If you're trying to conceive or you're already pregnant, one of the most important nutrients you can add to your diet is folic acid. This essential B vitamin, also known as folate, is found in plenty of the foods we already enjoy, like beans, spinach, egg yolks, asparagus, peas and lentils. But pregnant women need a lot of folic acid, which is why it's crucial to begin taking prenatal vitamins containing the nutrient as soon as you find out that you're expecting.
Adequate folic acid consumption is associated with a decrease in the incidence of certain birth defects, especially those affecting the neural tube. Women who had an adequate folic acid intake during pregnancy were less likely to give birth to babies with conditions like spina bifida, where the spine protrudes from the back, and anencephaly, a condition where the brain is improperly formed or missing entirely.
Folic acid also helps protect against miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight, as well as other birth defects like cleft lips and palates.
Getting your recommended dose of folic acid doesn't have to be tough. Eat a balanced diet rich in foods that contain the nutrient, and take a vitamin daily that supplies you with plenty of folate as well as other essential nutrients.