For stressed-out moms-to-be, here's some news that's definitely sunny side up. According to research from Cornell University, pregnant women under stress who eat foods rich in the nutrient choline may protect their babies from excess stress hormones and reduce their children's risk for developing stress-related diseases later in life. And the best part? The richest source of choline around is one of the easiest foods to include in your diet: eggs!
In the study, a group of 24 women in their third trimester of pregnancy consumed either 480 mg of choline or 930 mg of choline per day for the last 12 weeks before their due dates. After women gave birth, cord blood and placenta samples were tested; researchers observed the lowest levels of cortisol (the body's main stress hormone) in samples from women in the higher choline intake group.
"The study findings raise the exciting possibility that a higher choline intake may counter some of the adverse effects of prenatal stress," says Marie Caudill, Ph.D., Cornell University, author of the study and a leading choline researcher.
But the benefits of choline during pregnancy don't end there. The nutrient appears to play an important role in fetal and infant brain development, and even preventing neural tube defects. Choline may also help to prevent breast cancer, protect adult brain function, and reduce inflammation.
Are you getting enough? Maybe not, since it is estimated that only one in 10 Americans meet the Adequate Intake (AI) guidelines for choline. The AI for pregnant women is approximately 450 mg and the AI for breastfeeding women is 550 mg of choline. Eggs contain 125 mg each.
Neva Cochran, registered dietitian and nutrition communications consultant, explains that eggs are a good menu choice for moms-to-be for many other reasons, too. "Not only are eggs an excellent source of choline, they contain many other nutrients pregnant women need most, such as high-quality protein, iron, and folate—all for just about 15 cents apiece," Cochran tells EggNutritionCenter.org.
Just don't skip the yolk! "Choline is found exclusively in the egg yolk, not the white. Nearly half of the protein and most of the vitamins and minerals are also contained in the yolk," says Cochran.
Besides eggs, other good dietary sources of choline include lean beef, cauliflower, and peanuts.
From this list, we're thinking: scramble the eggs, mix the rest together, add some rice noodles and you've got an easy pad thai for dinner tonight. No stress!
What's your favorite way to prepare eggs? What are you doing to keep stress levels low during pregnancy?