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Folate-Rich Foods For A Healthy Pregnancy And Baby

According to an article in today's LA Times, a recent study in the journal Pediatrics reports that the rate of spina bifida and anencephaly birth defects in the U.S. has decreased by more than 33 percent since 1998 when the government began adding folic acid to enriched flours, rice and pastas.

Some scientists and health advocates are citing this study in asking the FDA to double current fortification levels to further decrease the rate of birth defects.

Other scientists, most notably Barry Shane, professor of nutrition at UC Berkeley are not so sure that increasing efforts to enrich food with folic acid will result in health benefits.

Not only can folic acid supplementation mask symptoms of a vitamin B-12 deficiency, folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, the natural vitamin found in a variety of whole, natural foods, particularly leafy greens, citrus fruits, lentils, chickpeas, and whole grains.

As I have written about before, taking regular doses of synthetic vitamins can actually cause more harm than good in your body.

Rather than attempt to decrease the rate of birth defects by increasing fortification of foods with synthetic folic acid, I recommend that all women of childbearing age regularly eat whole, minimally processed foods that are naturally rich in folate. This is because folate is most needed by a developing fetus in the first month of pregnancy, a time when some pregnant women don't even know that they are pregnant.

An additional benefit to regularly eating folate-rich foods is that folate is needed to prevent homocysteine in the blood from getting too high, which is essential to maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and good overall health in general.

Remember: if you want to take vitamins or minerals of any kind, be sure to use ones that are made from whole foods and avoid synthetic forms completely.


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