salad_spinach_eating_pregnancyFolate, also known as folic acid, is a B vitamin that is essential for good health. Folic acid plays an extremely important role in preventing birth defects. Low blood levels of folate during pregnancy can cause neural tube defects—anencephaly and spina bifida. Because these defects occur in the first month of pregnancy, before a woman knows she is pregnant, it is important for any woman of childbearing age to get 400 mcg (micrograms) of folic acid daily. Taking folate during pregancy may offer additional benefits, like reducing a child's risk of having severe language delays. Pairing folate with iron may reduce the number of infants born with low birth weight and reduce infant mortality.

Folate deficiency can also result in megaloblastic anemia. This is due to the role that folic acid plays in the DNA synthesis and red blood cell division. Without folic acid new red blood cells can’t divide and thus stay large and immature.

Recommended Intake
Age group (in years) Recommended Dietary Allowance
Females Males
1 - 3 150 mcg 150 mcg
4 - 8 200 mcg 200 mcg
9 - 13 300 mcg 300 mcg
14 - 18 400 mcg 400 mcg
Pregnancy, ages 14-18 600 mcg n/a
Lactation, ages 14-18 500 mcg n/a
19+ 400 mcg 400 mcg
Pregnancy, ages 19+ 600 mcg n/a
Lactation, ages 19+ 500 mcg n/a
Tips For Increasing Your Folate Intake

To help increase your intake of folate:

  • Spread a little avocado on your sandwich in place of mayonnaise.
  • Drink a glass of orange juice or tomato juice in the morning.
  • Add spinach to your scrambled eggs.
  • Slice a banana on top of your breakfast cereal.
  • Sprinkle some toasted wheat germ on top of pasta or a stir-fry.
  • Throw some chickpeas or kidney beans into a salad.
  • If you take a vitamin supplement, make sure it contains folate.