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You’ve heard that folate is important to get during pregnancy but maybe not quite known why- here’s what the fuss is about.
Also known as folic acid or B9, it’s a vitamin that protects the chromosomes in sperm, eggs and a developing zygote, and mutations of these chromosomes is what causes most miscarriages and birth defects. The body can only store a small amount of the nutrient at a time, though, and in its natural form folate is fragile and easily destroyed by heat and light. So it’s important to get folate-rich foods in your diet every day.
Because of its protective effect against birth defects, in 1996 the FDA began requiring folic acid be added to enriched breads and cereals. A large study in 2013 found an association between women taking 400 mcg of folate daily a month before conception and a 40 percent reduction of the risk of having a child with autism.
Ideally all men and women should get at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folate a day before conception, plus 1,000 mcg (1 gram) per day from folic acid supplements or enriched foods, like breakfast cereal. You shouldn’t take more than 1000 mg. of folate in a supplement unless your doctor tells you to (sometimes if you’ve had a miscarriage or baby with a birth defect your doctor will recommend you take much more).
But there’s no upper limit to the amount of natural folate you can have, and there are many delicious foods with folate: breakfast cereals and toast, beans such as black eyed peas, garbanzos and lentils are some of the richest sources, and leafy greens such as spinach, Brussels sprouts, lettuce and broccoli.
|Lentils, boiled||179 mcg per half cup (4 oz.)|
|Oatmeal, instant||150 mcg per packet|
|Asparagus, steamed||131 mcg per 6 spear|
|Spinach, steamed||131 mcg per half cup|
|Chickpeas, canned||80 mcg per half cup|
|Lima beans||78 mcg per half cup|
|Orange juice||54 mcg per half cup|
|Broccoli, steamed||52 mcg per half cup|