If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, you’ve probably heard a lot about folate and how it’s essential for pregnant women to take to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
But, what is this mysterious substance? Is it a vitamin? Mineral? Some other type of element you’ve never heard of that your body suddenly needs? And, how can you make sure you’re consuming enough of it every day?
Settle in and get ready for some nerdy talk as we unpack everything you need to know about folate as it relates to fertility for men and women.
First things first. Let’s get to the bottom of what folate is.
Folate is a vitamin that is responsible for cell growth and metabolism. It’s instrumental in forming the DNA and RNA that tell our bodies what to do. Our bodies need it to produce healthy blood cells, especially during periods of rapid growth (e.g., during pregnancy).
As the natural form of vitamin B9, you’ve likely been getting plenty of folate without even realizing it—if you’re eating a well-balanced diet. Even so, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about your folate intake if you’re TTC or pregnant. Certain factors could impact how much folate you need. For example, if you have a MTHFR gene variation, your body might not metabolize dietary folate correctly.
The reason your doctor brings folate up at every visit is that this vitamin is absolutely essential for your baby’s brain development. Not having enough folate during pregnancy can lead to complications for your baby’s health, called neural tube defects. These can range from minor to severe. In some cases, babies may not survive if the defects are too significant.
We aren’t saying this to scare you but rather to encourage you to up your folate intake starting now. Get it early and get it often. If you’re trying to conceive, now is a great time to pay attention to the amount of folate you’re getting every day.
Best Foods to Eat to Get More Folate
You can get folate naturally from eating a lot of different types of foods. As you might expect, these foods are healthy, whole foods instead of junky processed foods. So if you’re pregnant or TTC, stick with whole foods and toss the boxed stuff in the trash.
Here are some of the best foods to eat to get more folate into your diet naturally:
- Whole grains
- Sunflower seeds
- Seafood (cooked, if you’re pregnant)
- Fresh fruit (especially citrus fruits, bananas, and avocados)
- Dark leafy greens (think spinach, romaine lettuce, broccoli, turnip greens, and asparagus)
- Supplements (make sure you are getting folate instead of a synthetic form of the vitamin - folic acid)
Get Your Genetic Test
Your MTHFR gene connects with hundreds of other genes in your body, which can all impact how your body manages conception and pregnancy. You can find out if you have an MTHFR gene variation along with other genetic information by ordering one of our gene tests today!