One out of every 33 infants in the United States will be born with a birth defect. These defects can not only be challenging, but can also be deadly. As the leading cause of infant mortality, one out of every five infant deaths is caused by a birth defect. The good news is if a woman consumes the recommended amount of folic acid, or folate in its natural form, before and during early pregnancy, she can help prevent major birth defects of the brain and spine (neural tube defects).
As Birth Defect Prevention Month, it is the perfect time to learn about folic acid and the important role this nutrient plays in the development of babies.
Folate vs. Folic Acid
Folate is a term for a group of naturally occurring b-vitamins, also known as B9. Generally speaking, folic acid is the synthetic form of folate used in supplements and in fortified/enriched foods to help meet the recommended daily amount.
Importance of Folic Acid
Daily consumption of 400 micrograms of folic acid each day is recommended for all women of childbearing age. Meeting this recommended daily dose is crucial even before pregnancy as most neural tube defects form within the first 28 days after conception, before most women even realize they are pregnant.
Getting the Recommended Daily Amount
The best way to ensure you are consuming enough folic acid is to take a multivitamin and eat a diet rich in folate foods. Here are 18 Foods Filled with Folic Acid to help get you started!
18 Foods Filled with Folate
1. Leafy Green Vegetables
The word folate actually derives from foliage, which refers to the leafy green veggies that contain some of the highest natural concentrations of the vitamin found in any food. Just one cup of spinach contains around 100 mcg of folate.
2. Enriched Breads and Pasta
Enriched breads and pastas are made from grains that have extra folic acid added to them while being processed. These enriched foods have more than double the amount of folic acid typically found in them. Just one serving of enriched wheat spaghetti contains 100 mcg of folic acid.
3. Cooked Lentils
Believe it or not, cooked lentils are one of the most folate-dense foods you can consume. These members of the legume family boast 180 mcg of folate in every half cup serving, and pack a number of other important nutrients, including fiber, iron and slow-burning carbs.
This cruciferous vegetable is another great source of folate, with about 104 mcg of folate per cup. This superfood is also a great source of vitamin C, calcium, iron and fiber.
Low in calories, cholesterol and fat, asparagus is a great vegetable for a variety of reasons. In addition to being a good source of potassium and fiber, just four spears of asparagus contain 85 mcg of folate.
6. Great Northern Beans
Great Northern Beans, as well as a handful of other types of beans, are full of key nutrients, such as potassium, fiber, protein and calcium - not to mention 90 mcg of folate per half cup.
7. Fortified Cereals
Similar to enriched breads and pastas, fortified cereals have added vitamins, including folic acid. Most fortified cereals boast 100 to 400 mcg of folic acid in just a one cup serving. Be conscious of the amount of sugar found in the cereal and try to find one that has at least 3 grams of fiber.
This delicious fruit is not only a good source of folate, but is also high in vitamins C and A. One quarter of a medium-sized cantaloupe provides 25 mcg.
Citrus fruits are especially rich in folate. Just one orange holds between 40 and 50 mcg, about ten percent of your daily value. A glass of orange juice can contain even more, especially if it has been fortified with folic acid.
Just one more reason to love avocados is their significant amount of folate per cup - around 90 mcg. In addition, avocados are a great source of heart-healthy fats, vitamin K and dietary fiber.
In addition to its amazing ability to cleanse the entire digestive tract from built-up toxins, okra is a great source of folate. Just one cup of cooked okra packs around 37 mcg of folate.
12. Seeds and Nuts
Raw or sprouted seeds and nuts can add a healthy serving of folate to any diet. A fourth cup of sunflower seeds contains 82 mcg, peanuts contains 88 mcg per one-fourth cup and a mere two tablespoons of flaxseed has 54 mgs of folate.
Being from Iowa, we love corn - and you should too! This popular plant contains about 76 mcg of folate per cup of cooked corn.
Cauliflower is another spectacular vegetable that is not only a great source of folate, but also one of the best vitamin C foods available. Just one cup of cauliflower provides you with 55 mcg of folate.
15. Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, contain around 142 mcg per cup. That means your favorite hummus dip is even healthier than you thought!
16. Romaine Lettuce
This versatile salad building block supplies 64 mcg of folate per cup. That means one salad supplies about 16 percent of the recommended daily amount.
17. Tropical Fruits
Tropical fruits, such as mangos, kiwis and pomegranate, are also good sources of folate. One mango packs 144 mcg, and a single pomegranate contains around 27 percent of your daily value.
If you have a taste for liver, rejoice! Just one chicken liver provides 254 mcg of folate, about 64 percent of your daily amount.
Other Ways to Prevent Birth Defects
In addition to consuming adequate folic acid, women can decrease the risk of birth defects in their children by:
Manage health conditions
Refrain from drinking alcohol
Control blood glucose if they have diabetes
Maintain a healthy weight before and during pregnancy
Limit the use of prescription and over-the-counter medications
Stop using tobacco products
If your child is born with a birth defect or other medical condition, trust the experts at Blank Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit. With privates rooms and 44 beds, our Regional Level IIIB Trauma unit offers the latest in technology. Click here to learn more about our NICU services.