Folate-Rich Recipes for the Novice Cook
January 15, 2019
January is National Birth Defects Prevention month. Because neural tube defects in babies occur in the first few weeks after conception, women must consume enough folic acid before pregnancy to minimize the risk to a developing fetus.1
Unfortunately, only one-third of women of childbearing age get the recommended 400 mcg of folic acid every day.1 Pregnant women should get 600 daily food equivalent (DFE) of folic acid per day.2
Here are some ideas for how to ensure your diet includes enough folate, which is the generic term for naturally occurring food folates, as well as folates in dietary supplements and fortified foods, including folic acid.2
Simple Spinach and Garlic
This dark green leafy vegetable is high in folate content, beat out only by beef liver. You’ll get 131 mcg of folic acid in one-half cup of cooked spinach and 58 mcg in one cup of raw spinach.2 Whether you prefer to eat spinach raw or cooked, this important food helps contribute to a balanced diet.
Spinach, when cooked, reduces significantly in size. This means that you’ll get a lot of nutrients in just a few bites. This recipe should make about two servings of cooked spinach.
For a quick and easy version of cooked spinach with garlic, start by washing 1⁄2 pound of organic baby spinach leaves in cold water. Dry with a salad spinner to get as much water off the leaves as possible.
Heat 1⁄2 tablespoon each of olive oil and butter over medium heat in a sauté pan. Add one to three cloves of chopped garlic (depending on personal taste) to the olive oil and butter mixture. Sauté for less than one minute, just so the garlic has a chance to flavor the oil.
Add the spinach and turn gently with tongs so the butter and olive oil mix with the spinach as it wilts. Turn down the heat and continue to turn the spinach until the color deepens to a rich, dark green. This should just take two minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
Just four spears of asparagus contain 89 mcg of folate.2 Asparagus, when fresh, is best prepared simply. Just heat a dry non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat, snap off the woody ends of the asparagus, and toss the spears in the pan. Cook, turning frequently, for about four minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears.
Asparagus will turn a bright and lively shade of green when cooked. Remove from heat and drizzle with a good quality olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
A half-cup of raw avocado has 59 mcg of folate.2 This is great news for people who eat avocado toast for breakfast every morning. However, not everyone is familiar or comfortable with handling avocados.
To separate the flesh from the peel, cut through the avocado to the pit twice so that you have four wedges. The outer dark green skin should pull off easily, leaving behind only the edible portion.
Dice or slice the avocado and use it to top pasta, as a spread on toast, or as an addition to any type of taco. Many people prefer to eat avocados with salt and a squeeze of lime juice.
Try it as a burger topper, diced in salsa, stirred into mac and cheese, on top of chili, blended into your smoothie, added to a salad or in a grilled cheese sandwich.
Turnip and Mustard Greens
A mixture of cooked greens can be a great addition to any traditional meal. Paired with heavy foods such as barbecue, cooked ham or steak, greens can help lighten a meal and serve as a hearty and balanced side dish.
Cooked turnip greens offer 32 mcg of folate in one-half cup.2 Cooked mustard greens have 52 mcg of folate in one-half cup.2 This type of food is also easy to prepare. You can buy 1-pound bags of mixed greens in the grocery store.
Even pre-washed and chopped greens may have some residual grit in them, so fill the kitchen sink half full of cold water and let them soak for 15 minutes. Swirl the greens around every few minutes so the grit falls to the bottom of the sink. Gently lift the greens out of the sink and let them rest on a clean kitchen towel on the counter top.
Heat 1 cup of low-sodium chicken broth and a tablespoon of olive oil or butter in a large non- stick sauté pan with a tight-fitting lid. When the mixture starts to boil, add the greens and turn the heat down to medium-low. Stir until the greens are coated and add 1 teaspoon each of salt and sugar. Stir to combine and cook with the lid on for 20 minutes.
Add a pinch of red pepper flakes or 1⁄4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (or more if you like spicier foods) and stir to combine. Add 1⁄2 cup of chicken broth and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes over low heat with the lid on. If your mixed greens contain collards, cook for up to one hour total. Adjust salt to taste before serving the greens.
If you don’t like greens, but enjoy salad, you’ll be glad to know that romaine lettuce has 64 mcg of folate in just one cup.2 Of course, you should always carefully wash any fresh vegetables and fruits, including bagged salads and bagged greens.
Folic Acid & Pregnancy
For some women, certain foods are difficult to eat during pregnancy. If you struggle with a queasy stomach or morning sickness, remember that many everyday foods are fortified with folic acid. One serving of fortified breakfast cereal may contain up to 25% of the daily recommended amount of folic acid.2 Fortified breakfast cereal and white medium cooked rice are good sources of folic acid.2
Meet Your Needs with Prenatal Vitamins with Folic Acid
Unfortunately, many women of childbearing age do not obtain enough folic acid from diet alone. Even when intake of folic acid from dietary supplements is included, 17 percent of women ages 19 to 30 do not meet average daily requirements.3
Some women who take folic acid have a genetic predisposition that makes their efforts futile. An enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) helps make folic acid usable by the body. Women who have an MTHFR mutation have a highly reduced ability to convert folic acid to a usable form. It is estimated that 53 percent of women have this genetic mutation that does not allow them to properly process and absorb folic acid.4,5
Incorporating a prenatal vitamin with an easily absorbed form of folic acid may help mothers ensure they are meeting their folic acid needs and supporting the growth and development of their babies. The prescription prenatal vitamins offered by the Prenate® Vitamin Family contain a form of folic acid that is absorbable for women who have a genetic predisposition which impairs proper metabolism of folic acid. The Prenate® Vitamin Family’s line of prenatal vitamins contains L-methylfolate, which is a form of folate that is bioavailable regardless of a woman’s MTHFR status.4 Every Prenate® product meets or exceeds recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for daily consumption of folic acid.6 These products contain 1 mg folate as a blend of bioavailable L-methylfolate and traditional folic acid.
The guidance of a health care professional is critical to ensure that women have access to prescription prenatal vitamins that offer a form of folate that allows their bodies to absorb it. Prescription prenatal vitamins, such as the Prenate® Vitamin Family, can help supply moms with a higher level of a usable form of folic acid. The folic acid in Prenate® offers women the ability to receive the folic acid they need, even if they have the gene mutation that inhibits folic acid metabolism. Talk to your doctor to see if the Prenate® Vitamin Family’s prenatal vitamins with folic acid are right for you.