Consuming enough folate, or Vitamin B9, during pregnancy, reduces the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Folate can also help to reduce the risk of other birth defects such as a cleft palate. In its synthetic form, folate is known as folic acid. Experts recommend that women take 400 mcg of folic acid per day during pregnancy and whilst trying to conceive. You can consume folate through diet, but experts recommend a supplement because this vitamin is so crucial during the early stages of pregnancy. As well as taking the supplement, you should try to eat a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables. Make sure you are getting plenty of folate-rich foods, such as:
A single cup of cooked lentils can provide you with as much as 90% of your recommended daily amount of folate. Lentils are one of the best dietary sources of folate and can be eaten in a variety of ways. Lentils can be used to make dips, dahls and soups, as well as making the perfect meat replacement in vegetarian dishes.
Beans are great for folate, allowing you to eat most of your daily folate allowance in just one serving. One cup of cooked pinto beans can provide almost three-quarters of your daily folate allowance. Mung beans, black-eyed beans, chickpeas and lima beans are also high in folate. Beans are filling, and taste great when added to soups, stews and salads.
You can get almost 70% of your recommended daily folate intake by eating one cup of cooked asparagus. Asparagus can be steamed, boiled or roasted and served as a side dish, or included as part of the main affair. Asparagus tastes great in soups, dips and pasta sauces.
Dark leafy green vegetables
As you may already be aware, leafy green vegetables are full of nutrients and should be included as a regular fixture in a healthy diet. A cup of spinach contains as much as 65% of your recommended daily folate intake. Leafy green vegetables can be enjoyed on sandwiches, in salads, or wilted down and added to curries and stews.
One cup of cooked brussels sprouts provides up to 25% of your recommended daily allowance of folate. Popular as a side dish at Christmas dinner, brussels sprouts can be roasted, steamed or boiled.
One cup of beetroot contains up to 34% of your daily intake, meaning they’re a great way to sneak in some extra folate. Beetroots are delicious both raw and cooked and can be eaten in salads, soups and risottos. They also make a great side dish when roasted.