Have you heard about Folic Acid? It’s a B vitamin and is really important for all women before and during the early stages of pregnancy. It is usually better to get all the nutrients you need from eating whole foods rather than taking supplements or tablets, with one exception — Folic acid. For a healthy pregnancy, a Folic Acid supplement is recommended for at least 3 months before pregnancy and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Folic acid is important for the development of a healthy spine and brain in the early stages of pregnancy. The risk of spina bifida (when the spinal column fails to close during the first month of pregnancy) can be reduced dramatically if all Mums-to-be were taking a daily folic acid supplement.
But remember, about half of all pregnancies in Ireland are unplanned, so if this pregnancy is a surprise, it is a good idea to start taking folic acid as soon as you find out you are expecting and to continue taking it each day for the first three months.
So why can’t you just eat a diet rich in naturally occurring folic acid (called Folate)? It seems that to get the maximum benefit of this nutrient from the B vitamin family, a supplement of 400 micrograms (ug) per day is necessary. However, along with the folic acid supplement, you also need to know a little more about folate and choose dietary foods high in this vitamin to boost your levels at this time.
Commonly eaten foods that naturally contain folate include:
- Green leafy vegetables (think of spinach, broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts)
- Peas and beans
- Some fruits, especially oranges
Many foods now have folic acid added to them (fortified foods) so these can be a good option for you too. They include:
- Many brands of breakfast cereal
- Some brands of milk
- Some breads
So, in addition to your daily folic acid supplement, start your day with a wholegrain, fortified cereal topped with some folic-acid fortified milk and then add a fresh baby spinach salad to your lunch and snack on a fresh orange during the day — all simple ways to top up your folate levels.So become Folate Friendly and check the labels.