Eating for Two: A Guide to Mother’s Nutrition during Pregnancy – Part 3 – How Much Folate Do You Need?

Eating for Two: A Guide to Mother’s Nutrition during Pregnancy - Part 3 - How Much Folate Do You Need?

How Much Folate Do You Need?

Preventing neural tube defects is the poster child for folate supplementation. But folate is also critically important whenever a new copy of DNA is made. Each new cell in the baby’s rapidly growing body requires a new copy of the baby’s DNA. In addition, folate is critical for the process of cell division. It’s a necessary ingredient as the one-celled fertilized eggs divides and divides, again and again, into the trillions of cells present at birth. At about six weeks pregnant, the nervous system alone is adding about 100,000 new nerve cells an hour!

Folate occurs naturally in a variety of foods. Organic green vegetables (especially leafy vegetables), dry beans, peas, and fruits can be great sources for pregnant women. In addition, folate is found in organ meats, such as liver and kidney, although cooking can destroy folate. Clearly, women are designed to eat larger amounts of at least some of these folate-rich foods during pregnancy. Folate is one important reason for this; there may also be other nutrients in these foods whose requirements we have yet to understand. Perhaps folate is a reason that fruits, fruit juices, and sour foods are so often the foods of dreams.

Women who could possibly get pregnant should get at least 400 micrograms of folate per day. During pregnancy, the recommendation increases to at least 600 micrograms per day. A survey of typical American women from 1988 to 1994 estimated an average woman got about 250 micrograms per day in her diet. Those who ate lots of fruits and veggies got more. In 1998, law mandated that enriched cereal grains include folate. Now the typical American adult probably gets about 340 micrograms a day from food.

Prenatal vitamins usually have 1,000 micrograms (1 mg) of folate. This is equivalent to getting about 500 micrograms of folate from food, giving women who take the vitamins plenty with just a little extra help from the diet.

Read More from: Eating for Two: A Guide to Mother’s Nutrition during Pregnancy

Eating for Two: Part 1 – Pregnancy A Special Time
Eating for Two: Part 2 – Folate and Iron
Eating for Two: Part 3 – How Much Folate Do You Need?
Eating for Two: Part 4 – The Gift of Iron
Eating for Two: Part 5 – Vitamin B6 and Iodine
Eating for Two Part 6 – Zinc
Eating for Two: Part 7 – Niacin, Riboflavin, Thiamin, Pantothenic Acid, and Omega-3
Eating for Two: Part 8 – Not Found in Most Prenatal Vitamins!
Eating for Two: Part 9 – Calcium!?
Eating for Two: Part 10 – Calories
Eating for Two: Part 11 – Liver
Eating for Two: Part 12 – Chocolate
Eating for Two: Part 13 – Eating for the Future

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

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