Top 25 Foods Rich In Folic Acid Ravi Teja Tadimalla Hyderabd040-395603080 August 29, 2019
Do you want to be healthy?
Well, that was a rhetorical question, wasn’t it? Of course, we all want to be healthy. So, the question is not if we want to, but if we know what the requirements are.
Exercise, sleep, nutrition and all are fine – but there is one nutrient that is very important (and which doesn’t get much attention) that I am here to talk about – folic acid.
One question – why is it important? Keep reading to find the answers. Here you will learn about top foods high in folic acid and much more.
- Top 25 Foods Rich In Folic Acid
- Folate – A Brief
- Folate Vs Folic Acid
- 25 Foods High in Folic Acid
- 1. Broccoli
- 2. Pinto Beans
- 3. Seeds And Nuts
- 4. Asparagus
- 5. Yeast Extract Spread
- 6. Liver
- 7. Herbs
- 8. Avocados
- 9. Soybeans
- 10. Arugula
- 11. Black-Eyed Peas
- 12. Bananas
- 13. Tomatoes
- 14. Chilli Powder
- 15. Papaya
- 16. Citrus Fruits
- 17. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
- 18. Fortified Cereals
- 19. Lentils
- 20. Okra
- 21. Brussels Sprouts
- 22. Cauliflower
- 23. Beets
- 24. Corn
- 25. Carrots
- Are You Getting Enough Of Folate?
- Folic Acid Dosage For Specific Health Conditions
- Natural Folate Supplements
- Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
- Folic acid in diet
- Vegetables High In Folic Acid: Tips On Growing Folic Acid Rich Veggies
- Vegetables with Folic Acid
- Folic Acid
- When should I start taking folic acid?
- What’s the difference between Folic Acid and Folate?
- What are the risks of not taking folic acid?
- What foods contain folic acid?
- How do I know if I am at risk of having a baby with neural defects, and how can I prevent this from happening?
- How are neural tube defects diagnosed?
- What are other reasons for an elevated AFP?
- If I have an elevated AFP, what additional tests are available?
- 20 foods with folic acid — make sure you’re getting enough
- 1. Spinach
- 2. Asparagus
- 3. Romaine lettuce
- 4. Peas
- 5. Brussels sprouts
- 6. Avocado
- 7. Orange juice
- 8. Bananas
- 9. Legumes
- 10. Cereal
- 11. Wheat Germ
- 12. Enriched pasta
- 13. Rice
- 14. Bread
- 15. Eggs
- 16. Beef liver
- 17. Halibut
- 18. Crab
- 19. Milk
- 20. Chicken
- 5 great recipes for a tasty dose of folic acid
Top 25 Foods Rich In Folic Acid
- Folate – A Brief
- Folate Vs Folic Acid
- 25 Foods High in Folic Acid
- Are You Getting Enough Of Folate?
- Folic Acid Dosage For Specific Health Conditions
- Natural Folate Supplements
Folate – A Brief
Most of us would have probably heard of folate a number of times. But what is it? What has it got to do with our being healthy?
Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin. It is naturally present in some foods, added to certain others, and also available in the form of supplements. This vitamin is vital for cell growth and metabolism (1).
Now, the vital question – we can consume folic acid through supplements, right? Why rely on natural foods? Both are same anyway, aren’t they? Before I answer this question, there is something else you must know.
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Folate Vs Folic Acid
We have seen what folate is. But what about folic acid? Well, both are one and the same – except for a distinct difference.
Folate and folic acid are the different forms of vitamin B9. Only that folate is the natural form of vitamin B9. Folic acid, on the other hand, is the synthetic form of vitamin B9. It is used in supplements and added to certain food products like breakfast cereals or flour.
The digestive system converts folate into the biologically active form of vitamin B9, called 5-MTHF. But this is not the case with folic acid. Folic acid is converted into 5-MTHF in the liver or other tissues, and not in the digestive system (2). Which is partially why the process is not as efficient. Other factors include those who have genetic mutations in the enzyme that converts folic acid to 5-MTHF, which results in reduced activity of this enzyme and conversion process. Hence, when you take a folic acid supplement, the body may take more time to convert it into 5-MTHF, allowing the unmetabolized, folic acid to accumulate (3).
