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Folate: The Pregnancy Nutrient You Can't Afford to Ignore

Folate is a crucial nutrient for pregnant women. It plays a vital role in the development of the fetus, particularly in the formation of the neural tube, which becomes the baby's brain and spinal cord. In this post, we'll discuss why folate is essential during pregnancy and how to ensure you're getting enough.

Folate vs Folic Acid: What’s the difference?

While folate and folic acid are often used interchangeably, it's important to note that they are not the same thing. Folate is the natural form of the nutrient found in foods, while folic acid is the synthetic form found in supplements and fortified foods. While they have similar benefits, they may not be absorbed and utilized the same way in the body. In terms of supplementation, some women may benefit from using the more active form of folate known as methylfolate, L-methylfolate, or 5-MTHF instead of folic acid. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about which form of folate supplementation is right for you.

Why is folate important during pregnancy?

Folate is critical during the first trimester of pregnancy because that's when the neural tube develops. If the neural tube does not form correctly, it can lead to neural tube defects. Folate is also important throughout the entire pregnancy as it helps in the production of new cells and the growth and development of the placenta, which provides oxygen and nutrients to the developing fetus. It's recommended that women who are trying to conceive take folate or folic acid supplements before becoming pregnant. The recommended daily amount of folate for pregnant women is 600 mcg per day. Before taking any supplements, it's important to speak with a healthcare professional about any medications you are taking to prevent any potential drug interactions.

What foods contain folate?

Many foods naturally contain folate, including leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, beans, lentils, avocado, and citrus fruits. In addition, many grain products in the United States are fortified with folic acid, including bread, cereal, and pasta. Since our diets tend to vary from day to day it is still recommended to supplement folate to help fill in any gaps.


Folate is a vital nutrient for pregnant women. It plays a crucial role in the development of the fetus, particularly in the formation of the neural tube. While many foods naturally contain folate, supplements are often necessary to ensure adequate intake, especially before and throughout pregnancy. As always, it's best to speak with a healthcare professional about your individual needs and any potential interactions with other medications.

If you are actively trying to conceive or are currently pregnant and are concerned about meeting your individual nutritional needs, you could benefit from nutritional counseling with a registered dietitian. To learn more about my services and to schedule a free introductory call, email


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