A wide variety of fresh foods naturally contain high amounts of vitamin B9. When found in nature, this vitamin is known as folate. Its synthetic form is known as folic acid, and is found in various preparations of vitamin supplements as well as added to several food products.
How Folate Supports a Healthy Pregnancy
Folate is an important vitamin that is necessary for the normal function and development of several processes in the human body. Its chief roles include aiding in the production of red blood cells and the normal development of tissues in the human brain and spinal cord.
Research shows that women who have an inadequate intake of folate both before and during pregnancy are more likely to give birth prematurely, or miscarry the baby. It also raises the risk of birth defects in the baby, especially neural tube defects.
Anencephaly and spina bifida are the two of the most common defects that occur when pregnant moms don’t get enough folate in their diet. This means that the baby can be born with parts of the brain, skull or scalp missing. The spinal column can also be affected and may not completely close, leaving parts of the cord exposed and increasing the chances of serious infection on injury occurring as the baby grows.
How Much Folate do Mothers Need Before, During and After Pregnancy
Since defects can occur quite early in pregnancy, most doctors recommend that women who are trying to get pregnant should begin supplementing their intake of folates at the rate of 400 mcg a day beginning at least one month, and up to 12 months, before they actually get pregnant.
Once pregnancy occurs, expectant mothers still need 400 mcg of folate for the next three months. Between 4 and 9 months of gestational development, pregnant moms need at bit more folate at 600 mcg a day. Once baby is born and mom starts breastfeeding her infant, she should consume at least 500 mcg of folate each day.
Good Food Choices that Help Moms get their recommended Allowance of Folate
The following is a list of a few of the foods that contain high levels of either folate, or folic acid.
Legumes and Beans
When dried legumes and beans are prepared and slowly cooked, they provide around half of the total recommended daily allowance of folate per one cup serving. Eight ounces of cooked
Garbanzo beans provide 269 mcg of folate, while the same serving size of Navy beans provides 254.
Pinto beans provide 244 mcg, dried peas have 231 mcg and lentils provide 229 mcg. The next highest concentration in this group is black beans, which have 227 mcg of folate per serving. Kidney beans follow close behind at 224 mcg per cup, while the same amount of Lima beans only provides 216 mcg.
Some folks refer to greens as foliage, which can make it easy to remember that many of these plants have high concentrations of folate. Spinach is one of the best choices in this class, with 262 mcg per one cup serving. Turnip greens follow close behind at 169 mcg per serving.
Most vegetables are also good choices for those who wish to boost their intake of folate. Some vegetables that have high levels of folate include asparagus, which has 268 mcg per one cup serving, broccoli, with 168 mcg, and fresh green peas, which have 86 mcg in every 8 ounces. Beets are also a good choice, as each serving contains 136 mcg.
Avocados and papaya are two types of fruit that contain a lot of folate. Every cup of avocados has 121 mcg, and one medium papaya has 102 mcg of folate.
Fortified Cereals, Breads and Pastas
Many manufacturers add folic acid to their cereals, and the flours that are used to make many brands of breads and pastas, making these items good sources of the synthetic form of Vitamin B9. The actual concentration of folic acid varies widely, so be certain to read the food label to help determine the actual amount of folic acid that has been added to specific food products.
Organ Meats, Seeds, Nuts
While this last group is normally eaten and enjoyed in moderation, it does contain some foods that are high in folate. One of the best choices in this group is beef liver, which contains around 264 mcg of folate. Nuts and seeds are also good choices, with ¼ cup of peanuts containing 88 mcg of folate and ¼ cup of sunflower seeds containing 82 mcg.
While consuming enough folate is an important part of a healthy diet for everyone, each person can absorb different amounts of the nutrient. This is why pregnant women in particular are often urged to consume prenatal vitamins and other supplements in addition to eating a nutritious and healthy diet.