Eating a diet rich in folic acid-containing foods is essential to support a healthy pregnancy. Expectant mothers are likely familiar with the role that folic acid plays in supporting healthy fetal development.
While supplementing folic acid by taking a prenatal supplement and opting for nutrient-rich foods is the first step in maintaining a healthy pregnancy, it's easy to overlook several of the most folate and folic acid rich food sources.
We've rounded up our top picks for foods that are high in folic acid to simplify the process for moms to be. Check out our guide for nutrient rich, unexpected food sources that help expecting mothers to meet the daily recommended intake of folic acid, including:
- Citrus fruits
Read on to discover the best foods that are high in folic acid for pregnant mothers.
Legumes are a rich and easily accessible source of folic acid. Foods in the legume family include beans, peas, and lentils. For maximum health benefits, opt for foods in the legume family that are dark in color, like kidney beans.
About one cup of red kidney beans contains thirty-three percent of the folic acid recommended daily intake for pregnant mothers. Lentils pack about ninety percent of the recommended daily intake of folic acid it just one cup and are easy to incorporate into soups and vegetable stews.
In addition to high folic acid content, foods in the legume family are high in protein, antioxidants, and micronutrients for extra nutritional support during pregnancy.
Asparagus is a rich source of folate that makes for a delicious side dish when paired with poultry, meat, or fish. About one-half cup of asparagus contains thirty-four percent of the recommended daily intake for folic acid.
Asparagus is also a nutrient source of antioxidants, which experts believe may possess health benefits including antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. Like other green vegetables, asparagus is an excellent source of fiber. One serving of asparagus contains about seven percent of the recommended daily fiber intake.
Not only are avocados a favorite ingredient in guacamole and spreads, but they are also an excellent source of folate and fatty acids. One avocado contains about twenty-eight percent of the recommended daily take for folic acid.
In addition to their rich folic acid content, avocados are an excellent source of protein and Vitamin K. Enjoy avocados by incorporating them into spreads, guacamole recipes, or use as a topper for fresh salads.
Eggs are a readily available, rich source of folic acid that can be prepared in an endless variety of recipes, or eaten alone as a satisfying snack. One large egg contains about six percent of the recommended daily folic acid intake.
In addition to folic acid, eggs are a naturally rich source of essential B vitamins, protein, and selenium. Further health benefits include high levels of lutein and related nutrients thought to decrease the risk of macular degeneration and other forms of ocular disease.
Incorporating eggs into your diet a few times a week, into any of your three daily meals, is an easy way to meet recommended daily folic acid intake requirements for pregnant mothers.
Okra is a little known source of folic acid that is often served as a delicious side dish when fried or roasted. One serving of okra contains 103 micrograms of folic acid.
Along with its high folic acid content, okra is rich in vitamins and minerals and is thought to cleanse the digestive tract of toxins and build up.
Dark leafy green vegetables, including kale and spinach, are a low-calorie way to get the daily recommended value of folic acid. About one cup of spinach provides fifteen percent of the recommended daily intake for folic acid.
Leafy green vegetables are one of the most nutrient-rich food sources of essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and K, both essential antioxidants. Research suggests that a diet high in leafy green vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer, promote weight loss, and yield anti-inflammatory health benefits.
Although cauliflower has a reputation as a power performer in vitamin C content, it's also a rich source of folic acid that can help support a healthy pregnancy. One cup of cauliflower contains about fourteen percent of the recommended daily value for folic acid.
Cauliflower can be added to mixed garden salads, eaten as a side dish, or incorporated into a number of recipes as a meat and bread substitute.
Beets are a colorful, nutrient-rich root vegetable and naturally occurring source of folic acid. About one cup of uncooked beets contains thirty-seven percent of the recommended daily intake for folic acid.
Beets are also a naturally occurring source of essential minerals including manganese, potassium, and vitamin C. Research suggests that eating fresh beets daily may lower the risk of heart disease and promote healthy blood pressure levels.
Corn is a widely available, easily overlooked source of folic acid that can be incorporated into endless recipes, or paired with your favorite protein as a side dish. One cup of corn contains about nine percent of the daily recommended intake for folic acid.
