4 Folate and Folic Acid Benefits For All Moms—Whether They’re Pregnant or Not

4 Folate and Folic Acid Benefits For All Moms—Whether They’re Pregnant or Not

Folic acid, the synthetic form of folate or vitamin B9, is well known as a vitamin that pregnant moms take to help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida and anencephaly.

Since the first 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy are when the neural tube is formed and when defects occur, and up to 45 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, taking folic acid before you get pregnant is vital.

The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) guidelines recommend that women of childbearing age get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day. During pregnancy, women should increase the amount to 600 mcg; breastfeeding moms need 500 mcg.

Although most women get enough folate, some women, such as those with the MTHFR gene variant, may not be able to utilize folate properly and may need to take the bioactive form.

Interestingly, research suggests folate and folic acid can actually be beneficial for all moms, whether they’re planning to become pregnant or not. Here’s what we know.

1. Folic Acid May Prevent Heart Disease

Heart disease is often seen as a man’s disease but nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States, accounting for approximately 1 in 4 female deaths each year.

In addition to a healthy diet, exercise and stress reduction, getting enough folate may actually ward off heart disease.

According to an August 2016 meta-analysis in the Journal of The American Heart Association, folic acid supplementation is associated with a 10 percent lower risk of stroke and a 4 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

2. Folic Acid Acid May Reduce Cancer Risk

Some studies suggest that adequate levels of folate may prevent certain cancers. According to a large 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who had total folate intake of 900 mcg a day or more had a 30 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer than those who only consumed 200 mcg a day.

Since some studies suggest that high levels of folate and folic acid may actually increase cancer risk however, more research is needed to determine whether or not taking higher doses is actually beneficial. 

3. Folic Acid May Prevent Depression and Postpartum Depression

Some studies have shown an association between low folate and depression.

Researchers have also looked at the link between folate and depression during pregnancy and postpartum depression.

According to a November 2017 study in the journal Nutrients, women who took folic acid for more than 6 months during pregnancy had a lower risk of postpartum depression than those who took it for less than 6 months.

Some studies also suggest folic acid, in combination with anti-depressants, may improve symptoms, but it’s unclear whether it’s effective or not.

4. Folic Acid May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

It’s unclear whether folic acid supplementation may prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease but some studies suggest it may have some benefit.

While observational studies have found an association between low levels of folate and poor brain function and a higher risk of both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, folic acid supplements have not been shown to improve cognitive function or prevent these diseases, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

For people who have already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s however, folic acid may help, according to a June 2016 study in the journal Mediators of Inflammation.

What Moms Should Know About Folate and Folic Acid

Since folate is a water soluble vitamin, it’s not stored in the body so you need to get it in your diet, ideally through food.

Foods high in folate include dark green leafy vegetables, some types of fruit, nuts, beans, peas, seafood, eggs, dairy, meat, poultry and grains. Some foods like breads, cereals, pastas, rice and other grains are also fortified with folic acid.

Although most women get enough folate, symptoms of a folate deficiency include fatigue, irritability, weakness, poor concentration, headache, heart palpitations, shortness of breath and pale skin, according to the National Institutes of Health.

It’s important to note that although the folate thats’s naturally found in foods isn’t harmful, high doses of folic acid and fortified foods may be. There are also certain medications that can interact with folic acid supplements so when in doubt, always talk to your doctor.

Gestational Diabetes Diet: 7 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

Gestational Diabetes Diet: 7 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

If you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you might be wondering what foods you should eat, what foods you should avoid and what else you can do to have a healthy pregnancy.

According to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 9.2 percent of women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a condition in which your body can’t produce enough insulin, which causes high blood glucose levels.

Gestational diabetes can lead to pregnancy complications and problems during labor and delivery, so managing it now is key.

What’s more, although gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy, it can still increase your risk for developing type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure down the line.

The good news is that through diet, exercise and an active lifestyle, you can manage the condition during pregnancy and create healthy habits that will benefit you and your children for years to come.

Here, learn what a healthy gestational diabetes diet looks like and how to stay healthy during pregnancy and beyond.

