Your recommended daily allowance of folic acid is 400 micrograms a day if you're pregnant. It may sound like a lot, but there are plenty of tasty, healthy ways to get this essential nutrient
So, why is it essential? During the first three months, you’re pregnant, your baby’s brain and nervous system are growing at their fastest. Folic acid – or vitamin B9 – helps protect him from any defects in this growth which can lead to conditions such as spina bifida. That’s why it’s important to keep your folic acid intake up.
It’s recommended that you take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day if you’re trying to conceive and right through your first trimester. Ideally, you should start taking it three months before conceiving. Although you can get folic acid from many rich food sources, the levels drop quickly in foods so it’s always a good idea to take a supplement to make sure you’re getting enough.
Foods rich in folic acid:
Love it or hate it, Marmite – or yeast extract – is packed with folic acid. Just a couple of teaspoons will give you over a quarter of your daily allowance.
2. Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are a fantastic source of folic acid and also contain vitamin E and iron, which prevent cell damage and boost your energy. Eat them as a snack or sprinkle on a salad.
Asparagus is bursting with folic acid. Lightly steamed is the best way to cook it, as over doing it can destroy the folate you need – and doesn’t taste half as nice.
Peanuts are a wonderful source of folic acid – a small handful or a 30g serving will give you about a fifth of your daily allowance. Peanut butter works just as well. But don’t go mad as peanuts are also quite high in fat, and opt for the unsalted kind.
5. Lentils, beans and peas
They may not be sexy, but they’re little sprinkles of gold when it comes to pregnancy health. A cup of lentils gives you almost your entire daily allowance of folic acid. Chick peas blended into a hummus, also ratchet up folate points. Kidney, pinto, black and green beans all contain bags of folic acid, and green and split peas have over 100 micrograms per cup.
6. Leafy greens
Sometimes all it takes to boost your folic acid is adding a bit of spinach, kale, collards or turnip greens to whatever you’re eating. Spinach is the richest in folic acid at 263 micrograms – over half of your daily allowance – in just one cup. Throw in a few kale leaves, romaine lettuce, collard and turnip greens and you’re on your way to an entire day’s allowance on a single plate.
The fruit highest in folic acid is papaya, with over a quarter of your daily allowance in just one. Oranges and grapefruits give you about 30 to 40 micrograms, and strawberries and raspberries give you a nice boost with between 15 and 25 micrograms per cup. Whip your favourites into a smoothie with some low-fat yoghurt for a healthy breakfast packed with folic acid.
Get a quarter of your daily folic acid with four florets of this magical veg, while also getting a fair whack of fibre and vitamin C.
With 80-90 micrograms of folic acid in half a medium avocado, this Mexican staple is one of the best sources and also packed with fatty acids, fibre and vitamin K. Use it instead of butter for a healthy lunch. Sandwich between toasted wholemeal bread with Marmite – taste and folic acid heaven.
If you’re thinking about starting a family, you’ll want to give your baby the best start in life – and that means making sure you’re as healthy as possible. Here are five ways to get your body ready for pregnancy