January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month and this week is Folic Acid Awareness Week!
Folic acid is a B-vitamin that is necessary for proper cell growth. It helps prevent folic acid deficiency anemia and, if taken before and during early pregnancy, it can also help prevent some major birth defects of the baby's brain and spine, such as anencephaly and spina bifida.
Folic acid is also known as folate. It is called folic acid in the man-made form, such as what is in vitamins and fortified foods, and it is called folate in it's natural form, as you would find in fresh meats and vegetables.
The recommended dose for all women of childbearing age is 400 mcg of folic acid daily. Every woman needs folic acid every day, whether or not she’s planning to become pregnant. Not only does she need it for her own cell growth, but also because birth defects occur within the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy before a woman may realize that she is even pregnant.
Foods that can help you get more folic acid in your diet include:
- 400 mcg: Breakfast cereals fortified with 100% of the daily value, 1 cup
- 215 mcg: Beef liver, cooked, braised, 3 oz
- 179 mcg: Lentils, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, 1/2 cup
- 115 mcg: Spinach, cooked, boiled, 1/2 cup
- 110 mcg: Egg noodles, enriched, cooked, 1/2 cup
- 94 mcg: Peas, cooked, 1 cup
- 90 mcg: Great Northern beans, boiled, 1/2 cup
- 89 mcg: Asparagus, cooked, 4 spears
- 40 mcg: Strawberries, 1 cup
Whether it's from a multivitamin or a bowlful of fortified cereals, make sure you are getting yourself a nice helping of folic acid every day!
For more information, head over to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network and CDC websites.