are some DHA sources to help you get an average of 200 to 300 milligrams of DHA daily:

Salmon, Atlantic, farmed, 3 ounces, raw: 1,238 milligrams
Expecta Lipil, 1 pill: 200 milligrams
Tuna*, light, canned, drained, 3 ounces: 190 milligrams
Eggland’s Best, 1 large, cooked any way: 50 milligrams
Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese, 1 ounce: 32 milligrams
Horizon Organic Milk Plus DHA Omega-3, 8 ounces: 32 milligrams

* Certain fish harbor high mercury levels. The Food and Drug Administration says it’s OK to eat light tuna but to limit white tuna to six ounces a week. White tuna is from a larger tuna species that may have more mercury.

April 5, 2011

Cooking Light’s Healthy Options for Egg Breakfasts

Eggs are good for you, but they are often scorned for the company they keep, including hash browns, full-fat cheese, and bacon. When you’re dining out, side dishes, sauces, and added fat used to make eggs can add hundreds of unnecessary calories to your favorite menu items. But that’s no reason to shy away from eggs, which are relatively low in calories, packed with high quality protein, vitamin and minerals, and choline, which is necessary for your child’s developing brain during pregnancy and infancy.

This Cooking Light piece offers great suggestions about healthier egg dishes in restaurants. When you’re making eggs at home, always use fortified eggs for the greatest benefit. Eggland’s Best eggs provide 10 times the vitamin E, triple the vitamin B12, and twice the vitamin D of regular eggs. Eggland’s Best also supply double the omega-3 fats, which are necessary for peak brain development and vision in developing babies and young children.

September 14, 2009

Choline: Multivitamins Don’t Have Enough

Filed under: General Information, Nutrition During Pregnancy — Tags: , , , , , — Elizabeth Ward @ 10:39 am

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.