In addition to its high folic acid content, corn is also a rich course of essential vitamins and minerals including magnesium and vitamin C.
Citrus fruits may not be the first option on most health-conscious consumers radar, but citrus fruit (including oranges, lemons, and limes) are rich sources of folic acid that can help expectant mothers meet the recommended daily intake for a healthy pregnancy.
One large orange contains about fourteen percent of the recommended daily intake for folic acid. Citrus fruits are an excellent way to boost immunity and prevent disease, naturally packed with essential antioxidants and micronutrients. Experts believe that a diet rich in citrus fruit may be associated with a lower risk of certain cancers.
Celery is a rich source of folic acid that is easy to pair with dips, peanut butter, and spreads. One serving of celery contains about nine percent of the recommended daily intake for folic acid. Celery is also a rich source of essential minerals including potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Pair celery with Ranch dressing, onions dips or incorporate it into vegetable soup recipes.
Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable closely related to leafy greens like kale and spinach, and an excellent source of folic acid.
About one-half cup of Brussels sprouts contains twelve percent of the recommended daily intake value for folate. Brussels sprouts are also a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals, including micronutrients thought to possess anti-inflammatory health benefits.
Carrots are a widely available, rich source of folic acid that can be incorporated into various recipes, desserts, or served alone as a healthy snack. One cup of raw carrots contains about five percent of the daily recommended intake for folic acid.
Carrots are also an excellent source of antioxidants and beta-carotene, nutrients thought to possess anti-inflammatory health benefits. Incorporate fresh carrots into mixed garden salads, vegetable trays, or into hearty vegetable stews.
Broccoli, like leafy green vegetables, in a nutrient-rich source of vitamins, minerals, and folic acid. About one cup of broccoli contains fourteen percent of the recommended daily folic acid intake. Broccoli contains even more folate when cooked, packing about twenty-one percent of the recommended daily intake into one serving.
Don't hesitate to prepare broccoli steamed with rice, added to stir fry dishes, or incorporated in other meals. In addition to its rich folate content, broccoli is an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals including manganese, and vitamins A and K.
Research suggests that broccoli contains powerful phytonutrients that are thought to reduce the risk of several forms of cancer.
Squash is a vibrant, colorful source of folic acid that is enjoyed year round, often paired as a side dish with poultry or meat. Depending on the type of squash selected, folic acid levels vary.
Folic acid levels are generally higher in winter squash, at about twenty-one percent of the recommended daily intake value for folic acid. In comparison, summer squash provides about eight percent of recommended daily intake.
Try squash incorporated into meaty winter stews or as a side dish paired with your favorite main entree.
An often overlooked source of nutrition, nuts, and seeds are a nutrient-rich source of folic acid that can help support a healthy pregnancy. About one cup of walnuts contains seven percent of the recommended daily intake for folic acid, while a one-cup serving of flaxseeds yields about twenty-eight percent.
Walnuts, flaxseeds, and almonds are nutrient-rich sources of protein that can be incorporated into various recipes or served alone as a satisfying snack. Nuts and seeds are also a rich source of fiber and other essential minerals, including selenium.
Romaine lettuce is a rich source of folic acid that is easy to incorporate into most salads and a more nutritious choice than iceberg lettuce. One cup of Romaine lettuce contains about sixteen percent of the recommended daily intake for folic acid.
Romaine lettuce is a mega performer in several essential vitamins and nutrients including vitamin A, Vitamin K, and manganese. Opt for Romaine lettuce when preparing mixed garden salads, or use it as an alternative to flour tortillas for veggie wraps.
Potatoes are a rich source of folate that are easy to incorporate into your daily diet. One potato contains about thirty-three micrograms of folate.
While often underestimated for their nutritional value, potatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and magnesium. Incorporate potatoes into stews, serve with casseroles, or enjoy baked potatoes as a side dish to your favorite entree.
Beef liver is a power performer when it comes to folic acid content, as well as a rich source of iron and protein. About one serving of beet liver provides fifty-four percent of the recommended daily intake for folic acid. Beef liver is also an excellent source of essential B vitamins and copper.
