If you’ve read anything at all on nutrition during pregnancy, you probably know that folic acid and pregnancy go hand in hand. Folate (or folic acid) is actually one of the B vitamins, B9 to be exact. Folate is the form of the vitamin found naturally in foods, whereas folic acid is found in supplements. A lack of folate/folic acid during pregnancy (approximately 3-4 weeks after conception) has been associated with birth defects and neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Unfortunately, neural tube defects can occur even before a woman realizes that she’s pregnant.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all pregnant and women who may become pregnant take a daily vitamin supplement that contains the right amount of folic acid. ACOG recommends at least 400 micrograms of folic acid 1 month prior to conception and 600 micrograms during pregnancy. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends 400-800 micrograms per day for pregnant women or those planning on becoming pregnant. The US Department Health and Human Services has put together a great fact sheet on folic acid. Some women need more folic acid than others. Talk to your ob/gyn about your specific folic acid needs.
Other than the source, is there a difference between folate and folic acid? Um..Yes! Folic acid is more bioavailable than folate. This means that if the same amount (# micrograms) is consumed, more of the vitamin from folic acid will be available for our bodies to use.
Dietary Sources of Folate
Folate occurs naturally in the following foods:
- Dark-green, leafy vegetables (like spinach and broccoli)
- Dried beans and peas (legumes)
- Orange juice and other citrus fruits/juices
Some foods have also been fortified with folic acid:
- Enriched breads
Adding dark-green, leafy vegetables to your diet not only provides folate but also adds other vitamins and minerals too. One ideas for adding dark-green leafy vegetables to your diet is to make a big salad for lunch or dinner and top it with other colorful veggies and a lean protein. Another idea is to make a smoothie and add a handful of spinach to it.
What other ideas can you come up with to add a little folate to your diet? Let me know in the comments section!
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