This is where the actual problem arises. Even a small dose of 200 mcg of folic acid a day may not get completely metabolized until the next dose. This can result in higher levels of unmetabolized folic acid in the bloodstream, which can cause a variety of symptoms and side-effects in some individuals such as depression, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and sleep disturbances.
This is where we answer the question we asked before. When it is folate (naturally occurring), there is no question of it going unmetabolized. Of course, it’s natural. It is metabolized in the digestive system. Hence, no complications.
Now that we have seen which form of folate is better, let’s take a look at the best folic acid rich foods. It’s important to note that when we discuss “folic acid” from natural food sources, the form of vitamin B9 is typically methyl-folate or folinic acid (calcium folinate), another natural form of folate.
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25 Foods High in Folic Acid
Serving size – 1 cup chopped (91 g)
A single serving of broccoli contains 57.3 mcg of folate. This meets 14% of the daily value of the vitamin. Apart from this, broccoli is also rich in vitamins A and K.
Vitamin A is vital for maintaining skin and teeth health. It also plays a role in producing pigments in the retina of the eye. Broccoli contains carotenoids that act as antioxidants (4). Vitamin K helps prevent osteoporosis and inflammation (5).
2. Pinto Beans
Serving size – 1 cup (193 g)
One serving of pinto beans contains a whopping 1,013 mcg of folate. It has 670 calories, but negligible saturated fat.
Pinto beans are also rich in potassium. According to a study conducted by Purdue University, USA, optimum potassium consumption is linked to decreased risk of stroke (6).
3. Seeds And Nuts
Serving size for flaxseeds – 1 cup, whole (168 g)
Serving size for sunflower seeds – 1 cup, with hulls (46 g)
Serving size for almonds – 1 cup, ground (95 g)
Seeds like flaxseeds (146 mcg per serving) and sunflower seeds (104 mcg per serving), or nuts like almonds (48 mcg per serving) are rich in folate. You can simply consume these raw or add them to your salad for a healthy dose of folate.
Flaxseeds are also rich in manganese and other vitamins, all of which support your immune and nervous systems, bones, and several other bodily processes (7).
Sunflower seeds and almonds are also rich in vitamin E that promotes healthy skin and eyes (8).
Serving size – 1 cup (134 g)
A single serving of asparagus contains about 70 mcg of folate. It contains just 27 calories, though a large portion of these calories comes from sugars.
Asparagus also is an excellent source of iron and riboflavin. Iron is required to produce hemoglobin, an essential part of the blood cells that sustain life (9). Riboflavin plays a major role in folate metabolism (10).
5. Yeast Extract Spread
Serving size – 1 tsp (6 g)
One serving of yeast extract spread has 60.6 mcg of folate. Though high in sodium, it contains just about 9 calories. You can use it with toast, crackers, or even sandwiches. Use just a little of the spread as it has a strong taste.
Another major compound the yeast extract spread contains is niacin, which, according to an American study, has shown to lower the levels of bad cholesterol (11).
Serving size – 28 g
If you are a non-vegetarian, this could be great news for you. Both beef liver (81.2 mcg per serving) and chicken liver (165 mcg per serving) contain good amounts of folate.
They are also are excellent sources of selenium, which has been found to prevent various types of cancer and muscle and heart disorders (12). But one thing has to be kept in mind – eat liver in moderation as it also contains trans fat and cholesterol.
Serving size for rosemary – 1 tbsp (2 g)
Serving size for basil – 2 tbsp, chopped (5 g)
Certain herbs like rosemary and basil are good sources of folate. One serving of rosemary and basil provides 1.6 mcg and 3.6 mcg of folate respectively.
A study conducted in Jammu and Kashmir, India, states the efficacy of herbs, especially basil, in treating hypertension (13).
Serving size – 1 cup, cubes (150 g)
Who wouldn’t love to binge on an avocado! A single serving of the fruit offers about 122 mcg of folate. Additionally, avocados are also rich in vitamin C that displays cardioprotective properties in smokers and obese or overweight individuals (14). Also, the phytochemicals in avocados pack a powerful punch.
Serving size – 1 cup (186-256 g)
Mature soybean seeds contain 697 mcg of folate while green soybeans 422 mcg of folate per serving. They are high in calories – one serving of soybeans contains 376 calories.
Soybeans are also an excellent source of protein. As per a study conducted by the University of South Carolina, soybean protein reduces the concentrations of bad cholesterol (15). It also positively influences the bone and calcium balance in postmenopausal women.
