Folic acid is a vital nutrient for expectant mothers. It helps with the healthy development of your baby and lowers risk of problems like spina bifida, a type of neural tube defect. While your doctor may prescribe a folic acid supplement, there are ways to boost your folic-acid intake from these natural dietary sources of folate. The best part - they’re not just good for you, they’re delicious too!
Indian mums-to-be needn’t look further than their usual pantry ingredients for folate-rich foods. Most of the dals or lentils we consume routinely are all great sources of the nutrient. So stock up on your moong dal, chana dal, urad dal, arhar dal - pick those that you find easy to digest. If you’re tired of the usual dal, experiment with lentil soups, lentil dosas/chilas, salads, and some Indian desserts that use them as an ingredient.
#2 Chana/Chickpeas and Black-eyes Peas/Lobia/Chawli Beans
If you enjoy chana/chickpeas or lobia/cowpeas, you’ll be happy to hear this. These easy to cook and very popular ingredients are also a good source of folate. Make a curry with them, use them after cooking in a salad, make vegetarian galouti kebabs, or try boiling them and using to make middle-eastern hummus with yogurt, sesame (another source of folate), garlic, and lime juice.
When you’re expecting, it is a challenge to balance eating healthy and indulging yourself now and again with some treats. Sesame allows you to do both, guilt-free. Make some homemade sesame ladoos/chikki or buy some from the store. Use sesame to liven up a salad. It adds instant flavour and is rich in folate, making it a big tick on a pregnancy diet.
#4 Green Leafy Vegetables
Spinach is a great source of folate, as are all green leafy vegetables. Whether you enjoy them as a gravy, soup, dal, or even as a healthy pasta sauce, be sure to include some of these nutrient-rich greens in your pregnancy diet. Beetroot greens, turnip greens, and other leafy vegetables are easily available at vegetable vendors and supermarkets and specialty stores stock lettuce and kale. Don’t forget to explore unusual Indian greens like moringa/drumstick leaves for more variety.
#5 Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage are all rich in folate so try and add them to your grocery list. While cabbage can lend itself to everything from a lightly steamed sabzi to a Chinese stir-fry or a western-style salad, broccoli tastes great simply steamed or roasted with just salt and pepper and a splash of lemon juice while serving. Brussels sprouts are another good source though these are less commonly available - use them as salad leaves after wilting in a little olive oil on low heat or caramelize in an oven till crispy and golden.
#6 Bhindi/Ladies Finger
Bhindi, okra, or ladies finger is one of the more popular folate-rich vegetables available in the market. You can make a regular sabzi with it or crisp up some and use them to make a raita. Bhindi also works nicely in sambar or a tangy tamarind-based or yogurt-based gravy.
#7 Whole Grains
Whole grains are a rich source of folate. Think barley, broken wheat (used in soup or as upma, poha), millet like ragi(great for baking as well as in dosas and idlis). Use whole grain flour for the nutrients it contains, including folate. It is less processed than white flour/maida, making it a smart choice when pregnant. Whole grain products are also often fortified with additional folate, making them doubly good!
If you don’t have a peanut allergy, this humble nut that’s easily available across the country is a good source of folate. Make homemade peanut butter by grinding up some of the nuts in the mixer with a touch of salt and sweeten when you eat with some fresh honey drizzled over. Roast some and snack on them with some vegetables in a spicy salad. Make a satay sauce to use on grilled chicken or vegetables. Toss a handful in your poha. The options are endless!
#9 Citrus Fruit and Citrus Juices
Citrus fruit is folate-rich and is easily available most of the year. You can also consume citrus fruit as juices if you like, though try and avoid any with added sugars. Besides oranges and lemons, you could also have sweet lime or mosambi.
#10 Sunflower Seeds
A health-food staple, sunflower seeds can be eaten roasted plain as a snack or added to homemade cakes, bread, cookies, breakfast porridge/oats, and salads for some folate-rich crunch.
Learn more about pregnancy diets and pick up tips for a healthy pregnancy from experts, read about experiences on life with a baby-on-board from other mums - all in the MamaXpert community.