Drinking orange juice each morning is an easy way for moms to be to help meet their daily folic acid requirement. One serving of orange juice packs in about ten percent of the recommended daily intake for folic acid. It's also a convenient way to reap the many benefits of citrus fruits, which are excellent sources of Vitamin C and essential micronutrients.
Similar to citrus fruit, papaya is a nutrient-rich source of folic acid, among other tropical fruits, including mango and pineapple. About one cup of papaya fruit contains thirteen percent of the recommended daily intake for folic acid.
In addition to its folate-rich properties, papaya fruit is an excellent source of potassium, and antioxidants, including vitamins A and C.
Fortified cereal is an excellent source of folic acid that can be incorporated into mom to be's daily breakfast routine. Although levels vary, breakfast cereals can provide between fifty and one hundred percent of the recommended daily intake for folic acid.
One serving of Kellog's Cracklin' Oat Bran Flakes cereal contains 758 micrograms of folic acid. Incorporating cereal into the morning breakfast routine is an excellent way to meet daily value requirements for folic acid, Vitamin C, iron, and other nutrients that help support a healthy pregnancy.
Enriched pasta including spaghetti, macaroni, and linguini are a rich source of folic acid and several key nutrients that help meet the recommended daily intake value for expecting mothers.
One serving of cooked spaghetti contains about 127 micrograms of folic acid. Enriched pasta is also an excellent source of iron, magnesium, and essential antioxidants. Try incorporating enriched pasta into your daily lunches with quick fettuccine alfredo recipes, or as a side dish to cool down on warm summer days with cold pasta salad.
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Folic Acid: What Expectant Mothers Need To Know
Now that we've shared our top picks for the best folate-rich food sources available let's discuss the criteria that went into our selection process and the role that folic acid plays in supporting healthy fetal development.
The Role of Folic Acid in Supporting a Healthy Pregnancy
During pregnancy, consuming foods naturally rich in, or fortified with folic acid, is essential to support the development of your baby. That is because of folic acid's role in preventing various congenital disabilities, including Spina Bifida and anencephaly.
When is Folic Acid Most Important?
Although most experts recommend that expecting mothers consume foods rich in folic aid throughout pregnancy, a diet high in folic acid rich foods is most important during the first trimester of pregnancy.
This is because of folic acid's role in neural tube development early in pregnancy. Neural tube defects and other nervous system disorders develop in the first few weeks of pregnancy.
Through folic acid supplementation and a diet rich in folic acid containing foods, the risk of neural tube defects, such as Spina Bifida, is significantly reduced. To maximize the benefits of folic acid in preventing neural tube defects, doctors recommend that women who are trying to conceive supplement with folic acid before pregnancy is confirmed.
Daily Recommended Intake of Folic Acid to Support a Healthy Pregnancy
The daily recommended intake of folic acid to support a healthy pregnancy and prevent neural tube defects is 400 micrograms daily.
Research shows that pregnant women who maintain daily levels of folic acid at 400 micrograms—whether through supplementation or a diet rich in folic acid-containing foods—decrease the risk of neural tube defects by fifty percent.
In mothers who have previously given birth to a child with neural tube defects, the daily recommended intake of folic acid is four grams. For these mothers, the higher recommended intake of folic acid at 4 grams daily decreases the risk of neural tube defects by as much as seventy percent.
What's The Difference Between Folate and Folic Acid?
A common question when supplementing with folic acid and incorporating folic acid rich foods into a healthy diet is whether or not there is any difference between folate and folic acid.
Folate and folic acid are essentially the same nutrients, in terms of health benefits to pregnant women.
The fundamental difference between folate and folic acid is that folate naturally occurs in nutrient-rich foods, while folic acid is a synthetic form of folate added to fortified grains, cereals, pasta, and other enriched products. Folate and folic acid yield the same health benefits to expecting mothers.
Should Pregnant Mothers Supplement Folic Acid?
While eating a diet rich in folate and folic acid containing foods is an excellent way to maintain healthy folic acid levels, most pregnant mothers should also opt for a prenatal supplement to meet their daily intake requirements.
Discuss prenatal supplements with your doctor. He or she can recommend the right prenatal supplement based on your folic acid requirements.
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