Choline And Its Importance For A Smooth Pregnancy

Written by Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna on Wed, 16 November 2022

Key Highlights

  • Women with pregnancy and lactation should include choline-containing food in their diet.
  • Eggs, fish, meat, and turkey are some of the high choline-containing foods.
  • Choline is an important nutrient that helps your baby's brain and spinal cord develop properly.
  • Choline also protects babies from neural tube defects (NTD).

Hey! Are you gonna be mum soon? Congratulations to you and your partner! You must have been told that during pregnancy, you have to be ultra-careful about your lifestyle, exercise, and meal planning. In this journey, there is one particular nutrient that we would like to bring to your attention today: choline. Choline-rich foods in pregnancy can help. Read on to know about the benefits of choline in pregnancy.

What is choline and why do you need it?

A mother's diet plays a very important role in the baby's growth. She has to eat a proper diet with all the nutrients. The importance of choline in pregnancy is significant. Choline is a vital nutrient that is found in many regular food items. You also need choline to form the membranes that surround your body's cells.

You can make a small amount of choline in your liver. but most of the choline in your body comes from the food you eat. Pregnant women need to focus on getting enough choline because some studies suggest that low choline levels may increase your baby's risk of neural tube defects (NTDs). Most people, including pregnant women, don't get the recommended amount of choline every day.

During pregnancy (particularly the third trimester), fetal organ growth is extremely rapid, and large amounts of choline are required for the biosynthesis of various membranes in your cells. In early pregnancy, extra choline is also required for the growth of the placenta and organs (ie, kidneys and uterus).

Choline deficiency

Choline deficiency can cause muscle damage, liver damage, affect memory, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD or hepatosteatosis) in children. Choline deficiency may also affect the mother.
Approximately 90 to 95% of pregnant women consume less chlorine than adequate intake. which affects during pregnancy and lactation with low vitamin B12 and folic acid levels and this affects the child. The serum concentration of 2.77 mmol/L in mid-pregnancy this level should be maintained throughout the pregnancy. Choline deficiency affects cardiac health and high amounts of choline also cause heart and peripheral artery disease. Patients with Alzheimer's disease have low levels of enzymes that convert choline and acetylcholine in the brain.

Role of choline in pregnancy

Choline benefits during pregnancy are supported by observations that a human fetus receives a large supply of choline during gestation. Human neonates(newborn babies) are born with blood levels that are three times higher than maternal blood concentrations, and large amounts of choline are present in human milk.

The development of the central nervous system is particularly sensitive to choline availability with evidence of effects on neural tube closure and cognition. This means it is important for the development of your baby's brain and spinal cord.

High choline intake during gestation and the early postnatal period has been shown to enhance the cognitive performance of a newborn child. prevent the risk of epilepsy, schizophrenia, Down syndrome, Rett syndrome, and Alzheimer's disease.

1. How does it help the baby?

Choline is an essential nutrient both you and your developing baby need during your pregnancy. This brain-building nutrient helps your baby's brain and spinal cord properly develop and helps form neurotransmitters(chemical messengers) in the brain. Choline is converted into a neurotransmitter that helps muscles contract and plays a role in brain development, including memory and thinking.

2. How does it help the mother?

Even you benefit from choline, mama! It influences DNA synthesis and helps your body produce fats that make up cellular membranes. It is also known to help your brain and nervous system regulate your memory, mood, and cognition function, perfect for postpartum blues!

Choline and prenatal supplements

Now you may think is choline safe for pregnant women? Yes, choline intake is 100% safe during pregnancy. It is a water-soluble compound, meaning it is not stored in your body's liver and fats. Although choline is found in many foods, it is absent from most prenatal vitamins currently on the market.

Recently, the AMA (American Medical Association) voiced its support for adding choline to prenatal supplements.
Consumption of choline in your third trimester influences the lifelong memory of your growing baby and boosts the growth of the baby's brain. Like folate, choline helps protect your developing baby against neural tube defects, cleft lip, and palate.

How much choline do you need?

Getting enough choline in pregnancy is important because it helps your baby's brain and spinal cord develop properly and may protect your baby against neural tube defects. Pregnant women need 450 milligrams of choline per day. Choline is in a lot of foods - including eggs, beef, chicken, and broccoli - but many pregnant women don't get enough in their daily diet.

Your need for choline increases somewhat during pregnancy as your baby draws on your supply.

  • Pregnant women: 450 milligrams (mg) per day
  • Breastfeeding women: 550 mg per day
  • Nonpregnant women ages 14 to 18: 400 mg per day

Choline rich foods:

Many foods contain choline. such as meat, eggs, fish, dairy products, potatoes, cruciferous vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, etc.

Other food source includes:

Eggs are one of the best sources of choline, with 1 egg providing 147 mg. This means that eating just 2 eggs per day covers 54% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI).
The choline content of an egg is almost entirely concentrated in the yolk. There's 680 mg of the nutrient per 100 grams of egg yolk versus 1 mg per 100 grams of egg white, making it important to eat the whole egg to get the most choline.

  • Beef liver

3 ounces of pan-fried beef liver contains 356mg of choline, which is 85% of the daily value.

  • Organ meat

Organ meat like liver and kidneys are some of the best sources of choline. Just 3 ounces (85 grams) of cooked beef liver provides 240 mg or 65% of the RDI for this nutrient.

  • Caviar

Fish roe, or caviar, is an excellent source of choline. Just 3 ounces (85 grams) of mixed-species caviar contains 285 mg or 52% of the RDI.

