Protecting The Tiniest With Folic Acid

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on June 25, 2015 · 0 comments

Women who have adequate folic acid before conception can reduce the possibility of NTDs by as much as 70%.

Did you know eating cereal for breakfast is a simple healthy choice you can make to have a healthy baby? Fortified, ready-to-eat cereals are a major source of folic acid (a B vitamin). Since 1998, in the US and Canada, bread, cereal, pasta, rice and flour have been fortified with folic acid. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates this has prevented over 1,300 cases of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) annually in the US for a health care saving of $508 million a year, in addition to eliminating suffering and disability for affected infants.

NTDs occur within the first weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman actually knows she is pregnant. Folic acid helps to make the genetic material of every cell in the body so it is essential to the healthy growth of an unborn child. Pregnant women who take in too little folic acid have a higher risk of babies born with cleft palates, cleft lips and NTDs. They also have more miscarriages. That’s why experts recommend women get adequate folic acid, but close to one-quarter of women of childbearing age do not. And, Dads need to consider their folic acid intake, too. Research has shown that men with low sperm counts and more fragile sperm have low intakes of folic acid. So when it comes to a healthy pregnancy, adequate folic acid levels are important for both parents.

Since the folic acid fortification program started, it’s estimated that the average American is getting 200 micrograms more folic acid a day, but that still falls short of the 400 micrograms recommended for adults. Good sources of folic acid include:

Green leafy vegetables (spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, beet greens, romaine lettuce, arugula)

Orange juice

Beans

Avocado

Asparagus

Broccoli

Sunflower seeds

Wheat germ

Peanuts

Fortified bread, pasta, cereal, flour and rice

Most experts recommend getting folic acid from a variety of sources, food in which it is naturally found, fortified foods, and supplements too, when needed.

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