Folic acid is a group B vitamin. The name folic comes from the Latin folium because it is found abundantly in the green leaves of vegetables. Folic acid is needed daily in amounts of 400 micrograms.
An adequate supply of folic acid and other vitamins and minerals allows us to avoid easily modifiable risk factors. Folic acid is very useful during pregnancy for the correct development of the neural tube in the baby, it also helps prevent anaemia, cardiovascular diseases and promotes the proper functioning of the body in general. Nevertheless, it must be taken into account that it does not assure us of a healthy baby, since many other factors intervene in the development of pregnancy.
During the first weeks of pregnancy, folic acid plays an important role in preventing certain neural tube malformations in the baby. Numerous studies have shown that women who ingest 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid per day, one month before becoming pregnant and during the first trimester of pregnancy, reduce the risk of a child being born with neural tube malformations, that is, with development problems of the spinal cord and brain. Folic acid can also help prevent other problems in the fetus such as cleft lip.
The expectant mother must try to meet the needs of essential nutrients to ensure a harmonious and healthy development of the fetus. The adequate supply of folic acid, through the diet or supplements, helps reduce the risk of certain malformations in the baby.
The Spanish Society of Midwives indicates that “it would be ideal to start taking folic acid (Vit B9) 2 months before pregnancy and up to week 12”. However, this is only possible if you are looking for pregnancy and if your doctor recommends it. In most cases, folic acid is started in early pregnancy, an adequate supply should start one month before conception and be maintained during the first trimester of pregnancy.
What are the consequences of folic acid deficiency?
Folic acid deficiency is dangerous to your baby’s health, you should never let it get this bad because if it does, then you risk having a baby with some serious congenital defect. These are some consequences:
The neural tube does not form completely or does not close. This causes defects in the spinal cord and spine that can manifest as a lump on the back. In some cases, it can lead to disability.
Anencephaly appears when the upper part of the neural tube does not close completely. This causes the baby to be born without certain parts of the brain and skull. According to the CDC, “almost all babies born with anencephaly will die shortly after birth.”
When the neural tube does not close completely, an opening can develop in the back of the head where a lump similar to the one in the back will appear in spina bifida. It usually causes neurological problems even if it is treated with surgery.
Folic acid in pregnancy will be taken in the form of a vitamin complex, but foods rich in vitamin B9 will also be taken into account. Folic acid is found in many foods, but here are the top 11 foods rich in folic acid:
it is undoubtedly one of the foods most concentrated in folic acid, offering 1000 micrograms per 100 grams. With a single tablespoon, we can cover a third of the daily recommendation and with this ingredient, we can make a variety of bread, cakes, pizzas, muffins and a variety of bakery products.
Cow liver: provides 590 micrograms per 100 grams, an amount that exceeds the daily recommendation and therefore can be a great food when folic acid is needed in greater proportions (for example, in anaemia or pregnancy). With liver, we can prepare as many dishes as with any meat, although a good option is to prepare it with onions or in pate.
Dried agar seaweed: for every 100 grams it offers 580 micrograms of folic acid. It is a good option for vegans who want to obtain an extra of this nutrient because we can easily add it to a seaweed soup, a sauce, a pie or pie filling or, as we would do with spirulina, a smoothie.
Wheat germ: with 520 micrograms per 100 grams, we can add this ingredient rich in folic acid to a smoothie or yoghurt for breakfast, although we can also add it to a pizza, cake or bread dough as if it were a seed.
Beans or beans
Beans as a legume, that is, white, black or black, can help us add a considerable amount of folic acid since with them we can prepare stews, sauteed, burritos, salads and incorporate up to 390 micrograms of the nutrient for every 100 grams.
Like cow liver, chicken liver is a good source of folic acid, as it contains 380 micrograms of this nutrient per 100 grams. A good option is to use it to fill cakes, crepes or other pasta with some vegetables, or to make chicken pâté with it.
To make vegetarian burgers we can use this legume or for salads, stews or other preparations that we usually make with legumes. Soy as such provides 240 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams.
Pumpkin or sunflower seed
For every 100 grams, it provides 238 micrograms of folic acid and can help us add this nutrient between meals, if we consume them as a snack, although we can also add them to bread, salads or yoghurt for breakfast.
This green leaf that goes very well in a salad, a cream or a sandwich, can provide us with 213 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams, an amount that reaches 50% of the recommended daily allowance in adults.
This legume offers 185 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams and we can easily add it to our dishes. For example a salad, a casserole, meatballs or soup.
This legume that we can cook with some vegetables, consume in a warm salad or hot cream for this season, provides almost 170 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams and represents the last food in our top 11 this time.
Here is a selection of the best food sources of folic acid that you can add to your dishes to incorporate this vitamin into the diet and thus prevent anaemia, heart and circulatory problems and neural tube malformations if you are pregnant.