What’s the Big Deal with Folic Acid
Folic acid is indeed a big deal. This important B-Vitamin plays a role in cell division and growth, RNA and DNA synthesis, and brain health. It is strongly encouraged that women planning to get pregnant should supplement with Folic Acid for a full year prior to trying to conceive. The recommended amount for women trying to conceive is 400-800mcg per day, as well as during pregnancy. Birth defects, spina bifida and cleft lip and palate are linked to low folate intake in women upon conception (1, 2, 3). In a recent study autism has been linked to low folic acid levels, as well (4).
In the 1998, the US government began fortifying grain foods with Folic Acid to combat risks associated with low levels during conception. In addition to grain foods let’s explore other ways to naturally ramp up Folic Acid intake in the diet.
8 Best Food Sources
This B Vitamin is found in many foods, particularly dark leafy greens and legumes.
- Dark leafy greens: spinach, arugula, collards, and kale (ranging from 150-260mcg / 1 cup cooked greens)
- Legumes: lentils, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, black beans, navy beans, and kidney beans (ranging from 230-360mcg / 1 cup cooked beans)
- Papaya (100 mcg / 2 cups)
- Asparagus(134 mcg / ½ cup cooked)
- Flaxseeds (54 mcg / 2 tablespoons)
- Broccoli (84 mcg / ½ cup cooked)
- Beets (68 mcg / ½ cup cooked)
- Oranges (48 mcg / 1 medium orange)
Folic acid amounts pulled from http://nutritiondata.self.com/
Can We Get Enough From Food?
How often are you enjoying these foods? Research suggests that even if you regularly consume folic acid-rich foods the amount that is absorbed can be minimal; so, it’s recommended to still take a folic acid supplement (5). As a dietitian, my suggestion is to focus a diet on dark leafy greens, legumes, and whole grains while also supplementing to support the best possible outcome for conception and fetus development. Here’s a delicious recipe to get you started.
- 2 cups romaine lettuce (128 mcg)
- 2 cups spinach (116 mcg)
- 1 cup kidney beans (230 mcg)
- 1 cup chopped broccoli florets (50 mcg)
- ¼ cup sliced pickled beets ( (15 mcg)
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds (26 mcg)
- 2 boiled eggs, chopped (44 mcg)
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon milled flaxseeds (27 mcg)
- 1 minced garlic clove
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.
- In 1 large bowl or 2 plates arrange salad with romaine and spinach on the bottom topped with remaining ingredients.
- Drizzle dressing over the top, toss, and serve this folic-rich salad. Each serving has 318 mcg.