Importance of Folic Acid During Pregnancy
If you are pregnant or wish to conceive in the near future, it is extremely important to get enough Folic Acid. Folic Acid, also known as vitamin B (9) or folate is an essential nutrient that plays an important role in the production of red blood cells and helps the baby’s neural tube develop into the brain and spinal cord. You can get folic acid through vitamins and dietary sources. Fortified cereals are the best food sources of folic acid. Folate is also found naturally in dark green vegetables and citrus fruits.
Why is Folic Acid essential during pregnancy?
- Folic acid helps the body create, utilize and break down protein, the building block of our cells. It also plays a role in DNA creation and the formation of red blood cells.
- In the first few weeks of pregnancy, folic acid helps the embryonic neural tube, the precursor to baby’s brain and spinal cord, to properly close.
- It assists in the formation of the fetus, heart and circulatory system and helps lower chances of the baby having birth defects.
- Taking it prior to pregnancy is very beneficial, since neural tube closes within the fourth week of conception and many pregnancies go undetected by then.
- It helps minimize chance of abortions, aids in prevention of pre-term and still birth and prevents face malformations e.g. cleft palate.
Dietary Sources of Folic Acid
- Green leafy vegetables
- Whole grain cereals and germinated pulses
- Citrus fruits
Folic acid is very sensitive to light and temperature, hence it is best to consume it raw and fresh. For example through, fresh salad, freshly cut citrus fruits, unprocessed whole grain cereal products or fortified cereals.