The role of folic acid in pregnancy
      The role of folic acid in pregnancy

      What’s the Role of Folic Acid in Pregnancy?

      Did you take folic acid while trying to conceive? Well, pregnancy is no different! Folate – also known as folic acid – plays an essential role in supporting your baby’s earliest development. Find out which foods are stacked with folic acid to reduce the risk of birth defects.

      Even before you know you’re pregnant, folate — also known as folic acid — works to reduce the risk of brain and spinal cord defects developing in your baby.

      In the first month of pregnancy, your baby’s neural tube is formed. This eventually becomes your baby’s spinal cord and brain, which make up your baby’s control centre for his future growth, development, and normal functioning later in life. Unfortunately, not taking enough folic acid can result in spina bfida, an anomaly in the development of a baby’s spinal cord.

      How Much Folic Acid Do I Need?2

      Although folate is present in many foods, it is difficult to get sufficient levels from your diet alone. Talk to your doctor about prenatal supplements containing folic acid, or a separate supplement for folic acid. The recommended amount is 600 mcg per day, particularly in your first trimester.

      You can also increase your intake of folic acid with folate-rich foods such as:

      •   Green, leafy vegetables

      •   Brown rice

      •   Granary bread

      •   Fortified breakfast cereals


      Here’s a snapshot of folate content in some common picks3:

      Food (100g) Folate (mcg)
      Asparagus (boiled) 173
      Spinach (raw) 114
      Breakfast cereal 111-333
      Brussels sprouts (boiled) 110
      Mixed nuts (raw) 93
      Broccoli (raw) 90
      Granary bread 88
      Rocket 88
      White cabbabage (raw) 84
      Lettuce (raw) 55
      Peas (frozen, boiled) 47
      Oranges (raw) 31
      Green and brown lentils (boiled) 30
      Strawberries (raw) 20

      (80g is the recommended portion size for fruit and veg4)

      Get creative with your food pairings! For a healthy dose of folate, consider whipping up these meals and snacks:

      •   Lentil and chard curry with brown rice

      •   Baked beans on granary toast

      •   Roasted kale chips

      •   Broccoli dipped in hummus

      As you shop for these goodies, keep in mind the cooking methods that will minimize nutrient loss. Boiling or stewing, for instance, will reduce folate content. Instead, consider steaming, blanching or baking, which are the best ways to cook folate-rich foods! 

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