Serving size – 1 leaf (2 g)
One serving of arugula contains 1.9 mcg of folate. This food is extremely low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Being a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and potassium, it is replete with numerous benefits.
11. Black-Eyed Peas
Serving size – 1 cup (172 g)
One serving of black-eyed peas contains about 358 mcg of folate. In addition, the food is also low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and sodium.
Serving size – 1 cup, mashed (225 g)
A serving of banana contains 45 mcg of folate, which is 11% of the daily value of the vitamin. Bananas are also rich sources of vitamin B6, which helps the body prepare antibodies to fight numerous diseases (16). The vitamin also helps maintain normal nerve function and keeps the blood sugar within normal limits.
Serving size – 1 cup (149 g)
One serving of tomatoes contains about 22 mcg of folate. Tomatoes are also low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol. They are excellent sources of carotenoids, like beta-carotene and lycopene, which exhibit antioxidant and antitumor properties (17).
14. Chilli Powder
Serving size – 1 tbsp (8 g)
For us Indians, our food probably is incomplete without a dash of chilli powder. Which is good in a way, as one tablespoon of chilli powder contains 7.5 mcg of folate. Chilli powder has other benefits as well – it stimulates circulation and enhances digestion and metabolism (18).
Serving size – 1 cup, cubes (140 g)
A single serving of papaya contains about 53 mcg of folate. It also is a very good source of vitamins A and C. The fruit is used to treat and prevent gastrointestinal tract disorders and intestinal infections (19).
16. Citrus Fruits
Serving size for oranges – 1 cup (180 g)
Serving size for strawberries – 1 cup (152 g)
Serving size for grapefruit – 1 cup, with juice (230 g)
Our mothers and grandmothers have only sung praises of citrus fruits right from our childhood. Of course, there was a very good reason for that. Citrus fruits, like oranges (54 mcg per serving), strawberries (36.5 mcg per serving), and grapefruit (29.9 mcg per serving), contain good amounts of folate.
As per a Chinese study, citrus fruits work great for the heart, brain, and liver health (20). They also exhibit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that allow one to enjoy the best of health.
17. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Serving size for spinach – 1 cup (30 g)
Serving size for kale – 1 cup, chopped (67 g)
Green vegetables are considered one of the best foods with folic acid. There is no way we wouldn’t have heard of the importance of dark green leafy vegetables in our diet. They are basic for health – irrespective of where or how we live.
Dark greens, especially spinach and kale, have good amounts of folic acid. A serving of spinach contains 58.2 mcg of folate, and a serving of kale has about 19 mcg of folate.
Apart from folate content, dark greens are beneficial in numerous other ways. to According to a study, one must have half of the plate filled with fruits and vegetables, with dark greens playing a dominant role. Dark greens are rich in carotenoids and various other compounds that offer great health and vitality (21).
18. Fortified Cereals
Serving size – 1 packet (28 g)
Fortified cereals are becoming popular by the day. A single serving of fortified cereals contains 80.1 mcg of folate. And as per an American study, fortified cereals play a major role in reducing nutrient deficiency (22).
Serving size – 1 cup (192 g)
One of the excellent sources of folic acid, a single serving of lentils contains a whopping 920 mcg of the vitamin. Lentils are also rich in potassium that helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels (23). They are a good source of protein too, and you can consider them if you are a vegetarian and can’t rely on meat or poultry (24).
Serving size – 1 cup (100 g)
One serving of okra contains 88 mcg of folate. In addition, okra comes with numerous other benefits. It is rich in fiber, vitamin C, and is a good source of potassium and calcium (25). It is extremely rich in antioxidants that promote overall health and well-being. Okra can also be used as a good source of protein (26).
21. Brussels Sprouts
Serving size – 1 cup (88 g)
Though not very appetizing in terms of taste, Brussels sprouts are rich in folate. One serving of Brussels sprouts contains 53.7 mcg of the vitamin. There are other ways Brussels sprouts can benefit you. They are rich sources of other vitamins, minerals, and fiber and support your immune system, boost bone health, etc. In fact, after kale and spinach, Brussels sprouts contain the highest amount of antioxidants (27).
