8 Best Folic Acid Foods to Eat Prior to Getting Pregnant

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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.

  1. Dark leafy greens: spinach, arugula, collards, and kale (ranging from 150-260mcg / 1 cup cooked greens)
  2. Legumes: lentils, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, black beans, navy beans, and kidney beans (ranging from 230-360mcg / 1  cup cooked beans)
  3. Papaya (100 mcg / 2 cups)
  4. Asparagus(134 mcg / ½ cup cooked)
  5. Flaxseeds (54 mcg / 2 tablespoons)
  6. Broccoli (84 mcg / ½ cup cooked)
  7. Beets (68 mcg / ½ cup cooked)
  8. Oranges (48 mcg / 1 medium orange)

Folic acid amounts pulled from http://nutritiondata.self.com/

  1. 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.

Folic-Rich Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients: 

  • 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)

Dressing:

  • 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

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.
  2. In 1 large bowl or 2 plates arrange salad with romaine and spinach on the bottom topped with remaining ingredients.
  3. Drizzle dressing over the top, toss, and serve this folic-rich salad. Each serving has 318 mcg.

Sources:

What to know about folic acid, Medical News Today

J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2007 Dec;29(12):1003-1013. doi: 10.1016/S1701-2163(16)32685-8. Pre-conceptional vitamin/folic acid supplementation 2007: the use of folic acid in combination with a multivitamin supplement for the prevention of neural tube defects and other congenital anomalies.

Dev Biol. 2015 Sep 1; 405(1): 108–122.Published online 2015 Jul 2. doi:  10.1016/j.ydbio.2015.07.001 The role of folate metabolism in orofacial development and clefting

JAMA Psychiatry. 2018 Jan 3. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.4050. [Epub ahead of print]Association of Maternal Use of Folic Acid and Multivitamin Supplements in the Periods Before and During Pregnancy With the Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Offspring.

Med Pregl. 2014 Sep-Oct;67(9-10):313-21. The question is whether intake of folic acid from diet alone during pregnancy is sufficient.

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