There’s no doubt folate is important for your pregnancy but just what are some of the top folate foods to include in your diet?
WORDS SAMANTHA TAN
What are some folate-rich foods?
Folate is found naturally in a wide variety of foods, including vegetables (especially dark green leafy vegetables), fruits and fruit juices, nuts, beans, peas, dairy products, poultry and meat, eggs, seafood, and grains.
Some of the foods with the highest amounts of naturally
occurring folate are spinach, asparagus, bok choy,
kai lan, brussels sprouts, lettuce and avocados.
Dr Ng Kai Lyn, associate consultant at National University Hospital's Women’s Centre says, “Folate occurs naturally in many foods such as lentils, broccoli, oranges and whole grains. Some fortified foods like certain bread, breakfast cereals and grain products have folic acid added during the manufacturing process. However, these are unlikely to meet 100 per cent of the daily requirement and a supplement folic acid is recommended.”
What happens if there is a deficiency in folate?
If there is a deficiency in folate, the mother could develop anaemia, have poor immunity, become lethargic, develop poor digestion and greying of the hair. The foetus could develop neural birth defects and have poor growth, resulting in smaller babies.
Are there any side effects of folate?
While most people do not experience any side effects from folic acid, the possible side effects include diarrhoea, nausea, loss of appetite, and irritability. “Folic acid is generally regarded as safe and side effects are rare. However, you should contact your healthcare provider if you develop any signs of an allergic reaction. These include swelling of your eyelids, lips, tongue, throat or hives,” Dr Ng advises.
Is there such a thing as too much folate?
Now you know the risks of insufficient folate — but what about excessive folate intake? Dr Christopher Chong, obstetrician and gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital says, “An overdose of folate will cause confusion, seizures, muscle aches, fatigue, hair loss and diarrhoea.” Dr Ng says that while there have been limited studies exploring the relationship between excessive levels of folate and autism spectrum disorders, the literature is inconsistent and medical evidence surrounding this remains inconclusive.
The risks of insufficient folate in pregnancy are well established
and it is important for women to stay within the
current international recommendations.
“The recommended upper limit for folic acid is 1000mcg because high doses may make it harder to diagnose Vitamin B12 deficiency if any. There is no upper limit for natural folate as no adverse effects have been reported,” Dr Yang assures.