Serving size – 1 cup (100 g)
A serving of cauliflower offers you 57 mcg of folate, which accounts for 14% of your daily value. Cauliflowers are nutrient-dense and have been found to prevent serious diseases like cancer (28).
Serving size – 1 cup (136 g)
One serving of beets contains 148 mcg of folate. Beets have also been found to reduce blood pressure, prevent oxidative stress, and treat inflammation (29).
Serving size – 1 cup (166 g)
Serving size – 1 cup, chopped (128 g)
A single serving of carrots contains 24.3 mcg of folate. Being a popular vegetable, it can be included in most vegetable and rice preparations. Carrots are also a rich source of beta-carotene, fiber, and several other micronutrients (34).
These are the foods rich in folate. They are natural, inexpensive, and the best part – they come with other benefits as well that help you stay in the best of your health.
Now comes another important question. Are you getting enough of folate? Because there is a difference between just knowing about folate foods and actually enjoying its benefits, right?
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Are You Getting Enough Of Folate?
Getting the optimum amount of folate on a regular basis is not rocket science. A balanced diet would help you do so. Simple.
Following is the table that talks about the recommended daily amount of folate as per the age.
If you have any health issues or are on medication, talk to your doctor. You might need more folate than usual (35).
In general, one must know the amount of folic acid (s)he must consume. Which we have already seen. But how about the dosage when someone is suffering from a specific health condition?
Which is what we are now going to look at.
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Folic Acid Dosage For Specific Health Conditions
The dosages mentioned below are based on expert opinions, scientific research and studies, and publications. We have mentioned the health condition, the stipulated dosage, and the results the vitamin has produced.
|Anemia, caused by folate deficiency||1-5 milligrams taken orally||Positive|
|Bipolar disorder||200 IU taken orally daily for 52 weeks (for patients stabilized on lithium)||Positive|
|Cancer (general)||0.2-40 milligrams taken orally daily for 3-8 years||Mixed|
|Colorectal cancer||0.5-5 milligrams taken orally daily for 3-8 years||Mixed|
|Chronic kidney disease||2-15 milligrams taken orally daily, or thrice in a week, for 1-3.6 years||Positive|
|Depression||0.5-3 milligrams taken orally for 3-52 weeks||Positive|
|Diabetes||5 milligrams taken orally for 1-6 months||Positive|
|Folate deficiency||250-1,000 micrograms taken orally daily; in the case of severe folate deficiency, 1-5 milligrams taken orally daily until blood levels are corrected||Positive|
|Fragile X syndrome||10-250 milligrams taken orally daily for 2-8 months||Neutral|
|Heart disease||0.8-40 milligrams taken orally daily for 3-88 months||Positive|
|High homocysteine levels||0.2-5 milligrams taken orally daily for 21-168 days||Positive|
|High blood pressure||5-10 milligrams taken orally daily for 2-16 weeks||Positive|
|Methotrexate toxicity||1.2-5 milligrams taken orally daily or weekly for 12 weeks||Positive|
|Prevention of birth defects||0.36-5 milligrams taken orally daily||Positive|
|Prevention of pregnancy complications||0.25-5 milligrams taken orally daily for 12-24 weeks||Positive|
|Stroke||0.5-40 milligrams taken orally daily for 6-88 months||Positive|
|Vein clots||5 milligrams taken orally daily during pregnancy||Positive|
|Vitiligo||5 milligrams taken orally twice daily||Positive|
|Gum overgrowth caused by phenytoin||Applied to the gum||Positive|
|Pregnancy-related gum disease||Applied to the gum||Positive|
Folic acid has also been used for general health maintenance in children. The dosage was 0.005-15 milligrams, taken orally daily for 2 weeks to 18 months. The results were mixed.
The results and values seen above, as already discussed, are based on expert opinions, research, and other publications. However, we strongly recommend you to not simply go by what they say. Consult with your doctor regarding the usage or dosage of folic acid for any specific health condition you might be suffering from. The same condition might be different for different individuals, and a doctor’s advice is indispensable.
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Natural Folate Supplements
Touching the point we discussed in the very beginning (if you can remember), yes, folate in its natural form is always the best. But when there is a deficiency, supplements have their own role to play. They cater to the emergency.
A few important pointers to keep in mind if you are using folic acid supplements:
- If you had ever had an allergic reaction to folic acid, you should not use the supplements.
