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Pregnancy And Folic Acid: Foods Rich In This Essential Nutrient

Folic acid or folate or vitamin B9 has a vital role in nutrition and reproductive biology. The demand for this essential nutrient rises during pregnancy as it helps in the proper growth and development of a foetus (brain, DNA and red blood cells) and prevents pregnancy complications like neural tube defects. Folic acid supplements are suggested by experts for all women of childbearing age, especially for those who are planning a pregnancy.

The best way to get folic acid is through dietary sources rather than going for its supplementation unless prescribed. According to the US National Institutes of Health and Institute of Medicine, the recommended amount for folic acid by pregnant women is around 600 µg daily, with a reduction to 500 µg daily during lactation. [1]

In this article, we will discuss a list of foods which are rich dietary sources of folic acid and may help prevent pregnancy complications and keep the baby healthy throughout the pregnancy.

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1. Oranges

Oranges are folate-rich foods that can be a healthy snack included in the pregnancy diet. They are nutritious both for the mother and the baby due to the presence of nutrients like antioxidants, minerals and many others. Orange juice is also considered best during pregnancy due to its longer shelf life. [1]

How much folate: 100 g of oranges contain 30 µg of folate.

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2. Spinach

Leafy green vegetables like spinach are packed with this essential vitamin. It makes for a healthy pregnancy diet due to low calories, key vitamins and minerals and abundance of folate. Remember to steam the spinach instead of high boiling or frying as folate content may be lost from the vegetable. [2]

How much folate: 100 g of spinach contain 194 µg of folate.

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3. Eggs

Eggs are high in nutrients like calcium and iron along with folic acid. They are best consumed hard-boiled as undercooked or raw eggs are not recommended during pregnancy diet. Several folic acid fortified eggs are also available in the market that can provide around 12.5 per cent of recommended folic acid through a dietary source. [3]

How much folate: 100 g of eggs contain 47 µg of folate.

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4. Broccoli

Broccoli is a cruciferous and nutrient-rich superfood that provides a boost to the folate intake during pregnancy. It is high in beta carotene, vitamin C, calcium, iron and dietary fibre. This leafy vegetable is known to prevent the risk of brain injury, cerebral palsy and other developmental disorders linked to placental insufficiency. [4]

How much folate: 100 g of broccoli contain 63 µg of folate.

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5. Asparagus

Asparagus is a valuable folate-rich veggie with several vitamins and minerals. High levels of folate in asparagus helps in maintaining healthy blood homocysteine and plays a vital role in cell division and DNA formation. Traces of vitamin B12, vitamin K, fatty acids and vitamin E in this veggie also contribute to a healthy pregnancy diet. Nutrients in asparagus are best absorbed when it is consumed as a steamed vegetable. [5]

How much folate: 100 g of asparagus contain 52 µg of folate.

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6. Fortified grains

According to a study, in the US, the fortification of cereal grains with folic acid is a mandatory initiative for the reduction in neural tube defects rates. They act as building blocks for the development of the fetal immune system which is vital to prevent them from the risk of future diseases. [6]

How much folate: 100 g of fortified grains contain 139 µg of folic acid.

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7. Lentils

Cooked lentils are a good choice for a folate-rich pregnancy diet. Lentils contain many other nutrients such as iron, polyphenols, potassium and fibre along with folate. Dried lentils are easier to cook and also helps provide constant energy.

How much folate: 100 g of lentils contain 479 µg of folate.