Folic acid, if you’re a mommy to be, I’m sure you’ve heard about the importance of taking folic acid supplements. What exactly is folic acid? Folic acid is the synthetic form of vitamin B9, whereas, folate is the naturally occurring form of vitamin B9. Folate and folic acid play crucial roles in the body and are especially important for pregnant women. Folate and folic acid are essential in cell growth, formation of DNA, produce red/white blood cells, and (in pregnant women) helps properly develop baby’s neural tube, which becomes the spinal cord. It’s so important, the government has made is mandatory to enrich grain products with folic acid.
Low Levels or deficiency of Folate/Folic Acid:
Low levels or a deficiency of folate/folic acid are associated with different health conditions, such as anemia and birth defects in pregnant women. Anemia is a condition in which you have too few red blood cells. Because red blood cells carry oxygen, having anemia can deprive your tissues of oxygen.
Low levels of folic acid during pregnancy can lead to neural tube defects. These are defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord. Two common neural tube defects are spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida means the fetal spinal column doesn’t close completely during the first month of pregnancy and can cause damage to the nerves and spinal cord. The symptoms vary from person to person and can range from growing fine with normal intelligence, needing braces or a wheelchair, to having learning difficulties. In anencephaly, most of the brain and skull do not develop. Usually babies born with this condition are stillborns or die shortly after birth.
As you can tell, folic acid is SUPER important to take during your pregnancy. A woman is advised to take a folic acid supplement every day and should get roughly 600-800 micrograms daily. The daily amount needed is usually increased if you have family history or past complications with neural tube defects. Since neural tube defects occur during the first month of pregnancy, it is recommended to start taking folic acid supplements a few months before becoming pregnant.
Folate is a water soluble vitamin, meaning it dissolves in water and isn’t stored in fat cells. It is important to keep taking folate because there isn’t a reserve in the body and can lead to deficiencies quickly.
Foods with Folate:
Your diet is crucial when making sure you obtain folate/folic acid every day. Folate and folic acid is found in many different foods. Most breads, flours, breakfast cereals are fortified with folic acid. Some foods that contain high levels of folate are leafy green vegetables (spinach), Brussels sprouts, peas, bananas, and asparagus. Also, it is recommended when eating fruit or vegetables, high in folate, to eat them raw or lightly stemmed because folate can be damaged during the cooking process.
Below is a graph of different foods containing folate and how much is in one serving:
|Source||Serving Size||Amount of Folate/serving|
|Spinach||1 cup||263 mcg|
|Collard Greens||1 cup||177 mcg|
|Romaine Lettuce||1 cup||76 mcg|
|Asparagus||1 cup||262 mcg|
|Papaya||1 papaya||115 mcg|
|Grapefruit||1 grapefruit||40 mcg|
|Raspberries||1 cup||14 mcg|
|Garbanzo Beans||1 cup||282 mcg|
|Black Beans||1 cup||256 mcg|
|Green Beans||1 cup||42 mcg|
|Avocado||1 cup||110 mcg|
|Okra||½ cup||103 mcg|
|Corn||1 cup||34 mcg|
|Cauliflower||1 cup||55 mcg|