- Before taking the supplement, let your doctor know if you have kidney disease, an infection, a type of anemia not diagnosed by a doctor (but confirmed by lab tests), or if you are an alcoholic.
Folic acid supplementation has its own benefits and risks. The benefits it has for pregnancy are enormous. But beyond pregnancy is where the speculation arises (36).
Folic acid is an essential vitamin that is responsible for metabolism and optimal functioning of the human body. The foods that you eat every day are rich in this vitamin – you only have to eat them in adequate quantities.
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Let us now look a few frequently asked questions.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
How much of folic acid is too much?
Though there is no upper limit for folate taken through foods, the upper limit for folic acid supplements is 1,000 mcg per day.
Why is folic acid important to health?
The human body uses folic acid to produce cells (that include the red blood cells). Folic acid has also shown to prevent up to 70 percent of birth defects involving the brain and spinal cord. Folic acid might also prevent certain types of cancer.
Does taking folic acid prevent all neural tube defects?
Yes, 70% of the time. But there are cases where neural tube defects could be caused due to reasons other than folic acid deficiency.
Which foods rich in folic acid are good for pregnancy?
Broccoli, peas, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, chickpeas, and brown rice.
Tell us how this post on high folic acid foods list has helped you. Do comment in the box below.
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Ravi Teja Tadimalla
Ravi Teja Tadimalla is a Senior Content Writer who specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has been in the field for well over 4 years now. His work involves extensive research on how one can maintain better health through natural foods and organic supplements. Ravi has written over 250 articles and is also a published author. Reading and theater are his other interests.
Folic acid in diet
The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins is to eat a wide variety of foods. Most people in the United States get enough folic acid in their diet because there is plenty of it in the food supply.
Folic acid can help reduce the risk for certain birth defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
- Women who are of childbearing age should take at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of a folic acid supplement every day in addition to that found in fortified foods.
- Pregnant women should take 600 micrograms a day, or 1000 micrograms a day if expecting twins.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamins reflects how much of each vitamin most people should get each day.
- The RDA for vitamins may be used as goals for each person.
- How much of each vitamin you need depends on your age and gender. Other factors, such as pregnancy and illnesses, are also important.
The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine Recommended Intakes for Individuals – Daily Reference Intakes (DRIs) for folate:
- 0 to 6 months: 65 mcg/day*
- 7 to 12 months: 80 mcg/day*
*For infants from birth to 12 months, the Food and Nutrition Board established an Acceptable Intake (AI) for folate that is equivalent to the mean intake of folate in healthy, breastfed infants in the United States.
- 1 to 3 years: 150 mcg/day
- 4 to 8 years: 200 mcg/day
- 9 to 13 years: 300 mcg/day
Adolescents and adults
- Males, age 14 and older: 400 mcg/day
- Females, age 14 and older: 400 mcg/day
- Pregnant females of all ages: 600 mcg/day
- Breastfeeding females of all ages: 500 mcg/day
Vegetables High In Folic Acid: Tips On Growing Folic Acid Rich Veggies
Folic acid, also known as vitamin b9, is essential for heart and bone health at every stage of life. It is vital for creation of new blood cells and may enhance brain health and prevent age-related hearing loss. Folic acid may even help protect against heart disease and certain types of cancer.
If you’re pregnant, folic acid is critical for prenatal wellness and prevention of birth defects. Folic acid helps prevent defects of the spine, including spina bifida, and may reduce the risk of cleft palate. Although more research is needed, studies suggest that a deficit in folic acid may be associated with autism. If you are pregnant, ask your doctor to prescribe a prenatal vitamin, as diet alone may not provide sufficient levels of folic acid. Otherwise, eating plenty of folic acid-rich veggies is the best way to ensure you’re taking in enough of this valuable nutrient.
Vegetables with Folic Acid
Growing vegetables high in folic acid is a great place to start. Dark leafy greens, including spinach, collards, turnip greens and mustard greens, are easy to grow and they’re excellent folic acid-rich veggies. Plant dark leafy greens in early spring as soon as danger of frost has passed and the ground is warm. Don’t wait too long because dark leafy greens tend to bolt as soon as it gets hot. However, you can plant another crop in late summer.
Cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower) are delicious veggies for folic acid. Cruciferous vegetables are cool climate crops that do best in areas with and mild summers. Plant seeds directly in the garden in early spring, or get going early and start them indoors. Locate cruciferous vegetables in a shady spot if afternoons are hot.
