How to get Folate from Real Food
Folate is good for everybody! But this post is for expectant Mommies. Although there may be evidence to support that potential daddies need folate too! See the link at the bottom of this post.
What is Folate? Is it the same as Folic Acid?
Folate, aka B9, is a group of b-vitamins which naturally occur in certain foods. Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, found in supplementation and fortified foods.
Naturally occurring folate is recognized by the body, well-absorbed, and utilized. There has been much controversy as to potential harmful effects of unmetabolized folic acid. You can read more here.
Any, and how much, supplementation you use should be determined with your physician. Through whatever form is chosen by you and your physician, ensure you are getting the right amount for your individual needs.
Both Folate and Folic Acid can be supplemented.
This post will focus on real food sources and general guidelines.
Why is this nutrient so important?
Specific to the needs of pregnancy…
- Folate is vital for the production of new cells
- Too little folate presents a risk of birth defects, such as neuro tube defect, spina bifida, heart defects and placental abnormalities
How much is needed?
The recommended amount needed to prevent birth defects is 600-800 mcg per day during pregnancy, and 600 mcg per day during lactation. (400 mcg at other times) Folate should be taken by supplementation or included in the diet before conception and throughout pregnancy. Adequate folate during the first trimester, when the baby’s neural tube is developing, is crucial.
Some sources recommend a higher amount for optimal health (than the 600 mcg minimum to prevent birth defects). Per supplementation, an amount higher than 1000 mcg per day is not advised. Again, talk to your personal healthcare provider.
Noteworthy Factors to Consider with Your Physician
- Too much folic acid can make it difficult to diagnose B12 deficiancy. If you are Vegan, be sure to discuss this with your doctor.
- Other factors which may alter the amount of folic acid supplemented include diabetes, medication, obesity, and alcohol (which you should be avoiding during pregnancy anyway, of course!)
- Zinc may also alter the body’s ability to absorb folic acid
- It is very difficult to overdose on folate from real food; overdose is much more likely to occur from fortified foods and vitamins.
How to get Folate from Real Food
A great little tool for finding the nutrient content of most foods is My Tracking. You can enter any given food with an amount of that food and the My Tracking tool will tell you, in detail, the nutrients it contains.
One caveat though… not all foods are created equal!
Organic foods are generally more nutrient rich that conventional. For example, a conventional apple may sit on the grocery store shelf for up to 14 months! All the while, it is losing nutrients. Organic apples (and other foods) are living and closer to their nutritional peak.
A note on cooking methods: The cooking process sometimes reduces nutrients in foods, however, for many people it can also increase nutrient absorption. If you are concerned about this, you can eat more folate rich foods.
Now for the Foods!
Here are your go-to folate rich foods. Include these in your diet every day! Bonus: these whole foods will not only provide folate, but lots of other essential nutrients as well.
- asparagus – about 4 spears (60 g) = 89.4 mcg folate
- avocado – 1 whole fruit (201 g) = 163 mcg folate
- bell pepper
- beans, black-eyed – 1 c cooked (172 g) = 356 mcg folate
- broccoli – about 1/2 c cooked and chopped (78 g) = 84 mcg folate
- brussel sprouts
- citrus fruit and juice
- dark green leafy vegetables, like collards and turnip greens
- dried beans and peas
- lentils – about 1 c cooked (198 g) = 358 mcg folate
- nutritional yeast – 2 T (16 g) = 240 mcg folate
- orange, cal, valencia – 1 whole fruit (121 g) = 47.2 mcg folate
- orange, commercial, general – 1 whole fruit (131) = 39.3 mcg folate
- orange, florida – 1 whole fruit (151 g) = 25.7 mcg folate
- papaya – 1 c, cubed (140 g) = 53.2 mcg folate
- peanuts – 1 c (30 g) = 41 mcg folate – avoid if allergies are present in the family
- romaine lettuce – 1 c shredded (47 g) – 64 mcg folate
- spinach, raw – 1 c (30 g) = 58 mcg folate
- sunflower seeds – 1 oz (28 g) = 67 mcg folate
- sweet potato
Animal protein sources
- liver, chicken – 2 oz (58 g) = 323 mcg folate – consult healthcare provider first
- chicken giblets
- egg yolk – use pasteurized eggs
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References and further reading:
- Folic acid 101 WebMD
- Why men should take folic acid pre-pregnancy too! CBS News
- Image source of pregnant woman and folate foods – littleabout.com
- Image source for that gorgeous food photo – nutrientrich.com
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