Folic acid is a B vitamin that is used to make new blood cells. While everyone needs folic acid, it’s even more important for women who are pregnant or who are trying to conceive to make sure they are getting adequate amounts since folic acid helps produce the extra blood a woman’s body needs during pregnancy.
Adequate folic acid intake is also extremely important for the prevention of birth defects. In fact, if taken before and during early pregnancy, folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects (NTDs), which are major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine (i.e., anencephaly and spina bifida). NTDs usually develop within the first 28 days of pregnancy, oftentimes before a woman even knows that she is pregnant.
Recommended Daily Intake
The recommended daily intake of folic acid for all women of childbearing age is at least 400 micrograms (mcg), or 0.4 milligrams (mg). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, taking folic acid for at least one month prior to conception can reduce the risk of NTDs by as much as 70%!
Foods Rich in Folic Acid
The following foods are great sources of folic acid:
- Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and Brussel sprouts
- Different types of lettuce, including Romaine, arugula, chicory, etc.
- Green peas
- Citrus fruits, such as oranges
- Tropical fruits, like mango, papaya, guava, kiwi and pomegranate
- Beans, including black, kidney, lentil, pinto and garbanzo beans
- Almonds and other nuts
- Breads, including wheat bread
If you are pregnant, or are trying to conceive, please make sure that you are getting an adequate amount of folic acid needed to promote a healthy pregnancy and baby.