Are you pregnant? Are you thinking about getting pregnant? One of the first questions you should ask yourself is WTF (What The Folate)?
Why is folate important during pregnancy?
Pregnancy is a complicated and demanding process that requires key nutrients to develop a healthy baby. Folate is a critical nutrient during pregnancy. Low folate levels can lead to neural tube defects and decreased red blood cell function in the baby. Adequate folate prior to conception and during the first 28 days of pregnancy can significantly reduce the risk for neural tube defects which can occur in the brain, spine and spinal cord. Want to learn more about NTDs? Visit the March of Dimes for up to date information.
What is folate?
Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin also known as folacin or B9. It is naturally found in fruit, vegetables, grains and other foods. Rich sources include beans, lentils, spinach, asparagus, romaine lettuce, avocado, broccoli, mango and oranges just to name a few. Did you know that most women in the world have low folate levels?
Folate in Food
Can I get all the folate I need from Food? Yes and no. The answer is complicated and has to do with the bioavailability of folate, essentially the amount you can absorb from food. Folate is bound in a chemical structure within your food and your body has to go through many steps before it can absorb the folate. Many different things can interrupt this process which leads to mixed absorption rates of folate from folate rich food. So, while black eyed peas maybe high in folate the amount we can actually use is somewhat limited. Over consumption of folate rich foods will not lead to folate toxicity in the body.
How Much Folic Acid Do I Need?
During the preconception period (3 months before conceiving) and pregnancy it is recommended that all women consume a balanced diet comprised of whole foods and supplement with 600 micrograms of folic acid each day. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate used in supplements and fortified foods. In the 1980s, the United States government started fortifying cereals, breads, juice with folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. It is possible to consume too much folic acid. The Institute of Medicine recommends the intake of folic acid from supplements and fortified foods be limited to 1,000 micrograms per day.
If you are planning to conceive or are pregnant, add a folic acid supplement and include more folate in your diet! Check out these pregnancy healthy recipes that are rich in folate, iron and calcium.
- Beets and avocado are great sources of folate and fiber, add ¼ cup of sunflower seeds to bulk the folate content of this salad
- Just 1 cup of Brussel sprouts meets 25% of our daily folate needs
- If you serve this black eyed pea dish with polenta and a green salad you will knock the folate out of the park
- Just 1 cup of cooked asparagus has 262mcg of folate, add almonds and you have almost met your needs for the day
Sherrill Collins, MS, RDN
- Micronutrient Information Center: Folate http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/folate