Folate deficiency is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies.
Folate (Vitamin B9) is particularly important during pregnancy because it helps to prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in developing babies.
To prevent a folate deficiency, pregnant women and those trying to conceive are advised to take a daily dose of 400mcg of folic acid (the synthetic form of folate).
However, a major issue that you are likely not aware of is that many women have a MTHFR gene mutation (affects 1 in 4 seriously, 1 in 2 mildly).
For those affected, it means that their body may have 40% to 60% decreased ability to produce the body's most active form of folate, called methylfolate.
This can result in numerous pregnancy complications and even an inability to fall pregnant. If you have, or have had issues including:
- Recurrent pregnancy loss
- A child with Down Syndrome
- A child with autism
- Postnatal depression
- Chronic depression
- A family history of any of those conditions
Then a MTHFR genetic test is highly recommended.
So how do you avoid these health problems? Make sure you get a sufficient amount of natural folate and take folinic acid instead of folic acid. Your body can not store folate, so you must ensure you take a daily dose to ensure your body has enough. To read more about MTHFR, click here. You can find folinic acid here.
The following foods will help you to get your daily folate fix:
Food For Folate #1: Lentils
A cup of cooked lentils contains almost 90% of your recommended daily intake of folate. Lentils are often referred to as a superfood because of the range of vitamins and minerals they provide. Lentils are also high in magnesium, phosphorus and dietary fibre. Lentils are delicious in curries, cold salads, soups, stews and dips. Try to eat a few portions of lentils each week to increase your dietary intake of folate.
Food For Folate #2: Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens (uncooked) are a great way to add folate into your diet. Spinach, kale, swiss chard, mustard greens and broccoli are all rich in folate, as well as offering high levels of iron, calcium, fibre and Vitamin C. You should aim to eat around half a cup of dark leafy greens each day. Leafy greens can be enjoyed as a vegetable side, in salads, curries and in smoothies.
Food For Folate #3: Beans
Beans are another top food for folate. Kidney beans are the most famous for their folate content, but lots of different types of beans can help you to reach your daily intake. A single cup of cooked mung beans contains around 80% of your daily allowance. Black eyed beans, chick peas and lima beans are other beans high in folate. Add cooked beans to your salads, stews and soups for an easy (and delicious) way to increase your folate consumption.
Food For Folate #4: Asparagus
One cup of cooked asparagus contains 67% of your daily recommended intake of folate. A cup of cooked asparagus also contains your recommended intake of Vitamin K, as well as being high in copper, Vitamin B1 and selenium. Steamed asparagus makes the perfect accompaniment to a meal. It also tastes delicious with pasta, soup or in risotto.
Food For Folate #5: Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
Orange juice is a good form of folate. One glass of orange juice contains 20% of your recommended daily intake. Orange juice also helps the body to absorb iron, so enjoy a glass while eating an iron-rich food such as baked beans on wholemeal toast. Experiment with mocktails to find new and exciting ways to enjoy orange juice. Be careful when buying orange juice from the supermarket as many have lots of added sugar, water and other additives and preservatives.
Food For Folate #6: Sunflower Seeds
A quarter of a cup of sunflower seeds can provide 20% of your daily folate requirement. Sunflower seeds are also full of other essential vitamins and minerals including magnesium, iron and calcium. Tahini (sunflower seed paste) is one of the main ingredients in hummus, so for an easy sunflower fix, have some hummus and crudites and add some hummus to your sandwich. If you are a snacker, keep a tub of sunflower seeds on your desk so that you can pick at them throughout the day.
Food For Folate #7: Peanuts
A cup of peanuts can provide 10% of your recommended daily intake of folate. Peanuts are also a good source of fat which is important for brain development. Keep peanuts with you so that you can snack on them throughout the day. Try whipping up a satay sauce, or sprinkle crushed peanuts on top of your salads.
Food For Folate #8: Avocado
Avocados are touted as a superfood, and this reputation is particularly deserved when it comes to pregnancy. One cup of avocado can contain as much as a third of your daily folate requirements. Avocados are also full of good fats that encourage optimum brain development for your growing baby. Avocados can be eaten in a variety of ways – including in salads, as guacamole, and with hummus on toast.
Food For Folate #9: Brussels Sprouts
One cup of cooked brussels sprouts can provide almost a quarter of your daily recommended intake of folic acid. Brussels sprouts are also very high in Vitamin K and Vitamin C. Brussels sprouts can be roasted, steamed or boiled and served as a vegetable side. They can be used to make soup, and the leaves can also be added to salads as a way of adding some extra folate to your diet.