Folate is a natural water-soluble form of vitamin B9 and is found in many food items. It is an essential component, especially in the formation of the baby’s neural tube during early pregnancy. Including sufficient amounts of folate in diet can prevent some major brain and spine-related birth defects in the baby. The daily dietary requirement for folate among adults is 400 mcg. However, pregnant women must take 600 mcg daily.
Folate helps in producing red blood cells. It also helps in the formation of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). In addition, folate plays an important role in protein metabolism in the body.
While folate and folic acid are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Folate is found naturally while folic acid is a synthetic form of folate that is added to supplements and other food items. Folate can be consumed through various natural food ingredients. However, pregnant women are often prescribed folic acid tablets in their first trimester to fulfill the increased need for folate in their bodies.
Intake of folic acid reduces the chances of neural tube defects in the newborn baby. Folic acid also reduces the chances of congenital heart disorders, cancer, and dementia. It also increases the chances of conception and prevents miscarriages and pre-term labor among pregnant women. Gestational diabetes is common during pregnancy. Research shows that folic acid reduces the chances of gestational diabetes. Folic acid may also help in preventing cleft lip and palate.
The timing of folate intake is critical. For the folic acid to be effective it must be taken in the first few weeks after conception. If you are planning a baby then start taking folic acid supplements. Preconception folic acid is often more important than prenatal care during folic acid supplements. As a substantial number of pregnancies are unplanned and most neural defects occur in the first couple of weeks during pregnancy before the woman even realizes her pregnancy, it is better to start taking a vitamin supplement that contains folic acid right away.
Here Are Some Natural Sources of Folate That You Can Include in Your Diet
- Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale
- Legumes such as chickpeas, red kidney beans, soya beans, lima beans, haricot beans, and lentils
- Brussels Sprouts
- Sweet corn
- Apple juice
- Sunflower Seeds
- Whole Grains
Pregnant women who have a history of neural tube defects in their or their partner’s family are at higher risk and are usually advised to take a higher dosage of folic acid till 12 weeks of pregnancy. Anyway, it is always suggested that you should consult with your doctor before starting any new medicine.