folate

You're pregnant, now what?!

If you're like me when I first found out I was pregnant, I was little overwhelmed as to what to do. When should I make my first doctor's appointment? What food should I now avoid? Can I still exercise? How can I made healthier choices to help my baby's development?

Here are the first 7 things women should do when they found out they're pregnant...

1.    If you’re not already taking a good prenatal, please start now! A prenatal supplement is your insurance policy for all the important nutrients your baby needs for healthy development and because it’s such an important nutrient in preventing certain birth defects, it’s a good idea to invest in a good quality prenatal that has real folate in it too.

 

2.    Book an appointment with your OBGYN or midwife. Most health care providers will want to see you by Week 8 so they can perform a blood test to test your hormones and thyroid function – and to see if your lacking in specific nutrients like Vitamin B12, Vitamin D or iron. Don’t be afraid to ‘shop around’ until you find a provider you’re comfortable with.

 

3.    Meal prep nutritious meals for future weeks when nausea or fatigue can prevent you from eating well. Bone broths, minestrone or French lentil soup, casseroles and stir-fries are great to cook in large batches so you can freeze them for a time you don’t feel like cooking. Experiment with frittatas, healthy muffins and energy date balls for quick and easy breakfasts and snacks.

 

4.    Get familiar with what foods you should avoid over the next 9 months because these foods are more likely to harbor dangerous bacteria called listeria. Listeria can cause infection, cross the placenta and be life-threatening to your baby. Check out Practice Safe Food to see what food to avoid and how you can reduce your chance of listeriosis.

 

5.    Start a pregnancy journal, even if it’s a few short words on paper. The early weeks of pregnancy (especially before you announce it to family and friends), can be overwhelming or lonely at times. I found that journaling helped me focus and ground my thoughts in a very emotional time.

 

6.    Drink enough water… at least ten 8oz glasses a day. Try and get into a routine of drinking enough water because this will become even more important as your blood volume increases and your baby’s amniotic sac grows larger throughout your pregnancy.

  

7.    Keep up with a strength-training routine if you can, whether it be yoga, barre or a light-weights video at home. Making sure your arms, back and shoulders stay strong becomes even more important as these muscle groups will support your growing belly throughout pregnancy. Most pregnancy back, neck and shoulder pain can be prevented by making sure your upper body and back stays as strong as possible through pregnancy.

Why you need folate, not folic acid

green salad

Most of us have heard about how important it is to get enough folate in pregnancy to prevent birth defects.

You may have also noticed that folate is sometimes called folic acid. In fact, most prenatal supplements have folic acid in them instead of folate. So, what’s the difference and why does it matter?

Folate vs folic acid

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate which means, it’s been manufactured in a lab.

Most supplements on the market today have synthetic vitamins and minerals in them because it's much cheaper to produce and sell. And the catch is...  these "vitamins and minerals" aren't as bioavailable as the vitamins and minerals found in real food (FYI, bioavailablility means how much of that nutrient your body is able to absorb).

This applies to folic acid which is significantly less bioavailable than folate in its pure and natural state, found in real veggies, fruits, beans and lentils. 

Research has also found that 4 in 10 people might have a gene mutation that doesn't allow their bodies to recognize and use folic acid. For more info on that, click here.

Why you need folate

Folate (otherwise known as Vitamin B9), is one of the most important nutrients your baby will need in the first few weeks of pregnancy.

Folate will help ensure your baby’s “neural tube” forms correctly. Your baby's “neural tube” extends right down from your baby’s brain to form your baby’s spine and includes all the nerves along the way. Extensive research has found that a deficiency in folate, especially as the “neural tube” forms in the first few weeks of pregnancy, can lead to birth defects such as spina bifida.

How much do I need?

Pregnant women need about 400 micrograms (mcg) of folate each day.

If you eat a lot of greens and veggies, chances are you're easily getting this amount. However, I highly recommend taking a good-quality prenatal supplement as an insurance policy.

I took a couple of brands during my pregnancy that made me feel great and my son was born (and still is), very healthy. I loved Garden of Life Raw Prenatal and Naturello Wholefood Prenatal supplements. The best thing about these two prenatals is that they both have real folate in them and not the cheaper folic acid stuff that your body has a harder time using.

Folate in food

As the name suggests, folate is richest in “foliage” type food like leafy greens such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens and romaine lettuce.

Brussel sprouts, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, beans, peas and lentils are also great sources of folate too. 

What to eat

As a guide, here are some ways you can get your daily folate intake.

You can easily boost your daily folate-intake by adding beans and lentils to your meals, or adding a cup or two of spinach in a smoothie you can have in between meals. 

BREAKFAST

1/2 avocado smashed onto whole-wheat toast (50mcg)

SNACK

1 cup of spinach in a smoothie (50mcg)

LUNCH

Choose two

2 cups of spinach, kale or romaine in a salad (100mcg) 

1/2 cup Garbanzo beans (175mcg) 

1/2 cup black beans (100mcg)

1/2 cup Kidney beans (50mcg)

DINNER

Choose two

2 cups of spinach, kale or romaine in a salad (100mcg)

5 spears asparagus (100mcg)

1/2 cup Brussel sprouts (80mcg) 

1/2 cup peas (65mcg) and 1/2 cup broccoli (50mcg)

green goddess dressing

GREEN GODDESS SALAD DRESSING

FOLATE PROTEIN OMEGA 3s