Folic acid is one of the most, if not the most, important nutrient to consume when you're pregnant. Sure, there's plenty of it in your daily prenatal, but if you're just looking at upping your intake for everyday health, then it's good to know how to get it in your system via foods you eat. Surprisingly, folic acid, or folate, is in many more foods than most of us realize. Folate, or B9, is a water-soluble vitamin that doesn't have a long half-life in the body, so it needs to be continually replenished. Which foods have folic acid in them? Hint: not all of them come with labels.
Folate is the key nutrient that works to prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida and anencephaly in developing fetuses, but there is a big difference between how your body metabolizes fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. Because water-soluble vitamins are being routinely flushed out during the course of regular bodily functioning, according to the Journal of Health Research and Reviews, they run their course pretty quickly without much room for storage. The only exception in this case is vitamin B12, which is found in meats or supplements. This means you need to constantly supplement or eat enough foods in a day to get the 400 micrograms recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for all reproductive aged women.
To help you out, here are some of the foods with the densest amount of folic acid in them. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before indulging in a totally new diet.
Yes, it's going to make your pee smell weird thanks to the asparagusic acid contained in the spring vegetable, but it has tons of folate in it. Just four spears has about 140 micrograms, noted Canadian dietitians. That means just 12 spears, which is about an average serving, has more than enough of your daily requirement. Toss it in your eggs, shave it on a salad, top with tahini dressing — it's good stuff.
Almost all white flour pasta and a good amount of whole wheat pasta is enriched with folate. According to the box above my stove, 100 micrograms per four ounce serving. Mine is just plain old Whole Foods brand. According to my very unscientific study completed by perusing Fresh Direct, the fancier pastas, especially the imported stuff, doesn't seem to have as much or any — or they don't list it on the label. If you've ever wanted an excuse to eat white flour pasta, this is it. It's for the baby.
Lentils are the beasts of folate. Just 3/4 cup of cooked lentils will give you 265 micrograms of folic acid. Holy cow, that's a ton of folate. They're easier to cook than you think. Personally, my favorite way to use them is in place of other beans in a veggie burger, or as the meat in chili. If you got an Instant Pot for the holidays? You're in luck. They cook up super fast in the Instant Pot and they're perfectly done every time.
Cooked beans, especially black beans and adzuki beans, have a ton of folate in them. They range from 150 to 265 mcg per cup. It's not all bean soup and burritos, either. Think about adding them to a fresh salad, or using them in a patty for a delicious veggie burger.
White rice, otherwise known as the tastiest rice, (in my opinion) is chock full of folate — about 100 mcg per 1/2 cup of cooked rice. Eat this with some of those beans and you have yourself a mouth party. Also, less risk of neural tube defects. Can't overlook the tastiness, though. It's too intense.
Edamame has about 250 mcg of folate per 1/2 cup of cooked, shelled beans. They're easy to buy salted, cooked, and frozen, and you just heat them up. Or you could buy toasted edamame in the snack section of your grocer.
This is one you've probably heard about. I remember in the '90s, the media ran a lot of commercials about the importance of drinking OJ when pregnant. Now, they're a bit more cautious, as it is full of sugar, but it has 25 mcg of folate per 1/2 cup.
Leafy greens are filling, you can eat a ton of them before they add up in the calorie department, and they have a ton of nutrients — folate just being one of them. They're also full of vitamin A, iron, and many micronutrients you need daily. As for folate, they have between 50 and 300 mcg per cup. Much of which depends on if it is cooked or not.
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