And that's a problem. Find out why, plus what you should do about it.
Unless you're eating eggs on the reg, you might not be getting enough choline, according to a study published in Nutrients. And there's a pretty good chance that's the case: Less than 9 percent of adults in the U.S. are meeting their daily choline needs.
A quick refresher: Choline is a nutrient that functions similar to B vitamins. (Choline and B vitamins are closely linked because they're essential to adequate energy.) Choline is essential to the function of your brain, heart, and metabolism. And it's extra important during pregnancy since it may prevent preeclampsia and also help DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid important in fetal brain development) reach your baby.
"Not meeting your daily needs during pregnancy could be a big public health concern since deficiency can cause neural tube defects and suboptimal brain development of the baby," says Taylor Wallace, Ph.D., a professor in the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University, and author of the study.
For the study, researchers looked at the dietary patterns of about 25,000 people, including almost 600 pregnant women, to see if their diets provided enough choline. Lots of people fell short, especially those who didn't eat eggs. "People who ate eggs nearly doubled their choline intake," says Marie Caudill, Ph.D., R.D., a presidential fellow from Cornell University, who researches choline but wasn't involved in this particular study. (P.S. Eggs aren't just a breakfast food. Try incorporating eggs into your lunch with these recipes.)
While pulses, dark green vegetables, salmon, and wheat germ contain choline, they have much smaller amounts than eggs do. One large egg has 147mg of choline while a 3-ounce portion of salmon has about 74mg. That's why Wallace encourages supplements for those who don't eat eggs.
Not sure if you're getting enough? Keep a food diary for a few days and see how close you are to meeting your needs. Use the USDA Food Composition Database as a guide, and keep in mind that adult women should have 425mg/day, or 550mg/day if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. (Check out a sample menu, too.)