This week, January 6th through the 12th is National Folic Acid Awareness Week. Adequate folic acid intake is important for the prevention of birth defects. Folic acid is a B-vitamin that aids in the production of RNA and DNA so it is crucial for developing cells. It can help prevent serious birth defects such as Spina Bifida and anencephaly, which are neural tube defects (NTDs) caused by the incomplete closing of the spine and skull.
According to the CDC, each year in the United States there are 3,000 pregnancies affected by Spina Bifida or anencephaly. It can be prevented by having enough folic acid in your diet prior to getting pregnant. Spina Bifida and anencephaly can occur in the first few weeks of pregnancy before the woman even knows she is pregnant, which is why it is so important for women of child bearing age to have an adequate intake of folic acid. About 50-70% of the neural tube defects reported each year could be prevented just by taking enough folic acid before and during pregnancy.
Here are some good food sources of folic acid:
- Dark leafy greens such as: kale, Swiss chard, spinach, broccoli
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Fortified breakfast cereals and whole grains
- Fruits such as: lemons, bananas and melons
Try incorporating these foods into your daily menus to ensure that you meet the required intake of 400 micrograms per day. Taking a multivitamin can also guarantee you get the required amount!
Try this delicious Penne Pasta with Spinach and Red Kidney Beans for an excellent source of folic acid.
Serves: 8 Serving Size: 1 cup Contains 105 micrograms of folate!
1 (8 ounce) box whole wheat penne pasta
1 (20 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and strained
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (15 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup nonfat ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1. Cook pasta according to directions on box and set aside.
2. In a non-stick skillet, sauté spinach with garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil.
3. Add the beans and heat approximately 7 minutes. Season with salt and garlic powder. Remove from heat.
4. Add the ricotta cheese. Toss with pasta and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
What is your favorite food rich in folic acid?