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Increasing folic acid and pregnancy go hand-in-hand. If you’re pregnant, you’ve probably heard a mouthful from your doctor on the importance of getting enough folic acid during pregnancy and this may have you worried.
In fact, folic acid, also called folate and vitamin B9, is crucial for your developing baby even before you know you’re pregnant. That can be kind of scary if you’re having a surprise baby, but if you eat a well-balanced plant-based diet, you should have nothing to worry about.
Can you get enough folic acid on a vegan diet? You bet you can! In fact, if you’re eating plenty of vegetables each day, there’s a good chance you don’t even need a supplemental folic acid vitamin. However, I still recommend taking one, as it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Folic acid helps your body to form the RNA and DNA to allow cells to multiply and develop. When the embryo is going through so much growth in such a short time, any deficiency can halt that process quickly. That is why it’s really important to start increasing your folic acid when you are even considering getting pregnant, or if it’s a possibility.
Unfortunately, if you don’t get enough folic acid during pregnancy, you are putting your baby at a serious risk of developing neurological disorders and birth defects as much of the embryo’s spine and brain are developed in the first few weeks of pregnancy, before you have even missed your period. Some of the big health risks include spina bifida, hydrocephalus, anencephaly, encephalocele, which are also impacted by genetics. They are all basically incomplete developments of the brain and spinal cord.
Even if you’re not pregnant, a deficiency in folic acid can lead to anemia, fatigue, bruises, cracks in the corners of your lips, and tongue sores.
The benefits to high levels of folic acid and pregnancy include preventing miscarriage, cleft palate, premature birth, low birth weight, slow growth in the womb and other pregnancy complications.
Dark leafy greens are packed with folic acid, and are actually where the word “folic” came from... “foliage.” As a vegan, you have a huge advantage over people who eat more of a meat-based diet, so show it off. If it’s dark and has leaves, eat it!
I know sometimes the texture of foods can drive your pregnant stomach nuts, so if you’re having trouble swallowing leafy greens, try juicing them. You can make a fabulous green juice with any of the greens and any of your favorite fruits that will taste so unhealthy you’ll want them every day.
Excellent Folic Acid Sources:
Other Good Sources of Folic Acid:
Folic acid is sensitive to light and temperature and will leech out of your vegetables as time passes, so try to eat them quickly. Also, try to eat as many raw leafy greens as you can, or consider only lightly cooking them.
The normal Recommended Daily Allowance is 180 mcgs, and during pregnancy that requirement more than doubles to 400 mcg. There isn’t a huge risk associated with taking more, so it’s totally fine to take a supplement for 1000 mcg daily.
The easiest way to make sure you never miss a day, especially during the beginning of pregnancy when morning sickness can prevent you from eating a well-balanced diet, is just to take a vegan prenatal multivitamin.
According to Your Vegetarian Pregnancy, there are a few risk factors that make you at a higher risk for being deficient in folic acid. If you have any of these, you should talk to your doctor to make sure your diet is rich enough in folic acid, and so you can get a good recommendation on how much to take in a daily supplement.
Sources for Folic Acid and Pregnancy Information:
Your Vegetarian Pregnancy, Dr. Holly Roberts, D.O., FACOG