Beans of all sorts can be planted outdoors any time after the last frost, but germination is slow if the ground is too cold. You’ll have better luck if the soil has warmed to at least 50 F. (10 C.), but preferably 60 to 80 F. (15- 25 C.). Fresh beans keep about a week in the refrigerator, but dry beans keep for months, or even years.
Folic acid is used to make the extra blood your body needs during pregnancy. According to the US Preventative Task Force, all women of childbearing age should consume 400 – 800 micrograms (0.4 – 0.8 milligrams) of folic acid a day.
When should I start taking folic acid?
You should start taking folic acid prior to getting pregnant even if you are not trying to conceive. Neural tube defects usually develop in the first 28 days of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows that she is pregnant.
If you find you are pregnant and have not been taking folic acid, you should start now to help prevent any neural defects in the first three months of pregnancy.
What’s the difference between Folic Acid and Folate?
People often use the two interchangeably as they are both forms of vitamin B9 but in fact there is an important difference. Folic acid is the synthesized version that is commonly used in processed foods and supplements. Folate can be found in whole foods such as leafy vegetables, eggs, and citrus fruits. Unfortunately, a large percentage of women (up to 60%) have a defect in their MTHFR gene that doesn’t allow them to properly convert synthetic folic acid into active methylfolate. As such women taking folic acid may not be absorbing their B vitamins as expected. For this reason it’s preferable to take folate either from whole food sources or supplements that containing the natural form of active folate instead of synthesized folic acid whenever possible. If you prefer the supplement route, the American Pregnancy Association recommends Fairhaven Health’s Myo-Folate.
What are the risks of not taking folic acid?
The absence of folic acid increases the possibility of a neural tube defect (a defect in the development of the spinal cord).
- Spina bifida is a condition in which the spinal cord is exposed. If the vertebrae (bones of the spinal column) surrounding the spinal cord do not close properly during the first 28 days after fertilization, the cord or spinal fluid bulge through, usually in the lower back.
- Anencephaly is the severe underdevelopment of the brain.
What foods contain folic acid?
Approximately half of all pregnancies are unplanned, so the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has taken steps to fortify certain foods so that all women of childbearing age receive a daily dose of folic acid.
The following foods can help you obtain your recommended amount of folic acid:
- Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach
- Citrus fruits, such as orange juice
A daily vitamin with folic acid may be suggested by your health care provider since the foods listed above may not contain enough folic acid to meet the daily requirement.
How do I know if I am at risk of having a baby with neural defects, and how can I prevent this from happening?
Women who are at greatest risk are those that have had a previous pregnancy that involved a neural defect. Women who are not eating a balanced diet that includes folic acid are also at risk.
The best way to prevent neural defects is to take the recommended 400 – 800 micrograms (0.4 – 0.8 milligrams) of folic acid daily for one month before conception and during the first three months of pregnancy. The daily amount should not exceed 1000 micrograms (1.0 milligrams).
Multivitamins that include folic acid should only be used as a supplement under the supervision of your health care provider.
How are neural tube defects diagnosed?
Neural tube defects are detected through an alpha-fetoprotein test (AFP). AFP is a blood test administered at 16-18 weeks gestation. The test measures alpha-fetoprotein, a substance produced by the fetus and secreted into the amniotic fluid.
AFP is also found in the mother’s blood. The level of AFP in the mother’s blood peaks at about 30-32 weeks. Abnormally high amounts of AFP may indicate that a baby has a neural tube defect.
What are other reasons for an elevated AFP?
An elevated AFP could mean the mother is carrying twins or that there is a problem with the placenta. Women with diabetes or liver disease may also have an elevated AFP level.
However, an elevated AFP could also mean that there are birth defects present such as severe kidney disease, liver disease, esophageal or intestinal blockage, Down Syndrome, urinary obstruction, or osteogenesis imperfecta (fragility of the baby’s bones).
If I have an elevated AFP, what additional tests are available?
- A second AFP test
More helpful articles:
- Pregnancy Nutrition
- Natural Sources of Vitamin B6 During Pregnancy
- Role of Vitamin B in Pregnancy
- Vitamin D and Pregnancy
- FH PRO for Women and Men: Antioxident Supplements for Fertility and Prenatal Wellness
Alex Caspero, R.D., is a registered dietician and the author of Fresh Italian Cooking For The New Generation.
