Folic acid (found in supplements and fortified foods), or folate (the natural form) is a water soluble B vitamin (B9) that is very important in early pregnancy, but it is also beneficial to take before getting pregnant.
Why is Folic Acid/Folate Important?
Supplementing with folic acid is extra important in pregnancy because of the closing of the neural tube, which is related to the development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord. If it is not done correctly, the baby can develop Neural Tube Defects.
Supplementing with folic acid, as well as eating foods rich in folate, can prevent defects from happening.
You can read about neural tube defects here.
When should you take Folic Acid Supplements?
It is most important to take supplements before and in early pregnancy. The neural tube develops the 17th to 30th day after conception, which is also when defects happen.
But ideally you should always make sure to get at least 400 mcg daily.
How much should you take?
The recommended minimum is 400 mcg.
There is no upper limit when it comes to Folate (found naturally in food).
When it comes to Folic Acid (fortified foods & supplements), it is recommended to stay below 1000 mcg.
Foods in which it naturally occurs = Eat as much as you want.
Supplements & Fortified Foods = Stay below 1000 mcg.
How do you know if it’s fortified or naturally occuring?
The package usually mentions that it’s added.
If it’s in the ingredient list, it’s probably added, because food companies don’t usually list all the vitamins that occur naturally in food — it would be too complex. But there may be exceptions.
Where to find it?
Prenatal vitamins should have the recommended daily amount, but always check just in case.
Fortified foods include cereals, bread, pasta, rice and other grain product, but different countries may have different regulations regarding this, so always check the label.
Plant based foods with a high content include beans, lentils, chickpeas, soy beans, avocado and more.
I have made a huge list of plant based foods in which you can find folate.
Any other reason you can think of? Tell me in the comments, so that we can all work on informing each other and have great pregnancies 🙂