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Folate: The Vitamin Every Woman and Baby Needs

Photo by Julia Sudnitskaya / iStock
Photo by Julia Sudnitskaya / iStock

When it comes to vitamin intake, let’s be honest: a lot of us aren’t taking them every day, or even regularly. It’s one more thing to remember, and sometimes that’s just one too many. But we’re here to give you a heads up, ladies: If you’re over 19 years old, there’s one supplement you really need to be taking every day—and that’s folate. 

You might have already known that folate is crucial for expectant mothers, but it’s actually a good idea to go ahead and take it even if you don’t have plans for a baby. Folate (or its synthetic companion, folic acid) is an essential B vitamin for women that prevents birth defects of the brain, spinal cord, or spine. 

The most important takeaway, though? Those birth defects occur in the first 28 days of pregnancy—before most women even realize they’re pregnant—and since a lot of pregnancies are unplanned, adding a folate supplement to your vitamin list is just the safe call to make. 

Here’s all you need to know about adding the right amount of folate into your diet:

1. Take a folic acid supplement.

This is the easiest way to get folate in your system—if you aren’t pregnant, the National Institute of Health recommends taking 400 mcg (micrograms) per day,* while expectant mothers should be taking 600 mcg a day. 

*Check with your doctor before taking more than the recommended dose.

2. Eat lots of enriched grain products.

If you’re just not into taking pills, you can get folate through foods, too. The USDA sees folate as so critical to health that it now requires folic acid be added to enriched breads, cereals, flour, pasta, and other grain products. (Good news for carb lovers!) Eat your fill of pasta dishes, sammies, and more—consider switching your snacks to enriched cereals like Kix®, Cheerios®, or Chex for an extra folate boost.

3. Go for broke at the produce section.

Dark leafy greens are packed full with folate, so broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus will be your best bets for this one. Even better, fruits like bananas and lemons also have folate—so when you’re craving a little bit of sweetness, those should be your go-tos. Try our folate-full salad recipe below and thank us later! 

To 2 cups raw spinach (220 mcg), add a few of these folate-rich ingredients: 

  • ½ cup beans (navy, kidney, or pinto) (230mg)
  • ½ avocado (80 mcg)
  • ¼ cup raw chopped broccoli (50 mcg)
  • 1 ounce sunflower seeds (65 mcg)
  • 4 asparagus spears (90 mcg)
  • ¼ cup diced strawberries (20 mcg)
  • 4 ounces fortified orange juice (40 mcg)
  • 1 small whole-grain roll (30 mcg)
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