Each year, the first week of January recognizes the importance of folic acid and folate in conjunction with National Birth Defects Prevention Month. This B vitamin is necessary for healthy cell, immune and nervous system function. It is beneficial for everyone, but crucial for women who are planning to have a baby or are pregnant, as it may prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
Folate and Folic Acid Facts
- Folate is the natural form of this important vitamin. It occurs naturally in many foods.
- Folic acid is the synthetic form of Vitamin B9 found in supplements. Always talk to your doctor prior to taking supplements to prevent interactions with medications and avoid overuse.
- Grain-based products such as cereals, breads and pastas are often fortified with folic acid to prevent deficiencies.
- Folate that occurs naturally in foods will not harm you if consumed in excess. However, if you eat too many foods fortified with folic acid or receive too much through supplements, it can be harmful.
- Despite access to fortifying foods, the National Institutes of Health state women of childbearing age, non-Hispanic black women, and people with medical issues that decrease nutrient absorption and alcoholism are at risk of insufficient intake of folic acid.
Foods with Folate
When it comes to ensuring you’re consuming recommended daily values of nutrients, the best way to do so is through the food you eat. The foods below are great sources of folate!
- Dark leafy greens such as spinach, mustard greens, kale, collard greens and Swiss chard
- Vegetables like Brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, avocados, turnips, peas, squash and beets
- Fruits including oranges, papayas, pineapples, strawberries and grapefruit
- All kinds of beans including, but not limited to navy, black, kidney, lima, pinto, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and lentils
- Whole grains breads and pastas
- Seeds such as flax, sunflower and chia
- Nuts including peanuts, almonds and walnuts
- Beef liver
- Small amounts of folate can be found in other meats, eggs and dairy products.
For Health Advocate Members
If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to the wellness coaching component of our Wellness Program, contact your coach for more information on nutrition or tips to have a healthy pregnancy.