1. Talk to a nutrition expert

One of the most common pregnancy nutrition myths is that during pregnancy, you should eat for two.

During the first trimester of pregnancy however, you don’t need to eat extra calories.

And throughout your second and third trimesters, you only need an additional 300 to 450 calories a day, which can be spread across two healthy snacks.

If you’re overweight or obese and you have gestational diabetes however, the amount of pregnancy weight gain varies depending on your body mass index (BMI).

To get a better idea of how many calories you need each day, how much weight you should gain and what foods to eat, ask your OB/GYN or midwife to make a referral to a medical nutrition therapist or a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN).

 

2. Eat regular meals

If you’re dealing with morning sickness, it can be tempting to avoid eating, but skipping meals can cause your blood sugar levels to drop.

Eating breakfast is particularly important and will also help you make healthy diet choices the rest of the day. Aim for a combination of protein and fiber, such as an egg with blueberries or Greek yogurt with berries and a low-sugar granola.

Try for 3 meals and 2 small snacks a day and be mindful of your portion sizes.

3. Pick protein

 

Foods high in protein help balance blood sugar so it’s a good idea to get some at every meal and snack.

Eggs, fish, meat, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh and edamame are all great sources of protein.

4. Be choosy about carbs

 

To avoid spikes in blood sugar, it’s important to pay attention to the types and amount of carbohydrates you eat.

Complex carbohydrates are typically high in fiber, which keep blood sugar levels steady and stave off hunger.

Complex carbohydrates such as whole grain bread, brown rice or quinoa (a seed) are best. Also, try to combine complex carbs with protein and a healthy fat like avocado to help you feel satisfied.

Avoid refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice and potatoes as well as juice, soda, and sugar-sweetened beverages which lack nutrition and will spike your blood sugar.

5. Focus on foods with a low glycemic load (GL)

 

You’ve probably heard about eating foods that have a low glycemic index (GI), but glycemic load (GL) is a more accurate measurement of a particular food’s effect on blood sugar.

Glycemic load describes the quality (GI) and quantity of carbohydrate in a serving, meal or diet, according to this article.

Aim for foods with a glycemic load of less than 10 including:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Whole grain breads and cereals

Starchy vegetables likes peas, carrots, and butternut squash as well as some low-glycemic fruits are OK, but they should have less of a focus in your diet.

6. Choose healthy fats

 

Healthy fats give you energy, promote satiety and are important for your baby’s brain and eye development.

Focus on monounsaturated fats like avocado, olive oil, and almonds and polyunsaturated fats like those found in flaxseed and chia seeds.

Fish like salmon and herring are also excellent sources of healthy fats but because of mercury exposure, check the FDA and EPA’s chart for those with the lowest amount of mercury and how many portions are safe to eat.

7. Avoid foods that spike your blood sugar

 

It’s important avoid foods that will spike your blood sugar including processed foods, fast food and foods that are refined and high in sugar.

Be sure to read labels carefully because many foods like yogurt, salad dressings, marinades, and condiments are sneaky sources of sugar and should be avoided.

 

Have you been diagnosed with gestational diabetes? What were some ways you managed it?  

[VIDEO] 11 Natural Ways to Deal With Morning Sickness

[VIDEO] 11 Natural Ways to Deal With Morning Sickness

When I was 6 weeks pregnant with both of my children, it was like someone flipped a switch: one day I felt fine and the next I woke up feeling nauseous.

On a few occasions, there was some vomiting thrown in but in general, it was a constant queasy feeling that lasted all day.

According to a 2013 meta-analysis in the Journal of Population Therapeutics and Clinical Pharmacology, approximately 70 percent of pregnant women have nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

It turns out however, that “morning sickness” is a misnomer. For most women, that nauseous feeling is something that lasts 24/7.

In fact, less than 2 percent of women experience nausea and vomiting only in the morning, while 80 percent have it all day, one study found.

When you have nausea, struggle to keep food down and don’t have an appetite, it can be pretty miserable.

For most women however, morning sickness improves over time and there’s a lot you can do to prevent and deal with morning sickness.

