By Reed Mangels, PhD, RD

QUESTION: What do you think about choline supplements for pregnant or going-to-be pregnant vegans? B.B., via email.

ANSWER: Choline is an essential nutrient. Humans are able to make it in small amounts, but we need to have some choline in our diets as well. Choline needs are probably higher during pregnancy than at other times because pregnant women need to meet their own needs as well as supplying choline for the developing fetus.

It's most likely not necessary for someone who is vegan and pregnant to take choline supplements if their diet features a variety of foods and contains good sources of choline. Some foods that are especially rich in choline are edamame, baked beans, wheat germ, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, kidney beans, pinto beans, peas, quinoa, soymilk, spinach, asparagus, cauliflower, and baked potatoes. The Adequate Intake (an amount to aim for) in pregnancy is 450 milligrams per day. The USDA's Nutrient Database ( lists the choline content of many foods. Those who want to check their choline intake can use this website to look up the amount of choline in commonly eaten foods. I did a rough estimate of a menu for a pregnant vegan ( and got close to 450 milligrams of choline. Of course, if there are concerns about whether or not a pregnant woman's diet is adequate, a supplement providing close to the Adequate Intake would be a good idea. The safe upper limit for choline in pregnancy is 3.5 grams (3500 milligrams) per day.

QUESTION: Someone told me that when you take vitamin D supplements you have to also get sunlight in order for the vitamin D to be effective. Is this true? G.K, via email.

ANSWER: The short answer is no; sunlight is not needed in order for vitamin D supplements to be effective. Here's why. There are two ways that we can get vitamin D, an essential vitamin that has a number of health benefits.The first way is from food or supplements. The second way that we get vitamin D is through our body's own production of vitamin D — we make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. We don't need this kind of sunlight exposure for vitamin D from foods or supplements to be effective. Adequate vitamin D can be obtained from food, supplements, or sunlight exposure or from a combination of these.