folate, folic acid, healthy pregnancy, pregnancy supplements

Everybody needs folate but if you are pregnant or are of a child bearing age and there is the possibility that you may fall pregnant (whether you are planning it or not), then it’s especially important that your everyday diet is rich in folate. Because our bodies don’t store folate for long periods of time, we need to ensure that we are continuously supplying our bodies with this important vitamin.

What is folate and how is it different to folic acid?

Folate is a B vitamin that is found naturally in foods such as leafy green vegetables, beans, legumes and fruits. Folic acid is the synthetic form of the vitamin that is created in a laboratory and added to certain foods and supplements.

What does folate do?

Folate is used to make our DNA. It helps to produce and maintain new cells which is especially important during times of rapid cell growth such as pregnancy. In the early stages of pregnancy folate is essential for the healthy development of a foetus, especially the neural tube which is the structure that eventually forms the brain and spinal cord. The neural tube closes and fuses very early in life and if this doesn’t happen the result is a neural tube defect such as spina bifida. Folate helps to reduce the risk of this happening.

Where can I find folate?

Folate can be found naturally in some vegetables including broccoli, spinach, asparagus, avocado and lettuce. Certain types of beans such as mung beans, chickpeas and kidney beans are also a rich source of folate as well as legumes, citrus fruits, seeds and nuts. Folic acid can be found in many fortified foods including some breads, cereal, pasta and rice.

During pregnancy our bodies need more vitamins than usual to keep us and our babies healthy, so as well as ensuring our diets are rich in folate it is recommended that we take a folic acid supplement. Start taking the supplement as soon as you start trying to fall pregnant because if you wait until you realise you’re pregnant then it could already be too late.

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By Karyn Miller