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Folic acidAs we start the new year off, it’s a chance to think about new beginnings and make resolutions for the coming year. For many of us women, this should include thinking about folic acid in our diets. In honor of National Folic Acid Awareness Week (who knew?!), now is a great time to learn more about this important vitamin!

Folic acid is key for everyone, since it helps keep our skin, nails and hair healthy, and who doesn’t want that??  But it’s even more important for women of childbearing age, since it can help to prevent birth defects.  It’s particularly important very early in pregnancy—in the first few weeks—before women even know they are pregnant.  And if you’re thinking that you will only take folic acid when you are planning to become pregnant, think again: more than 50% of all pregnancies in the U.S. are not planned.  That’s why it’s recommended that ALL women who could become pregnant take folic acid every day.  By making sure to get enough of the vitamin before and during your pregnancy, your baby’s chances of having a major birth defect of the spine and brain are decreased by up to 70 percent!

If you’re taking a daily multivitamin or prenatal vitamin, make sure it has 400 mcg of folic acid.  You can also get the vitamin through your diet, since some grains, pastas, and breakfast cereals are fortified with folic acid.  (Note that not all corn flour products, including corn tortillas, are fortified, so women who eat a lot of these products should make sure they get enough folic acid from other sources.)  It’s best for adults not to go over 1,000 mcg of folic acid a day from vitamin supplements or fortified foods unless instructed by their doctor.

You can also get the natural form of folic acid (called folate) from certain foods.  Here’s a partial list of some great sources of folate-rich foods:

  • Dark, green leafy vegetables (spinach, mustard and collard greens)
  • Other vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, romaine lettuce, Brussels sprouts)
  • Fruits and fruit juices (oranges, orange juice, cantaloupe, strawberries) (Remember to choose only 100% fruit juice, and limit the amount of juice you drink because juices are high in calories and sugar.)
  • Nuts, beans, and peas (lentils, black beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans)

For recipes high in folic acid, check out the B Healthy Recipes on the Spina Bifida Association website at http://www.spinabifidaassociation.org/site/c.evKRI7OXIoJ8H/b.8029681/k.9EDD/B_Healthy_Recipes.htm.  They have lots of ideas for soups, chilies and stir-fries that will keep you warm this winter…AND keep you and your baby-to-be healthy!

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