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 a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

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  1. Elly

    Several reviewers have conplaimed about the low calcium in this pill. It is very important to understand that you should not take calcium and iron together calcium inhibits the absorption of iron. In other words, if your body is busy sucking up calcium, it cannot also use the iron in your pill. A one-a-day pill with everything in it may be convenient, but it is a false sense of security. The best way to take your vitamins is to take one with a sufficient amount of iron in it at one point in the day, then later on take a calcium supplement so your body can get what it needs from both nutrients. It’s also good to take your iron with a glass of orange juice, since vitamin C helps your body absorb iron.I really like these vitamins, though they are not perfect for me. I started them for several months before getting pregnant. I had no problem remembering to take them all. I usually skipped the dose with breakfast and took my calcium supplement then. At dinner I took 2 pills, since dinner is usually my highest iron meal anyway. I have to say I felt amazing. The days I forgot my vitamins, I had a noticeable drop in my energy level and mood. That being said, I COULD NOT take these during the first part of my pregnancy. I have suffered from severe morning sickness with all three of my pregnancies, and I simply could not handle the smell or size of these. I did notice that my morning sickness was gone faster with this pregnancy, which I attribute to having an adequate store of vitamins in my system before I got pregnant. Around the middle of my pregnancy I was able to start taking these again. I don’t love to take them they are large and they have a strong grassy smell. I also have a hard time remember to take them with each meal, so sometimes I wind up taking 3 before bed. However, they don’t upset my stomach or give me heartburn, and I love that they are a food-based vitamin, so I know that my body can actually use the nutrients in it. I never get vitamin pee from them, which confirms that my body is using the nutrients instead of just flushing them through. Yes, they are kind of pricey, but they aren’t awful compared to other high-quality vitamins. I buy mine at Sunflower Market or Vitamin Cottage, and it is $30 for a one-month supply.PROs:Food Based easily absorbedOrganic don’t have to worry about byproducts/chemicals in themLower in iron if you need more iron, you can choose to add an iron supplement; however, many women get constipated from the overabundance of iron in their prenatalThey work! I feel great on these vitamins. By far better than any I have taken before.You can take them all at once if you need toYou don’t have to take them with a mealCONs:Large and uncoated can be difficult to swallowGrassy smell this is personal preference, but I have to hold my breath when I take themPricey At about a dollar a day they aren’t cheap, but they aren’t awful either. You get what you pay for.3x daily again, personal preference about whether you can remember to take them or not


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