If you’re short on time, check out my top 3 natural remedies for morning sickness in this video.

1. Eat small meals

When your blood sugar is low, you’re more likely to feel nauseous so do your best to avoid skipping meals.

 

Focus on eating small meals made up of protein and complex carbohydrates about 3 to 4 hours apart to give your body a slow, steady release of energy and prevent huge blood sugar spikes and crashes.

 

2. Try the scent of lemon

The smell and taste of lemon is so refreshing and may help you deal with morning sickness.

 

A warm cup of tea or water with lemon and a bit of honey or adding lemon essential oil to a diffusor may do the trick.

3. Carry snacks

If the subway gets delayed or you get stuck at the DMV, having a snack in your bag can help you deal with morning sickness should it strike.

 

Portable snacks like dried fruit, nuts, seeds, granola bars (made with whole ingredients and low sugar), whole-grain crackers or a piece of fruit are all great options.

 

4. Add ginger to your diet

Ginger is well known for it’s ability to combat nausea and if you can tolerate it, it can be quite effective for morning sickness.

 

Processed ginger snaps or ginger ale, however won’t cut it.

 

The key is to consume real ginger root.

 

Try boiling a small piece of ginger in water, adding it to tea or a green juice.

 

Ginger root beer (it’s non-alcoholic), ginger capsules, gum or lozenges may also help combat that queasy feeling.

 

5. Vitamin B6

During my second pregnancy, my midwife recommended I take a vitamin B6 supplement and it ended up being a lifesaver for me. In fact, the nausea went away within a day or two.

 

Ask your provider to recommend a reputable supplement brand and explain how much to take and how often.

 

6. Eat magnesium-rich foods

Kale and spinach might be the last thing you want to eat when you’re dealing with morning sickness but a magnesium-deficiency can lead to nausea.

 

In fact, most women are deficient in magnesium during pregnancy, a September 2016 study in the journal Nutrition Reviews found.

 

In addition to green leafy vegetables, foods high in magnesium include almonds, cashews, black beans, edamame, and avocado.

 

If you don’t think you’re getting enough magnesium, ask your provider about taking a magnesium supplement, the type of magnesium and dose.

 

7. Sip on peppermint tea

Peppermint has a long history of being used for digestive disorders and experts say it’s safe to drink peppermint tea during pregnancy, although it may make heartburn worse.

 

8. Salty crackers

Saltines are pure, refined carbohydrates and not a food anyone should be eating on a regular basis because they lack fiber and spike blood sugar, but they can be really helpful in easing morning sickness.

 

Keep them by your bedside and munch on a few before you get out of bed in the morning or snack on them during the day when you feel sick.

 

9. Drink up

It sounds counterintuitive to drink water if you’re struggling to keep much of anything down, but if you’re dehydrated, you’re more likely to experience morning sickness.

 

You might find drinking in between meals, drinking ice water or a piping hot cup of herbal tea.

 

You can also stay hydrated by eating melon and citrus fruits which are really refreshing when you’re pregnant, and especially during the summer months.

 

Either way, avoid soda, sugary and sugar-sweetened beverages which are empty calories, spike your blood sugar and leady to unhealthy pregnancy weight gain.

 

10. Try smoothies, green juices or soup

If the sight or aroma of greens is enough to make your stomach turn, try getting a bunch of vegetables and fruit in a smoothie or green juice.

 

Or make a vat of broth-based, pureed vegetable soup.

 

You’ll pack in a ton of nutrition and in a more palatable way.

11. Avoid fatty foods

You might be craving a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, but fatty foods and processed fast food are hard to digest and will most likely bring on nausea.

 

Not to mention a healthy pregnancy diet isn’t what you and your baby really need.

 

 

6 Tips For a Healthy Vegetarian Pregnancy  A vegetarian diet can be a heathy way to eat during pregnancy, but you'll want to make sure it's designed to support your baby's growth and development.

6 Tips For a Healthy Vegetarian Pregnancy

A vegetarian diet can be a heathy way to eat during pregnancy, but you'll want to make sure it's designed to support your baby's growth and development.

