Folic acid

Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin in the Vitamin B family. It helps to form red blood cells and helps in the formation of genetic material within each cell

In the developing fetus (baby) the brain and spinal cord and bones that protect them are formed from the neural tube. If something goes wrong with the development, the result is a neural tube defect, or NTD. An example is Spina Bifida. The baby’s neural tube is formed and closed in the first 4-6 weeks of pregnancy. For this reason, it is important for all women of childbearing age to take folic acid daily, as many pregnancies are not planned, and the benefits happen before she even knows she is pregnant

Folic acid should be continued until 12 weeks of pregnancy. Do not worry if you are past 12 weeks and did not take extra folic acid, as most babies are born healthy

Daily requirements:

The recommended daily intake is 400 mcg. Most women do not get enough in their diet, so a supplement is recommended. If you have a family history of NTD or have certain medical conditions, it may be recommended to take a higher dose

Dietary sources of folic acid:

  • Vegetables: asparagus, spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli, chickpeas, dried beans, lentils, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, parsley and peas
  • Fruits: strawberries, oranges, melon, bananas, hazel nuts and walnuts Certain foods have been fortified with folic acid such as breakfast cereals and wholegrain products
  • Other sources: wheat germ, brown rice, sunflower seeds

Preparing food to retain folate:

Folate can be lost from foods during preparation, cooking or storage

  • Serve fruits and vegetables raw whenever possible
  • Steam, boil or simmer foods in a minimum amount of water
  • Store vegetables in the refrigerator