For women who might become pregnant, adequate levels of folic acid – or folate – are essential. This B vitamin helps prevent birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. For the general population, this vitamin helps keep the heart healthy and may prevent certain types of cancers. Folic acid is the man-made form of folate. Aim for at least 400 micrograms of folic acid or folate each day.
For a folic-acid-rich breakfast, eat enriched breakfast cereals. Many cereals contain added vitamins and can include 100 percent of your folic-acid intake. Check the label to verify the folic-acid content of your favorite cereal. On most nutrition labels, folic acid – or folate – appears just under Vitamin B6. An alternative breakfast packed with folate is oatmeal with berries, either blackberries, raspberries or strawberries.
At lunch, enjoy a sandwich on enriched whole-grain bread, many of which are fortified with folic acid. Include peanut butter, cheddar cheese or eggs on your sandwich. Or make a spinach salad with avocado, cheddar cheese and salmon. All of these ingredients are good sources of folate. Include a choice of your family's favorite bottled dressings.
For meat-eaters, salmon and lamb are good sources of folate. Both meat-lovers and vegetarians can enjoy the benefits of lentils and chick peas. For vegetable side dishes, choose artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, any type of squash or all kinds of leafy green vegetables. Because many pastas are enriched with folic acid, they make good side dishes or main courses. A delicious, folic-acid-rich combination would be grilled salmon and asparagus served over pasta.
Many fruits, particularly berries and citrus fruits, are high in folate. Serve these fruits with low-fat yogurt to increase the amount of folate. For a completely different type of snack, combine beef jerky and cheddar cheese with enriched whole-grain crackers. Or make a smoothie with soy milk, mango and oranges.