A vegetarian diet—one that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds—can be a healthy way to eat, even during pregnancy.

According to a 2016 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ position paper, a well planned vegetarian or vegan diet during pregnancy and while breastfeeding is appropriate. What’s more, a 2015 review in the journal BJOG suggests following a vegetarian or vegan diet during pregnancy is safe and not associated with adverse outcomes or birth defects.

Being a junk-food vegetarian and filling up on meatless foods like breads, pastas and processed foods alone however, isn’t a healthy way to eat and can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Add to that nausea and morning sickness, and you could be missing out on the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy.

The key therefore, is to make sure your vegetarian diet is well designed and includes all of the nutrients you and your baby need.

Here are some things to consider when planning a vegetarian diet during pregnancy.

1. Fill up on folate

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends all women of childbearing age take between 400 and 800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, to prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida that can occur during the early weeks of pregnancy.

During pregnancy, you should take a prenatal vitamin with 600 mcg of folic acid to support your baby’s development.

Although folic acid is better absorbed than folate-rich foods, getting foods like spinach, black-eyed peas, asparagus and Brussels sprouts is ideal.

2. Pick protein

Getting enough protein during pregnancy is important for cell growth, both for you and your baby.

The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein is 46 grams per day during the first trimester and 71 grams per day during the second and third trimesters.

On a vegetarian diet, beans and legumes are excellent sources of protein and can easily be swapped in for meat in most dishes. Beans and legumes are also healthy choices because they contain fiber which balance blood sugar, help you feel satiated and prevent pregnancy constipation.

Other sources of protein include eggs, nuts and seeds, tofu, tempeh and edamame.

3. Up your intake of iron

Iron helps your baby and the placenta develop, allows red blood cells in your body to deliver oxygen to your baby, and maintains your body’s blood volume which doubles during pregnancy. Not only can iron-deficiency anemia cause fatigue, it can lead to preterm labor as well.

During pregnancy, you need 27 milligrams of iron but your iron needs may be higher because plant-based iron may not be as readily absorbed as the iron in animal products.

To improve absorbency, you can soak and cook beans, legumes and nuts or pair them with vitamin-C rich foods. Vitamin C rich foods include strawberries, honeydew, broccoli, cauliflower, green peppers, Brussel sprouts and tomatoes. Other iron-rich foods include eggs, spinach, raisins, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, and fortified cereals.

4. Eat calcium-rich foods

Calcium is an important nutrient during pregnancy because it helps your baby build strong teeth and bones, and it’s important for his cardiovascular function.

Dairy products are a rich source of calcium, vitamin D and protein as well as vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 supports brain and nervous system development and is necessary to absorb folate and choline. B12 is primarily found in animal sources but you can also get it in fortified foods like cereals, meat substitutes, nondairy milks, and nutritional yeast.

If you’re avoiding dairy products, be sure to include non-dairy calcium sources such as green leafy vegetables, figs, and chia seeds.

5. Get healthy fats

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, are vital for baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system development. Be sure to include fatty fish like salmon as well as eggs, nuts and seeds.

If you don’t eat fish or eggs however, you’ll want to pay attention to the ration of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids for optimal conversion of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to DHA and EPA. I suggest you speak with a registered dietitian nutrition who specializes in pregnancy nutrition and can design a healthy plan for you.

6. Eat complex carbohydrates

Foods rich in complex carbohydrates include vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy. They support your baby’s neurological development and overall health, and give you steady energy throughout the day.

Foods rich in complex carbohydrates include foods like fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, sweet potatoes, oatmeal and brown rice.

7. Take a prenatal vitamin

A good prenatal vitamin shouldn’t replace whole-food sources of nutrients but if you’re battling morning sickness or find it difficult to get what you need, it can help fill in the nutritional gaps.

10 Calcium-Rich Foods To Eat During Pregnancy

10 Calcium-Rich Foods To Eat During Pregnancy

Calcium is an essential nutrient and during pregnancy, its primary role is to help your baby grow strong bones and teeth.

It’s also a key nutrient for blood clotting, nerve, heart and muscle function and normal heart rhythm.

