Folic acid for a healthy pregnancy

If you are planning a pregnancy, or find out that you are pregnant, consider taking a supplement of folic acid.


Eat foods rich in folic acid during your pregnancy. Photo: File

Most doctors suggest taking folic acid before the pregnancy and then into the first few months to reduce the risk for neural tube defects. Folic acid has been shown to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects which result in serious birth defects such as spina bifida and brain malformations. Most doctors will recommend in the range of 0.4- 1.0mg of folic acid in addition to choosing a diet rich in folic acid options.

A nutritional planned diet is estimated to provide approximately 0.2 mg of folic acid. To increase these sources look towards the following foods, and include them creatively more often:

Folic acid is approx 0.05mg per serving

2/3 cup steam cooked spinach, broccoli, asparagus, green peas, brussels sprouts, or beets

3 oz dark green romaine lettuce

1 cup orange or pineapple juice

¼ cup sunflower seeds

¾ cup chick peas, lentils, and dried beans

Folic acid is approx 0.05mg per serving

¾ cup lima beans

2/3 cup corn kernels or bean sprouts

Half cantaloupe

1 orange

2 eggs

2 tbsp wheat germ

Folic acid is fortified in these foods:

Bread, crackers, baked goods with flour.

Cereals- hot and cold.

Pasta, instant rice, and cornmeal products labeled ‘enriched’.

Here are my favorite two recipes for using folate and fiber rich beans that are easy to make and great to snack on- pregnant or not!

Black Bean and corn Salsa Salad

1 can black or kidney beans rinsed Dressing:

1 sweet pepper chopped 3 tbsp rice, cider, or red wine vinegar

2 cups cooked corn kernels 1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard

½ cup chopped celery ¼ tsp each brown sugar/sea salt

¼ cup chopped green onions ¼ tsp pepper

2 tbsp chopped cilantro 1 tbsp each water/ olive oil

2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

Mix together salsa salad and whisk together the dressing- toss! This recipe is always best the next day, so make ahead and enjoy for the week. After all when you are early pregnant you may not have the energy to cook every day, and this makes a great snack as well.

Hummus Original

1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained & well rinsed – can be substituted for canned broad beans which are less expensive and creamier in texture.

3 tbsp each fresh lemon juice and water.

2 cloves whole garlic.

1 tbsp sesame oil.

1 ½ tsp ground cumin

2 tbsp each chopped cilantro and parsley

2 tbsp peanut butter or tahini

Blend all the ingredients in order into a food processor until creamy and mixed. As an original recipe you may give the dip your own flare- use some sundried tomatoes; spice it up with jalapeno peppers; increase the lemony zing with extra lemon wedges. Just have fun with this mix and serve it with vegetables to dip or pita crackers.

The dip will keep in the refrigerator for about a week, and longer in the freezer. This is an inexpensive way to make a great healthy snack that can also be added to a meal as the vegetarian protein option. Great source of calcium, B vitamins, and of course folate, this dip is healthy for the whole family, and especially your body while pregnant.

Tara Godfrey is a Nutritional Counsellor with the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management.