Folate is a
vitamin recommended to be taken by all women who could
possibly get pregnant. It is also known as folic acid
and vitamin B9.
daily before and during early pregnancy reduces the risk
of the embryo developing a neural tube defect (NTD) such
as spina bifida and anencephaly. It is also believed to
be of use in preventing other birth defects and other
illnesses such as heart disease and colon cancer.
How much folate?
recommended that all women take 400 micrograms of folate
each day. This amount is often included in a multi
vitamin or can be taken as a folate tablet by itself.
Various foods naturally contain folate and other foods
are now fortified with folate in the manufacturing
Institute of Medicine suggest that pregnant women
increase their folate intake to 600 micrograms a day,
whilst breastfeeding Mothers need 500 micrograms. Women
with a previous child having a NTD are given much higher
doses of folate in early pregnancy, but this should only
be done under medical supervision.
Folate is not
toxic in high quantities so there are no worries about
an overdose. However, high levels of folate in the body
can hide a lack of B12. Pernicious anaemia is uncommon
and mostly effects older people, but it is still
advisable to not take too much folate for a prolonged
Where do I get
Folate is found
naturally in a range of foods. The highest level is in
green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and
kale, but it is also found in
- Orange juice
- Citrus fruits
To get the most
folate out of food, it is best eaten raw, fresh and
before it has been stored for very long. Boiling in
water also destroys folate, so food is best cooked in a
stir fry or steamed.
Folic acid (the
synthetic version) is now added to some foods, such as
Folic acid is
also available as part of multi-vitamin tablets and as
Folic acid is
more readily absorbed and used by our bodies than
folate; 170 micrograms of folate in food or
100micrograms of folic acid is equally available for our
It can be
difficult to get enough folate from foods so a
supplement is the most effective way to increase your
folate levels. Taking a multi vitamin or folate tablet
each day and including folate rich foods in your diet
will protect any future babies as well as provide you
with health benefits.
Mother of four,
Melbourne writer, Tash Hughes writes articles on health
and family issues for ezines, websites and magazines.
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