The Ministry of Health recommends that ALL women who could become pregnant should eat a healthy, folate-rich diet and take a daily vitamin supplement containing 0.4 mg of folic acid.
Folic Acid is a B vitamin that is essential for the healthy development of an unborn baby’s spine, brain and skull. Folic Acid can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects (spina bifida, anencephaly) by as much as 70%.
Folic Acid is the synthetic version of Folate which is found naturally in foods. Most diets do not meet the required amounts of folate necessary to prevent neural tube defects.
Therefore, it is recommended that women planning a pregnancy or in the early stages of a pregnancy take a vitamin supplement with 0.4 mg of a folic acid. Most of these women are informed of this requirement.
However, even in our modern times, approximately 50% of all pregnancies are not planned. It is therefore recommended that all women of childbearing age that could become pregnant (sexually active) also take a vitamin supplement containing 0.4 mg of folic acid
How do we get the message out there? The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is promoting awareness of folic acid supplements through information tear offs handed out with oral contraception prescriptions. All pharmacists in Haldimand and Norfolk have been given the folic acid facts tear off sheets to distribute over the next 3 months to all women picking up birth control prescriptions.
The tear off contains the facts:
- If you could become pregnant, folic acid, a B vitamin, may help to protect your unborn baby against birth defects of the spine and brain.
- All women of childbearing age need folic acid every day.
- Choose foods rich in folic acid daily.
- Take 0.4 mg folic acid supplement every day. Your pharmacist can advise you on your best choice.
On the back of the tear off is a list of foods rich in folate. The following table provides a list of possible sources of folate.
|Excellent Sources||Good Sources|
|Asparagus, cooked, 4 spears||Avocado, 1/4 fruit|
|Baked beans with port, 2/3 cup||Beansprouts, stire-fried, 1/2 cup|
|Beechnuts, 1/4 cup||Beets, cooked, 1/2 cup|
|Belgian Endive (witloof), raw, 1 head||Boysenberries, 1/2 cup|
|Black Beans, cooked, 1/2 cup||Bran breakfast cereals, 30 g|
|Broadbeans (fava), cooked, 1/2 cup||Broccoli, cooked, 1/2 cup|
|Brussels sprouts, cooked, 1/2 cup||Casab, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, 1/10 fruit|
|Chestnuts, roasted, 10||Cauliflower, cooked, 1/2 cup|
|Collards, frozen, cooked, 1/2 cup||Chinese cabbage (pak-choi, pe-tsai), cooked, 1/2 cup|
|Greens of turnip, mustard, chicory (not beet) cooked, 1/2 cup||Corn, sweet, canned, 1/2 cup|
|Kidney beans, cooked, 1/2 cup||Eggs, cooked in shell, 1 large|
|Lentils, cooked, 1/2 cup||Filberts, hazelnuts, whole, 1/3 cup|
|Lima beans, cooked, 1/2 cup||Lettuce, romaine, escarole|
|Peanuts, 1/4 cup||Orange, 1 med.|
|Pinto beans, cooked, 1/2 cup||Orange juice, fresh or frozen, 1/2 cup|
|Soy flour, low fat, 1/4 cup||Parsnips, cooked, 1/2 cup|
|Soybeans, cooked, 1/2 cup||Peanut butter, 2 tbsp.|
|Sunflower seed butter, 2 tbsp||Peas, cooked, 1/2 cup|
|Sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup||Plantain, 1 fruit|
|Spinach, cooked, 1/2 cup, raw, 1 cup||Tahini (sesame butter), 2 tbsp|
|Wheat germ, toasted or raw, 30 g or 1/4 cup||Walnuts, halves, 1/2 cup|
|Yeast, brewer’s or baker’s dry, 1 tsp|
- Excellent source. Foods contain .055 mg or more of folate.
- Good source. Foods contain .033 – .054 mg folate.
Note: 1 tsp – 5 ml 1 tbsp = 15 ml 1/2 cup = 125 ml
Reference: Health and Welfare Canada, 1993
If you would like more information on Folic Acid supplementation, contact your pharmacist, doctor or local Health Unit.