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It's Folic Acid Awareness Week! Is there enough in your diet?
Will 2017 be a life-changing year for your family? If your family will expanding in the coming months, be sure to take the lessons of Folic Acid Awareness Week to heart during January 8-14, 2017! Folic acid (also known as folate or vitamin B9) is a key nutrient for women of child-bearing age, as it can prevent up to 70% of some serious birth defects of the brain and spine, called neural tube defects, if taken before and during early pregnancy. Folic acid is a type of B vitamin that helps your body produce and maintain new cells, while also preventing DNA changes that may lead to cancer.
The CDC and the U.S. Public Health Service recommend that all women between the ages of 15 and 45 consume 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily to prevent two types of neural tube defects, spina bifida and anencephaly. These defects develop in the early stages of pregnancy, which is why it's so vital that women who are planning to become pregnant have the appropriate levels of folic acid present to contribute to a healthy pregnancy. Let's explore how you can incorporate more folic acid into your diet to prepare for a little one who may be on the way!
- Supplement your diet with folic acid-rich foods
Folic acid is typically added to a number of fortified foods like pastas, cereals and grains in the U.S., but only one-third of U.S. women of childbearing age get the recommended amount solely from their diets. In addition to fortified grains and pastas, folic acid is found in a variety of natural foods that can supplement your diet. In particular, consider incorporating increased amounts of dark leafy green vegetables like spinach and collard/mustard/turnip greens, asparagus, broccoli, beans (lentils, pinto, garbanzo, black, navy, kidney, lima) beans, okra, Brussels sprouts, avocado, sunflower/flax seeds and cauliflower.
- Begin a prenatal multivitamin regimen
If you are enrolled in a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), these funds can cover the cost of prenatal multivitamins! Prenatal vitamins contain the nutritional requirements that women of childbearing age need to fill the necessary nutrient gaps that can contribute to the healthy development of a newborn.
In addition to a generous amount of folic acid (also known as folate or vitamin B9), choose a prenatal multivitamin that contains vitamin B12, vitamin D, K, E, and minerals such as calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc.
- Keep it up!
While folic acid intake is truly pivotal for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant in the future, Folic Acid Awareness Week also sheds light on the nutrient's role in a woman's long-term wellness. This nutrient has been known to play a role in preventing certain cancers like colon and cervical cancer, and it can also contribute to the elimination of the chemical homocysteine in the body, which is known to contribute to the development of heart disease. Furthermore, folic acid is used in the treatment of memory loss, Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis, and a variety of other age-related conditions.
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