Top folate foods during pregnancy

Folic acid – or folate, when absorbed from food – is very important during pregnancy and infancy. Also called Vitamin B9, folic acid aids the rapid cell division and cell growth, especially during the preconception period and during the first trimester of pregnancy. Thus, if you’re planning to get pregnant, you should have a daily intake of 400 micrograms of folic acid (or folate absorbed from foods) during your prenatal diet. This will help reduce the risk for birth defects in the brain and the spine. Continue to maintain this level of folate right after conceiving and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

If you’re not at ease with taking folic acid as a dietary supplement, include these folate-rich foods in your diet.

Lentils

Lentils are very rich in folate. Only 100g of boiled lentils (or 40g of raw lentils) contain almost half of your daily dose of 400µg of folate. Lentils are also a good source of iron, dietary fibre and zinc.

Spinach

100g of raw spinach in your salad will take care of half of the folate amount needed for the day. Other leafy greens are good sources of folate, but spinach is particularly rich in folate and iron, which makes it a top choice for your salads.

Turnip Tops

100g of boiled turnip tops contain 118µg of folate, which covers about 30% of your folate intake need for the day. To reduce the bitter taste of the leaves, change the water from the initial boiling with fresh water. Turnip tops are also rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Calcium. Here are the most important 7 vitamins and minerals during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Fortified cereals

Breads and cereals enriched with folic acid typically contain more than double the amount of folate found in grain products. Ideally, you should combine fortified cereals or breads with foods that are naturally rich in folate. For instance, you can try adding banana and orange slices in your cereal bowl, or eat fortified bread with a spinach salad.

Kidney beans

Red kidney beans are an excellent natural source of folate. 100g of uncooked red kidney beans, which amount to a couple of servings, will cover your entire daily recommended dose of folate. They do, however, require pre-soaking and then boiling for at least 10 minutes in order to reduce their toxicity.

Chicken liver is also a very rich source of folate, but it is not recommended during pregnancy due to its high levels of retinol – a form of Vitamin A. High levels of retinol in your body are not healthy during pregnancy, which is why you need avoid consuming liver, liver products and dietary supplements that contain retinol.

One Delicious Pregnancy Smoothie for Every Trimester

Blend all the essential vitamins and minerals for your current trimester in a tasty and healthy power combo smoothie.

First Trimester: The Mango Avocado Power Up Smoothie

Start your day with this fresh and thick green smoothie. Avocado and mango are rich in folate, which plays an important role in cell growth during your first trimester. Pumpkin seeds and spinach contain iron, while yoghurt contains calcium, both essential during the first months of pregnancy.

You need:

  • 1 avocado
  • A spoonful of pumpkin seeds (raw)
  • 1 mango
  • 1 small yoghurt
  • Optional: 50g (2 oz) spinach (for extra leafy points)

Peel the avocado, remove the seed and split it in 4 or 6 cuts. Blend it all together with the sliced mango, the pumpkin seeds and the yoghurt. Add fresh spinach leaves to increase iron intake. If the mango is not very ripe and sweet, add one tablespoon of honey and squeeze a lemon half. That’s it! You’ve got one large, energizing smoothie for you and your baby.

Second Trimester: Almonds and Pineapple Smoothie

This is mouth-watering and healthy smoothie, perfect for your nutrition plan during the second trimester of pregnancy. Raw almonds are the key ingredient, as they are rich in Vitamin E and Calcium, essential for these months of pregnancy. Pineapple completes the vitamin intake with its rich amounts of Vitamin C (though you can also replace it with orange juice). Bananas are energizing and make a delicious thick base for your smoothie. Use non-sweetened coconut milk instead of milk: it contains plenty of saturated fats and adds an exotic taste to your smoothie.

You need:

  • ½ cup of raw almonds
  • ½ pineapple
  • ½ banana
  • 1 cup of non-sweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon of honey

Grind the almonds into fine bits and blend it in with the coconut milk and fruits. Add honey. Set aside a pineapple slice for decoration. Enjoy this smoothie in the morning or as a brunch snack.

Third Trimester: Energizing Banana Smoothie

Bananas are rich in Vitamin K, which needs to be in sufficient values when you’ll go into labour. To top this with Vitamin E, Calcium and Iron, add apricots, spinach leaves and almond milk.

You need:

  • 1 banana
  • 2 small apricots
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • 10 to 20 fresh spinach leaves

Cut the fresh spinach leaves in fine bits. Peel the banana and the apricots and slice them. Blend it all together with the almond milk. This smoothie will keep your energy levels up during the day, while providing essential nutrients for you and your baby during the third trimester of pregnancy. As a bonus, the Vitamin E contained in almond milk helps prevent stretch marks.

Preparing for pregnancy

There are a few things you should do and know about your body and lifestyle before trying to conceive. If you’ve decided to have a baby, having the time to plan and prepare for pregnancy is an opportunity and you should make the most of it. Get a healthy start into pregnancy and plan ahead as early as 1 year to safely prepare your body for the big journey.

Get a full health check-up

Get a complete health check-up before planning to get pregnant. How else will you know if your body is ready for pregnancy? Discuss your medical history with your doctor and your prescription medication, so you’ll be fully informed of all the risks for your pregnancy and your baby. Check if you have immunity to rubella and chickenpox or if you need vaccines. Go to the dentist as early as 6 months before getting pregnant to check if there’s anything to fix so you don’t have to worry about tooth aches while you’re pregnant. Schedule a Pap test right before trying to get pregnant, to know you’re good to go.

It’s also important to know your blood type and that of the father, as they might be incompatible. In this way you can prevent HR disease, which is caused by blood incompatibility and can be treated during pregnancy.

Take folic acid

Taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid as early as 2 months before pregnancy has been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects and to improve fertility. Talk to your doctor about the amount of folic acid supplements you need and other prenatal vitamins.

Control your weight

Studies show that women who are significantly overweight or underweight have higher risks of developing complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Plan a balanced diet as early as possible for getting to your ideal weight in a healthy and natural way. Make sure to choose a healthy diet. Severe diets and starving will have negative effects on your chances of conception instead of preparing your body for a healthy pregnancy. You’ll be much more successful if you combine your diet with an exercise routine, to get in shape faster and have more energy.

Eat healthily

Ideally you should get your vitamins and minerals from food and not from supplements. Aim for fixed and healthy meals that include plenty of nuts, fruits and vegetables, as well as red meat and poultry. Oily fish is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, but it is not advised to consume more than 2 fish meals per week. Avoid fish that contains high levels of mercury, such as: shark, marlin, swordfish and tuna.

Stop smoking

Smoking tobacco releases harmful substances that can be stored in your body for longer periods of time so you should stop smoking early before getting pregnant. If your partner smokes too, now is the ideal time for both to stop. Also avoid second hand smoke before and during pregnancy, as it can be harmful for your baby.

Stop using contraception

It is usually advised to get off the pill a few months before trying to conceive. Sometimes, ovulation can be irregular after stopping contraception pills. Depending on the method you use, it may take longer than a month for your hormonal cycle to return to normal. Visit your OB and discuss this in advance.