As we all know, complying with the recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals is an important part of staying healthy. This is especially true for pregnant women whose bodies must be strong in order to provide the embryo and fetus with all the requirements for normal development and growth. Among the most important of the nutrients for pregnant women is folic acid. Folic (FOH-lik) acid, or Folate, as it is known in its non-ionic form, is part of the Vitamin B complex (B9). Although it is important for all people, it is often touted to pregnant women for its known contribution in child development during the pregnancy. It has been shown to drastically reduce the occurrence of birth defects.
What is the folic acid good for us? It is also used by the body in regular cell reproduction and low levels of this vitamin have been linked to heart disease, stroke, and depression. It is known that synthetic folate is more readily absorbed by the human body, some people are reluctant to take vitamin supplements and prefer to receive their vitamins and minerals through natural food sources. Keep in mind that while 400 micrograms in supplemental form is recommended for pregnant women, 800 micrograms from natural sources is required for equivalency. The best sources of natural folates as reported by the US FDA are as follows:
1. Calf’s Liver – a 4 oz serving contains over 860 mcg of folate and only contains 187 calories.
2. Lentils, cooked – Lentils are the second best natural source of folacin. 1 cup of cooked lentils provides almost 358 mcg for its 230 calories.
3. Pinto beans – The second vegetable in the group will give you 294 mcg of the vitmain in a 1 cup serving that has 234 calories.
4. Garbanzo beans – This gives you 282 mcg of such vitamin in a 1 cup serving with 269 calories.
5. Asparagus – The first non-bean in the group will provide 263 mcg of folate with only a 1 cup serving and with a very low calorie content compared to the beans and liver, only 43 calories.
6. Spinach – This is the best leafy green for folacin. In a 1 cup serving of spinach you will receive 262 mcg for only 41 calories.
7. Black beans – Back to the beans, the black bean provides 256 mcg of folacin in a 1 cup serving and contains 227 calories.
8. Navy beans – The navy bean has, in a 1 cup serving, 254 mcg of folacin and contains 258 calories.
9. Kidney beans – The kidney bean is the last bean on the list. A 1 cup serving at 225 calories will provide 229 mcg of folate.
10. Collard Greens – This leafy vegetable provides 176 mcg of folate in a 1 cup serving and has only 49 calories.
If you don’t care for liver or beans, most of the leafy vegetables contain above-average amounts of folic acid. Other foods to watch for are most other organ meats, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, papaya, corn, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and avocado. Additionally, while grains themselves, contain low or no folacin, since 1998 in the U.S. it has been mandatory to fortify them with this vitamin B9, thus packaged dry rice bought in the U.S. actually contains higher concentrations of folate that anything on this list.
It is a necessary vitamin for all people, but if you are a woman planning on having a baby or have just discovered that you are pregnant, please increase your folic acid intake to help ensure your child will be born healthy.