Take Folic Acid for Good Health


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January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month and, according to the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, women who consume the recommended amount of folic acid — 400 micrograms — before and during early pregnancy can help prevent major birth defects of their baby’s brain (known as anencephaly) and spine (known as spina bifida).

Anencephaly is a serious birth defect in which parts of a baby’s brain and skull do not form correctly. Babies born with anencephaly cannot survive. Spina bifida is a serious birth defect in which a baby’s spine does not develop correctly, and can result in severe physical disabilities.

All women, but especially those who want to become pregnant, need 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, either through a multivitamin containing folic acid or through folate in their diet.

Folic acid is added to foods such as enriched breads, pastas, rice and cereals and will be listed on the food’s nutrition label. You can consume folate by eating beans, peas, lentils, oranges, orange juice, asparagus, broccoli and dark leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and mustard greens.

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