When you hear the words “folic acid,” the first thing that probably comes to mind is…well, pregnancy. After all, it’s in practically every prenatal vitamin out there. But whether you’ve got babies on the brain or not, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough of this nutrient.
The lowdown: Folate, or, in its synthetic form, folic acid, is a B vitamin that has superfood powers for all women, not just those with a bun in the oven. Folate’s main role is to make new cells by helping produce genetic material (DNA and RNA). This is why folate is so important during times of rapid cell growth, like pregnancy. Folate also functions in red blood cells and may help protect against heart disease and breast cancer.
Not getting enough folate can cause serious issues, including an increased risk of cervical, colon, brain, and lung cancer. A lack of folate can also trigger anemia, since your body needs the vitamin to produce new blood cells. Symptoms include weakness, fatigue and shortness of breath.
Plus, as many as 50 to 75 percent of serious birth defects may be prevented by getting enough folic acid just before and throughout the first month of pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s recommended that women of childbearing age get at least 400 mcg of folate a day. That number may sound huge, but it can easily be done by eating avocado toast with orange juice for breakfast, adding a half cup of lentils to your lunch salad, and snacking on broccoli and hummus in the afternoon.
For those who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, that number moves up to 600mcg a day. While it’s possible to get enough through food, many doctors recommend a prenatal vitamin with folic acid to ensure that levels are met.
Not sure if you’re getting enough? Add these top folic acid foods to your shopping cart, ASAP.
Pulses, the umbrella term for dry peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas, are the best natural source of folate. A half-cup serving is loaded with folate, protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and iron while being almost fat free and low on the glycemic index.
Lentils lead the pack with 179 mcg per half-cup serving, or 45 percent of your recommended daily value. Try adding cooked lentils anywhere you would ground beef, making them a great swap for tacos and chili. Chickpeas provide an impressive 121 mcg per can, so load up on your favorite hummus or add roasted chickpeas to your salad in place of croutons. Or, try black-eyed peas, which offer 26 percent of the daily value in just a half cup. They also taste great tossed into soups and vegetable wraps.
Looking for easy snack options? Check out these 13 delicious ways to spice up a tub of hummus:
As if you needed another reason to add more dark, leafy greens to your diet. One cup of raw spinach contains 58 mcg of folate, or roughly 15 percent of the daily recommended levels. Spinach is also loaded with phytochemicals like beta carotene and lutein, which protect against many forms of cancer. Try this morning smoothie to kick things off: Blend 1 cup spinach leaves, 1/2 frozen banana, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, and 1 1/2 cups milk in a blender until creamy and smooth.
Related: 14 Vegetarian Foods That Have More Iron Than Meat
This crunchy vegetable is a genuine superfood, containing antioxidants that combat free radical damage and fiber to help with digestion. Each half-cup of cooked broccoli contains 84mcg of folate. Enjoy it on its own, as a pizza topping, or tossed with enriched pasta for an added folate boost.
This low-calorie vegetable provides 70 mcg of folic acid per cup, along with Vitamin A, C and K. Roast a batch of asparagus for easy meal prep during the week. They also taste great chopped in salads, folded into scrambled eggs, or combined with chicken and brown rice in your favorite grain bowl.
Related: 9 Foods You Should Never Eat For Lunch
Not only is the green goddess rich in healthy fats, but avocados provide a good source of folate—54 mcg, or about 10 percent of the daily value per serving. According to Elizabeth Shaw, R.D.N., and co-author of Fertility Foods Cookbook, “Swapping avocados for other fats, such as mayonnaise or butter, is a great way to increase your dietary folate intake and promote heart health.”
Related: 12 Foods Your Vagina Wants You to Eat
Eggs are nutrient-dense, supplying lots of nutrition with a relatively small calorie count. They’re a great source of protein and contain almost every essential vitamin, including 24 mcg of folate in each large egg. Keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge for a snack, or add a poached egg to your morning avocado toast for a double-dose of folate.
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While you likely don’t need an excuse to eat more peanuts, they are a delicious source of folate, providing roughly 175 mcg per half cup. Not a fan of peanuts? Almost all nuts contain some folic acid, including hazelnuts (65 mcg), almonds (31 mcg) and walnuts (49 mcg) for the same 1/2 cup serving.
