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The Important Relationship Between Folic Acid and Pregnancy

What is the mystery nutrient that every woman of child-bearing age should have in her daily diet? Folate, or folic acid, is one of the hardworking B vitamins. The main job of folate in the body is to help with production of DNA, our genetic map and basic building block of cells. DNA is required for rapidly growing cells, including those in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, blood and all fetal tissues.

A lack of folate in the diet may increase the risk for birth defects of the brain and spine (called neural tube defects). These tissues form very early in the pregnancy, so by the time a woman keeps her first prenatal appointment to confirm pregnancy, the irreversible damage may already be present. And since 50 percent of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, all women of childbearing age should get enough folate in their diet. Pregnant women can often develop anemia (low iron levels) because they have increased blood volume and small or weak red blood cells to help carry the iron around the blood stream. Folate helps create strong red blood cells and works with iron and B12 to help prevent anemia.

Folate helps the baby develop, but it is also good for the mother too. Some research suggests that folic acid may also help protect women from heart disease, cervical and colon cancer, and maybe breast cancer. Folate is needed your entire life. Even into old age, folate helps keep the GI tract healthy so you can absorb all the nutrients you need.

About 400 micrograms of folate is needed each day. An intake that is too low is possible in anyone whose diet does not include generous amounts of folate rich foods. The name folate reminds us of the word foliage and gives us a hint at the best source for this vitamin, green leafy vegetables. Folate is now found in breads and cereals. To learn more about incorporating folic acid into your diet, visit www.grainpower.org

Recipes to boost your folic acid intake:

Parmesan-Toasted Trail Mix
3 cups o-shaped cereal
11/2 cups small pretzels
1-cup cheese crackers
2/3-cup almonds
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
� cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat. Spread mixture out on a baking sheet, in an even layer. Bake 8-10 minutes, until lightly toasted. Serves 6-8.
Developed by Robin Miller on behalf of the Grain Foods Foundation

Sharp Turkey on White (White bread actually contains more Folate than whole wheat due to fortification)
8 slices white sliced bread
1 pound roasted turkey breast
� pound sliced sharp cheddar cheese
� cup mayo
� cup Dijon mustard
1 large head of red leaf lettuce
Toast bread, spread with mayo and mustard, and add sliced cheese, lettuce and turkey. Press in a Panini press, or toast in skillet.
Makes 4 sandwiches.
Developed by Dave Lieberman on behalf if the Grain Foods Foundation

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