  • Fish

Seafood, including fish like salmon, tuna, and cod, is a good source of choline. For example, 3 ounces (85 grams) of salmon provide 187 mg or 34% of your daily needs.

  • Shiitake mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms contain an impressive array of nutrients and happen to be a great source of plant-based choline.
One cup (145 grams) of cooked shiitake mushrooms provides 116 mg or 21% of your daily needs.

  • Beef

Beef is rich in many nutrients, including choline. A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of cooked beef contains 115 mg, which fulfills 21% of the RDI for this nutrient.

  • Wheat germ

Wheat germ is best known as a concentrated source of fiber. It's also packed with important nutrients like vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, zinc, and choline
Just 3 ounces (84 grams) of toasted wheat germ packs 153 mg of choline or 28% of the RDI.

  • Chicken and turkey

Chicken and turkey are good sources of choline, with both providing 72 mg per 3-ounce (85-gram) serving or 13% of the RDI.

  • Chicken breast

3 ounces chicken breast, roasted contains 72 mg of choline.

  •  Atlantic cod

3 ounces of Atlantic cod, cooked contains71 mg of choline.

Some other vegetarian and vegan food supplements also contain choline:

  • Cruciferous vegetables

One cup (160 grams) of cooked cauliflower packs 72 mg, or 13% of your daily choline needs, while the same amount of cooked Brussels sprouts and broccoli each provide about 30 mg or 5% of your daily needs.

  • Almonds

almonds have been identified as a plant-based source of choline. Eating 1 ounce (28 grams) of almonds provides your body with about 15 mg of the nutrient, which covers 2.5% of your daily needs.

  • Lima beans

A 1-cup (170-gram) serving of cooked immature lima beans contains 75 mg of choline, which covers 14% of your daily needs.

  • Red potatoes

1 large (299-gram) red potato contains 57 mg of choline, which fulfills 10% of your daily needs for this nutrient.

  • Kidney beans

One cup (177 grams) of cooked kidney beans provides 54 mg of the nutrient, which equates to 10% of the RDI.

  • Quinoa

One cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa has 43 mg of the nutrient or 8% of the RDI.

  • Cottage cheese

One cup (210 grams) of plain cottage cheese contains 39 mg or 7% of the RDI for choline.

  • Soybeans

Soybeans are another rich source of plant-based choline. One cup (93 grams) of roasted soybeans contains 214 mg or 39% of the RDI.

  • Fruits

Raw apples with skin contain 7 mg of choline, raw bananas contain 12 mg of choline, and 1 large raw orange contains 16 mg of choline.

  • Brown rice

1cup of boiled brown rice contains 18 mg of choline.

  • Date

1 raw date contains 10 mg of choline.

  • Lentils

1 cup of cooked lentils contains 65 mg of choline.

  • Tofu

Half a cup of tofu contains 35 mg of choline.

  • Yogurt

1 cup of yogurt contains 37 mg of choline.

  • Brussels sprouts

4 ounces Brussels sprouts, boiled, contains 32 mg of choline.

  • Kiwifruit

Half a cup of sliced raw kiwifruit contains 7mg of choline.

  • Broccoli

4 ounces of broccoli, chopped, boiled, and drained contains 31 mg of choline.

  • Roasted peanuts

2 ounces of dry-roasted peanuts contain 24 mg of choline.

All these foods are rich in choline. Vegetarian and vegan women can also include choline in their diet. There are so many food supplements that we use in our day-to-day life.

Is choline important even after birth?

The high demand for choline continues during the postnatal period. In infants, elevated levels of serum-free choline (i.e. 14 mol/L) are maintained through the next 12 to 24 months. Such high choline concentrations enhance the uptake of choline by the brain and other tissues. Serum-free choline concentrations are also increased (50% to 100% higher) in breastfeeding women, presumably to ensure an adequate supply of choline for uptake by the mammary gland.

Mature human milk contains large amounts of choline, ranging from 104 to 156 mg/L (1 to 1.5 mmol/L). So pregnant women should include a high amount of choline in their diet. That will be also utilized after delivery and during breastfeeding.
You may be able to get enough choline by eating a varied diet, but many pregnant women don't get enough choline from diet alone and may need a supplement. If you worry that you're falling short, ask your healthcare provider whether a choline supplement or a prenatal vitamin that includes choline is in order.

Can choline be harmful?

Getting too much choline can cause a fishy body odor, vomiting, heavy sweating and salivation, low blood pressure, and liver damage. Some research also suggests that high amounts of choline may increase the risk of heart disease.

  • There is a daily upper limit for choline intake as follows:
  • Children from 1 to 8 years should not taste more than 1000mg of choline.
  • Children from 9 to 13 years should not take more than 2000mg of choline.
  • Teens from 14 to 18 years should not take more than 3000mg of choline.
  • For adults, the upper limit is 3500mg of choline beyond that choline intake can be harmful


Choline-rich foods in pregnancy can benefit both the mother and the baby. The benefits of choline in pregnancy help the baby to grow well physically and mentally and also prevent the risk of neural tube defect( NTD). So, mothers, it is extremely important that you get your choline requirements from the above-mentioned food items, and take care of yourself and your baby.
If you liked reading this, keep reading our nutrition blogs for credible health information as you journey towards healthy and happy motherhood.


Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna

Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna is an Internal Medical Expert who is based out of Ukraine. With a special interest in internal medicine Dr Pulyk graduated from the Ternopil National Medical Academy in Ukraine, in the year 2001. Between the years 2002-2009, Dr Pulyk worked as an emergency physician. Her years of work as an emergency physician gave her immense exposure to a range of patients and an opportunity to learn on the job, and gather extensive experience.

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