If you who get less than 900 mg of calcium a day however, you could be at risk for preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure and kidney problems and can lead to serious, even fatal, complications for you and your baby.

What’s more, a July 2017 study in The Journal of Nutrition suggests low calcium intake during pregnancy can lead to high blood pressure, especially for those who had high blood pressure while they were pregnant.

During both pregnancy and breastfeeding, your baby will draw what he needs from your calcium stores, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough in your diet for yourself. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day during pregnancy and while breastfeeding for women 19 years and older while those under 19 should get 1,300 milligrams (mg).

Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist who specializes in prenatal nutrition to make sure you’re getting enough calcium and if you should also take a supplement.

Adding these 10 foods to your diet can help.

1. Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt, which has more protein that regular, is also high in calcium. One serving contains 187 milligrams.

Instead of fruit-flavored Greek yogurt which is high in sugar, opt for plain Greek yogurt and add fresh berries for extra fiber and a sweet and satisfying snack.

2. Broccoli

Dairy isn’t the only way to make sure you get enough calcium in your diet—leafy green vegetables are also one of the best sources.

With 34 milligrams of calcium in each cup, and chock full of vitamins and minerals, broccoli is an excellent addition to your pregnancy diet.

If you can’t stomach greens however, try pureeing broccoli into a delicious soup or adding pureed broccoli into your favorite marinara sauce.

3. Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are probably not a food you eat often, but they are one of the best calcium-rich foods to eat during pregnancy. Once ounce provides 273 milligrams of calcium.

Sesame seeds are also high in iron and magnesium and a good source of protein and fiber.

Add sesame seeds to rice dishes, stir-fries, salmon or shrimp or incorporate them into your favorite bread or muffin recipe.

4. Dairy and Fortified Non-Dairy Milks

Milk is an obvious source of calcium and it’s always a good idea to choose organic milk to avoid artificial growth hormones.

 

If you can’t digest cow’s milk or are avoiding it however, non-dairy, fortified almond milk, cashew milk and coconut milk can also be a good source of calcium in your diet.

5. Sardines

When morning sickness and nausea are in full force, fish may be the last food you want to eat. But sardines are one of the best calcium-rich foods to eat during pregnancy. Three ounces provides 325 mg of calcium.

Sardines are also an excellent source of protein, vitamins B12 and D and omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for your baby’s brain development.

Fresh or canned, they’re easy to incorporate into any meal.

6. Salmon

Like sardines, salmon (fresh, frozen or canned) is rich in calcium: a 3-ounce serving provides 181 milligrams.

Salmon is also an excellent source of protein, vitamins B6 and B12, and omega-3 fatty acids, it will satiate your hunger and give you plenty of energy throughout the day.

7. Tofu

If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or simply looking to get more plant-based foods in your diet, tofu is a good choice. A 1/2 cup of tofu contains 253 mg of calcium.

Make a tofu scramble for breakfast, use it as a replacement for meat in most dishes or add it to a vegetable stir-fry for a delicious and satisfying meal.

8. Figs

Fresh or dried, figs are one of the best calcium-rich foods during pregnancy. A 1/2 cup of figs provide 35 milligrams of calcium. They’re also high in fiber, a good thing if you’re plagued by constipation.

Add figs to oatmeal or salads or roast them for a sweet and satisfying after-dinner dessert.

9. Edamame

An excellent source of protein, fiber, iron and magnesium, edamame (soybeans) are high in calcium. One cup provides 97 milligrams of calcium. Edamame is also an excellent source of folate, a nutrient every woman needs whether she’s planning to become pregnant or not.

Edamame goes well with any meal and makes for an easy and convenient snack.

10. Kale

Green leafy vegetables are an important source of nutrients while you’re pregnant and kale is one of the best calcium-rich foods to focus on. One cup of kale provides 90 milligrams of calcium, and is also a good source of protein, fiber, iron, folate, vitamins A, B6, C, K and potassium.

Add kale to soups and stews, make a salad or roast kale chips. If you can’t think about chewing kale, blend it up into a green smoothie or make a green juice instead.