What are the vegan sources of choline, and can you meet your requirements in a plant based pregnancy?
Choline is one of the forgotten nutrients. We always talk about iodine, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D but what is choline and are there vegan sources of choline?
I’ve put together this blog and my mini guide on the importance of choline in a vegan pregnancy, including how you can meet your choline requirement to ensure amazing nutrition for you and your growing baby.
What is choline?
Choline is a nutrient that was discovered not too long ago in 1998. It is crucial in pregnancy for the development of your babies brain, tissues, gene development and optimum function of the placenta.
We know that animal based sources are some of the main sources of choline, however…one study in 2017 found that only 8.5% of pregnant women (out of 593) met their choline requirements. This study was solely amongst women who were non-vegan. So this doesn’t necessarily mean that following a non-vegan diet that you meet your choline requirements, nor does it mean following a vegan diet means you’ll be deficient in choline.
In 2018 the American Academy of Paediatrics called choline a ‘brain building’ nutrient and requested that paediatricians across the US chat to ALL pregnant women about the importance of choline during pregnancy.
Due to it’s interaction with folate, choline is also supported by the amount of folate in your diet during pregnancy. If you aren’t getting enough folate then your requirements for choline are greater. So make sure you check your folate too!
The job of choline in pregnancy
Choline does some amazing work in pregnancy. It supports;
- Rapid cell division and growth
- Development of baby’s nervous system
- Development of baby’s memory
- Improving attention span
- Developing hand-eye coordination
- Self regulation
- Reducing neonatal stress
- Reducing the risk of developing disease in later life
- Placenta function
- Development of new blood vessels
- Nutrient transport
- Reducing risk of infection due to anti-inflammatory effects.
Basically choline is amazing!
Vegan sources of choline in a plant based pregnancy
Choline is made in small amounts in the liver, but we can’t meet our requirements by this way alone so we need additional choline via our diet or supplementation in pregnancy.
The main sources of choline have been found to be those from animal products such as egg, fish and meat. However there are also great plant based sources of choline but these contain lower amounts than those for animal products. This just means you need to be a little more conscious of where you get choline from in your diet.
See my quick guide to choline content of some common plant based foods to help you meet your requirements.
You can find it here.
How to meet choline requirements on a vegan diet
Is there a best form of choline for pregnancy?
There isn’t any specifics for the best form of choline in pregnancy but here are my top tips.
My top tips
- Take a daily prenatal supplement that contains a minimum of 200mg of choline. This way you are meeting nearly ½ your requirements within the day. There isn’t really a best choline supplement. What I would recommend is that the supplement you take is suitable for pregnancy and doesn’t have fillers.
- Evidence shows an upper limit of 900mg per day should not be exceeded in pregnancy so make sure you don’t exceed this.
- Include plant based foods that contain choline 1-2 times per day – see free download of plant based choline sources
- Make sure you are also having adequate folate in your diet as low folate can increase requirements for choline.
What happens if you don’t have enough choline in your diet in pregnancy?
If requirements for choline aren’t met during pregnancy this can have negative effects on baby’s development.
Some studies have shown affects on baby’s growth, brain and blood vessel development.
So to answer the question – can you meet your choline requirements on a vegan diet? – Yes you can! And you can do so quite easily through correct supplementation and eating foods containing choline each day.
If you need any help with your diet in pregnancy then do get in touch via the contact me form here.
As always there is further research needed into this new nutrient but overall it shows the importance of meeting choline requirements in a vegan pregnancy to support baby’s development.