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Preggos, Eating Food With Choline May Have Lifelong Benefits for Your Baby's Brain
  • When it comes to choosing healthy food for their children, moms would naturally choose those with brain-boosting properties. Food like fish, eggs, nuts, and beans all contain the nutrient choline, which, like B-vitamins, is essential for healthy brain development. Not only does it help form brain and nervous tissues, but it also helps ensure that the body’s liver, muscle movement, and metabolism, among others, are all at their optimum function.

    Now, a new study from Cornell University suggests that pregnant women may want to take a second look at their choline intake. Its findings show that consuming sufficient amount of choline during pregnancy can have lifelong benefits for your baby’s cognitive function.

    According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Institute of Medicine in the US, adequate intake of choline for pregnant women is at 450 mg per day. But Cornell University's study, published in the journal, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, found that pregnant women who consumed nearly twice the recommended amount of choline each day during their last trimester gave birth to babies with better brain function.

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    Researchers observed two groups of 26 pregnant women who consumed the same diet with one key difference: one group had an intake of 480 mg of choline a day (slightly more than the adequate intake level), while the other had an intake of 930 mg of choline a day.

    After they had given birth, the researchers tested infant information processing speed and visuospatial memory at 4, 7, 10, and 13 months of age. It involved timing how long each baby looked at an image on the periphery of a computer screen, as a measure of how long it takes for a cue to lead to a motor response. (The test done has been shown to correlate with IQ in kids. Researchers also found that infants who have fast processing speeds at a young age continue to be fast as they grow.)

    While babies in both groups showed cognitive benefits, information processing speeds were significantly faster for those whose mothers consumed 930 mg of choline a day.

    “Though the study has a small sample, it suggests that current recommendations for daily choline intake may not be enough to produce optimal cognitive abilities in offspring,” says Richard Canfield, a developmental psychologist and senior author of the study. In fact, the study also says that while choline is recommended during pregnancy, most women consume less than the recommended daily intake.

    Most choline-rich foods have garnered a bad rep among pregnant women. Eggs, which are high in choline, are also high in cholesterol, and many medical professionals have advised against eating eggs that are runny or slightly cooked. Red meats, which also contain the nutrient, are avoided because of their high saturated fat content.

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    While increased choline intake (more than the daily requirement) may need further studies, pregnant women can still incorporate choline-rich food into their diet to help their baby’s developing brain. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US recommends the following sources:

    1. Eggs. Make sure that it is pasteurized or cooked to lower the risk of bacterial infection, according to Canfield. One large, hard-boiled egg contains 147 mg of choline.

    2. Red meat. The NIH suggests pan-fried, beef liver of up to 3 ounces, which has 356 mg of choline. Three ounces of braised beef has 117 mg of choline.

    3. Soybeans. ½ cup of roasted soybeans contains 107 mg of the nutrient.

    4. Chicken breast. 3 ounces of roasted chicken breast has 72 mg of choline

    5. Potatoes. 1 large potato is equivalent to 57 mg of choline.

    6. Quinoa. 1 cup of quinoa has 43 mg of choline.

    7. Milk. 1 cup with 1% fat has 43 mg of choline. 

    Other good sources of choline include milk, broccoli, fish, peanuts, and peas. For a more comprehensive list, click here.

    What other parents are reading

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