Choline: The Newest Essential Nutrient and Why it’s Especially Important for Infant and Maternal Health


Disclosure: I am thrilled to partner with Balchem, a nutrition ingredient supplier for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I was THIS excited to sit down and write a blog post. Like, I’m on the edge of my seat eagerly wanting to share all of this with YOU. Most of my lovely readers are women and trust me, you’re in for a treat today. By now, we’re tuned in to the fact that Vitamin D, protein, magnesium and other vitamins and nutrients are seriously important, but do you know how important choline is?

Choline is a micronutrient that actually wasn’t recognized as an essential nutrient by the Institute of Medicine until the late 1990’s. And here’s the thing- our bodies are actually capable of making some choline on its own, but we’re finally realizing we definitely need to consume more choline-abundant foods and possibly even consider supplementation to meet our needs- especially as it pertains to maternal and infant health.

Choline: The Newest Essential Nutrient and Why it's Especially Important for Infant and Maternal Health

Photo used with permission from Kara Trochta, MDS, RDN, LD
Choline needs increase during the perinatal period so if you’re even considering becoming pregnant or what we call being “a woman of child-bearing age”, it’s a pretty wise idea to tune in to what foods are considered to be abundant in choline and whether or not your prenatal supplements contain choline. Before we chat about food sources (and I introduce y’all to an incredibly helpful Pregnancy Menu Plan), I want to share a few surprising tidbits. And in true transparency, I actually didn’t know any of these things until earlier this year!


After I learned these things, my next question was very predictable- “Where do I find choline in food?”. Choline is found more often in animal sources than plant sources, but there are some exceptions. Beef liver, chicken, pork and eggs are some of the foods highest in choline, but even wheat germ, Brussels Sprouts and edamame are considered choline-abundant foods.
Choline: The Newest Essential Nutrient and Why it's Especially Important for Infant and Maternal Health

Check out this Pregnancy Power Salad! Can you spot the 3 choline containing foods in the salad?!
Many of my clients have been asking specifically about how choline plays a roll during pregnancy. Choline has several functions, and honestly it probably does more than research is even able to show at this time, but most notably, it influences brain health and also provides potential protection against neural tube defects. I’ve come to see choline to be just as important as folic acid. By now, most women are aware how important folate is for a healthy pregnancy and hopefully, with the recent focus on choline by the AMA and FDA, we will begin to quickly recognize choline as a nutrient essential for a healthy pregnancy and even the postpartum period.
Choline: The Newest Essential Nutrient and Why it's Especially Important for Infant and Maternal Health

Photo used with permission from Jenni Dawson with J. Noel Photography
Focusing on foods high in choline is just as important during the postpartum period, especially for breastfeeding mommas and brain health for babies. And because foods abundant in choline tend to already be nutrient and protein-rich foods, it’s a big nutrition win to follow a Choline-Focused Pregnancy Eating Pattern! If you missed the link above, make sure and check it out here:
Choline: The Newest Essential Nutrient and Why it's Especially Important for Infant and Maternal Health

Photo used with permission from Jenni Dawson with J. Noel Photography
To all the mommas out there- hopeful moms to be, currently pregnant, those in the early postpartum stages and those raising rapidly growing kiddos, you have the most valiant job there is on the planet. Way to go, and remember to spend time filling your tank up too- there’s only so much you can do for your little ones, if you aren’t giving to yourself also. <3
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32 Responses

  1. So surprising that 90% of Americans aren’t meeting recommendations considering how focused we are on protein foods, especially meats.

    1. It was super surprising to me also! Choline hasn’t been on the radar for too long, but with the recent AMA/FDA recognition, I think we’ll have even more statistics, research and promotion of how important it is in the hopefully not too distant future!

  2. This is such an informative article. It’s good to see choline showcased now with the change in focus. and that baby is absolutely adorable! 😉

    1. I completely agree, Catherine! And yes- she is absolutely adorable. One of my friends is an amazing photographer and has the most adorable subject- her daughter. I was so excited to include her photo!

  3. Great post! So many people have never even heard of choline and as you outlined – it’s so important!

  4. Great post Shannon! Choline is such an under-appreciated nutrient that is so important for pregnancy!

  5. So applicable to me right now with an almost 3 month old! Thank you for focusing on an important nutrient that doesn’t get a lot of attention.

    1. So glad to hear that, Elissa! And congrats on the new baby! Thanks so much for stopping by and glad you found the information to be helpful!

  6. This is great! I am an RD and also a mother of a 10 month old and choline was seriously not on my radar. Thanks for the great info!

  7. Just like you’re excited writing blogs like this! I’m so excited reading that you’re sharing this! Its so important to get those essential nutrients in our diet and making it look so yummy will be an easy way to get it done! Loved it!

    1. Thanks so much, Nicole! The enthusiasm is heartwarming and I appreciate you stopping by! Yay for essential nutrients!

  8. I love learning and this is such a well written post! The visuals are amazing and that pregnancy power salad looks fantastic!

    1. Thanks so much, Brynn! Your enthusiasm is much appreciated as I was pretty thrilled to write about this important topic. And the Pregnancy Power Salad is coming Monday! Thank you for taking the time to read the post!

  9. I love learning more about new findings on nutrition based on research! Thank you for sharing real facts that all of us can use!

    1. Absolutely, Denise! Yes- there’s more and more research coming out also so I’m sure we’ll learn even more. Appreciate your enthusiasm!

  10. Great to see choline getting the attention it deserves! I’ve always talked about it for it’s importance in muscle function as a sports dietitian, but was never so aware of the benefits for pregnancy!

    1. Thank you, Kelly! So glad you’ve highlighted its importance with your athletes! Definitely a micronutrient important for every population and stage of life!

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