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The Importance of Dietary Folate Before, During and After Pregnancy

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Give it up for the dark, leafy greens

So, you’re looking to get pregnant?

Step 1: Stop the contraception. Step 2: Start taking folic acid…or is it folate?

Why should I take folate over folic acid?

Folic acid or B9 is a synthetic version of the folate we find in food – predominantly raw, dark, leafy greens. Folic acid has been the supplement of choice to prevent neural tube defects, like spina bifida. However, in order for the body to use folic acid to prevent neural tube defects, it must be transformed into the active form of folate known as methylfolate or “L-5-MTHF”, in a process called “methylation”.

The problem is that stress and other toxic factors reduce our body’s ability to convert folic acid into methylfolate efficiently. Moreover, according to some of the most of recent scientific data on genetics, about 40-60% of women have a genetic mutation that reduces their ability to convert folic acid into methylfolate.

Pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on the body to convert folic acid into folate quickly & effectively because making a baby from scratch increases our folate needs exponentially. If we are unable to do so because of stress or this genetic mutation (or a combination of both), this increases the risks of neural tube defects and consequently, of miscarriages.

To cover off this risk, the medical community is now recommending folate supplementation over folic acid. There are now several pregnancy multivitamins which contain methylfolate instead of folic acid.

Dietary Folate

How can I boost my folate intake during pregnancy?

Eating plenty of raw, dark leafy greens is the easiest way to boost your natural folate intake. But it’s also important to make sure that your diet is rich in the other nutrients which help activate folate in the body, for example zinc, choline, magnesium, B2 and B6.   That’s why I like to recommend Thrive’s “Nurture over Nature Salad” to all pregnant mamas:


  • ½ cup arugula
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • ½ cup leftover roasted broccoli
  • Handful of GO RAW pumpkin seeds
  • Palm-sized portion of grass-feed beef strips, roasted chicken or ¾ cup cooked chickpeas
  • A few cherry tomatoes, ½ yellow bell peppers, ½ small avocado

Dressing: Soak 1 cup of cashews for an hour in warm water. Add 1 tspn chickpea miso (or regular miso of your choice); and the juice of ½ lemon. Mix and add water 1 tbsp at a time until you’ve reached your desired level of thickness for the sauce.

Dark green leafy veggies like arugula and spinach are rich in natural folate that is easily absorbed by the body. This salad also contains all the activation co-factors you need:

  • Avocado is rich in magnesium
  • Beef and chicken are rich in zinc, choline, B2 and B6
  • The rainbow coloured veggies give you a great hit of bioflavonoids and antioxidants to support your immunity
  • Pumpkin seeds are a super source of zinc and because you’re eating them raw, you’re getting a great healthy fat boost as well
  • The cashew dressing is rich in zinc, magnesium and B6. Plus it’s got a hit of fermented food to help keep your gut healthy.

What foods should I avoid?

Well the good news is that alcohol is one – but you don’t have to worry about that one! Sugar & processed foods are the other big no-no’s. They just put too much stress on your body to detoxify – stress that your body doesn’t need given all it must do during pregnancy.

Is folate also important after giving birth?

Absolutely! Except this time – it’s to help you. The stress & fatigue that comes with a newborn increases our need for folate to run the chemical pathways for practically every bodily function – from hormone processing to immunity, detoxification, energy creation and even sleep! So making sure that you keep up your intake of dark, leafy greens can help keep you recover much more quickly, as well as help you stay happy and healthy.

Featured image via Pexels

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