20 foods with folic acid — make sure you’re getting enough
Growing a healthy baby takes a lot of nutrients. One of the most important nutrients you need before getting pregnant and during the first trimester is folic acid, also called folate, which among other things can help protect against neural tube defects, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Foods with folic acid help your body produce the extra blood it takes to grow a baby. This nutrient is also crucial for “development of new cells, including DNA and RNA,” notes Laura Cipullo, a registered dietitian and creator of Whole Nutrition Services.
Women of childbearing age should consume 400-800 micrograms of folic acid per day before becoming pregnant, as well as through the first three months of pregnancy. Fortunately, this nutrient is found in several delicious foods you’re probably already eating.
Here’s how they measure up, as well as some new ways to enjoy them:
Stir fresh spinach into soup — a half cup of cooked spinach satisfies nearly one-third of your daily need for folate. Raw spinach is also a good source of folic acid, but cup-for-cup contains less than cooked spinach (due to volume).
This vegetable is a healthy source of folic acid, notes Cipullo. A serving of four boiled spears supplies close to one quarter of the folic acid you need daily.
3. Romaine lettuce
Make a salad with fresh romaine — one of the most folate-rich types of lettuce — to boost your folic acid intake.
A half cup of these tiny vegetables supplies 12% of the folic acid you need for the day.
5. Brussels sprouts
Raw or cooked, these little gems are packed with the folic acid you need.
Whip up a quick batch of guacamole or top tacos and burritos with sliced avocados.
7. Orange juice
Have a glass of OJ with breakfast and you’ll consume 10% of your folic acid needs right off the bat. Oranges themselves are also a good source.
This fruit offers 24 micrograms of folic acid.
Kidney beans and black-eyed peas are two of the top legume sources of folic acid. Other legumes also supply a small dose.
A bowl of fortified breakfast cereal can supply 100% of your daily folic acid. Look for cereal that’s also made with whole grains. As Martha Rosenau, a registered dietitian and creator of Peak Nutrition, notes, whole grains are an essential part of your diet.
11. Wheat Germ
Add a few tablespoons to homemade baked goods.
12. Enriched pasta
Enjoy spaghetti, penne or ravioli because many pastas contain added folic acid. They also are great for quick side dishes, Rosenau notes.
With 90 micrograms of folic acid per cooked cup, enriched white rice is cheap and can be prepared in a variety of tasty ways. Enriched white rice has much more folic acid than brown rice.
Include sandwiches and toast in your pregnancy diet, and you’ll be getting about 10% of your folic acid needs in each slice.
Also a great source of protein, eggs are cheap and easy to prepare.
16. Beef liver
If you enjoy the taste of liver, beef liver (ideally, calves’ liver if you can’t get grass-fed beef liver) is one of the very best sources of foods with folic acid — and iron, too! Due to the high content of Vitamin A, which can cause birth defects if you consume too much on a regular basis, this is best as an occasional treat — maybe once or twice a month.
Though it contains far less folic acid than beef liver, halibut is also a good way to increase your folic acid intake.
Include three ounces of cooked crab meat in salads or soups and you’ll get about 10% of your daily folic acid requirements.
Besides being a great source of calcium, protein and vitamin D, a glass of milk is also a good way to get more folic acid into your diet.
Rich in protein and iron, cooked chicken is cheap and quite versatile.
5 great recipes for a tasty dose of folic acid
Try one of these recipes to make sure you’re adding folate to your diet:
- Freaking fantastic fish: Make this halibut from What We’re Eating to incorporate fish into your eating-for-two diet.
- Wheat germ pancakes: Add wheat germ in a very delicious recipe from Crazy for Crust.
- Breakfast burrito: Roll scrambled eggs and black beans into a tortilla for a folic acid-rich breakfast burrito, such as this one from The Nourishing Gourmet.
- One-ingredient ice cream: Make bananas seem indulgent with this easy, healthful recipe from Tidy Mom.
- Spinach and strawberry salad: Try this salad recipe from The Healthy Foodie for a quick and colorful way to eat your spinach.
If you’re worried that you aren’t getting enough folic acid, speak with your doctor about the benefits of a folic acid supplement. In the meantime, “always serve a vegetable.” That’s the advice given by Rosenau for everyone, pregnant or not.