There are so many variables that go into having a healthy baby that is out of our control, so for me, eating nutrient-dense foods is the MOST important thing to focus on.
(That's after I get through the nausea of the first trimester, of course. Please give yourself grace if you are in those first few weeks, and remember your body has stores of good stuff for your baby. Plus, you have prenatal supplements to support your nutrient status!)
In addition to nutrient-dense Fab 4 meals, one of the main micro-nutrients I
prioritize during my pregnancy is B vitamins. B Vitamins, including B9 and B12, are crucial for neural tube development and cellular energy. B9, also known as folate, is found in certain foods and is instrumental in fetal development, including the brain, visual, bone, formation of new red blood cells, and overall health. The synthetic version of folate is folic acid which is found in supplements and fortified foods. The CDC urges all women of reproductive age to take 400 micrograms (mcg) to 1,000 mcg of folic acid each day, in addition to consuming food with folate from a varied diet, to help prevent some major birth defects of the baby's brain (anencephaly) and spine (spina bifida). *Note: Make sure B9 is present in your prenatal, not folic acid.
The Importance of Folate, B12 and 5-MTHF
Low folate status may be caused by low dietary intake, poor absorption of ingested folate, and alteration of folate metabolism due to genetic defects or drug interactions. When it comes to B vitamin supplements, there are a few things I look for to ensure I am reaching the daily recommended intake and optimizing absorption. The body only absorbs about half of the folate in foods, where folic acid is substantially more bio-available. But the best form of vitamin B9 (folate) to take, especially for individuals with an MTHFR gene mutation, is the metabolically active form called L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate, or 5-MTHF. 5-MTHF is just as bioavailable as folic acid but much gentler for the body, allowing it to take effect sooner and potentially help prevent side effects caused by folic acid such as bloating, appetite loss, and nausea.
B9 and B12 vitamins work together to make DNA & RNA needed for growing cells. B12 plays an important role in fetal neurodevelopment, specifically brain and nerve function and is critical in methylation. A deficiency results in neurodevelopmental and an increased chance of miscarriage. Vitamin B6 helps both you and the baby metabolize proteins and carbohydrates to maintain healthy glucose levels. It is essential in the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system and required for the production of key neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine. But because the body uses folic acid and vitamin B12 in very similar ways, it can be difficult for doctors to recognize the signs of a B12 deficiency. 5-MTHF helps reduce the potential for vitamin B9 ingestion to mask many of the important symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency and minimize the chances of birth defects as a result of these deficiencies.My favorite folate sources include:
- 1 cup lentils = 358 mcg
- 1 cup cooked asparagus = 268 mcg
- 1 cup cooked spinach = 263 mcg
- 1 cup cooked artichoke = 200 mcg
- 1 cup cooked broccoli = 169 mcg
- 1 small avocado = 164 mcg
- 1 cup cooked beets = 136 mcg
- 1 cup cooked Brussel sprouts= 94 mcg
- 1 cup of cooked kale = 85 mcg
- 1 cup of mixed lettuce = 65 mcg
- 1 egg = 22 mcg
My favorite sources of B12 come from organ meat, such as liver, clams, sardines, tuna, salmon, eggs, and dairy products such as full-fat fermented greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream or hard aged cheese. Fun fact: Vitamin B12 from meat, poultry and fish is estimated to be absorbed an average rate of 50%, while the vitamin B12 contained in milk is estimated to be the most bioavailable, averaging 65%. For those following a plant-based diet, it is important to supplement a B12 vitamin to get your daily recommended intake of 150mcg.
Hiya Supplements for Kids
B vitamins are important at every stage of life, but it is especially crucial during pregnancy and throughout a child’s early developmental years. In fact, folate is one of the most essential parts of a growing child’s diet to keep up with the growing demand for new red blood cells. I always recommend making an active attempt to have your children’s recommended daily values of vitamins and minerals come from their diet first, but it is not uncommon for children to require additional supplementation to further support their growing bodies and fill in the missing gaps.
The only way to ensure your child is not getting adequate amounts of folate is through a medical examination. If your pediatrician believes your child would benefit from folate supplements, Hiya offers the perfect solution. Hiya is completely sugar-free and doesn’t contain any gummy junk. The 'chewables' contain L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate, one of the safest and most effective sources of folate, along with 14 other vitamins and minerals. It is also dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan, making it the perfect option for my household and anyone else with picky eaters, children with allergies, or children in plant-based households who might need extra help getting nutrients in their diet. As always, before introducing any new supplement it is important to consult your pediatrician.
To learn more about my holistic guide to caring for your body and your baby before, during and after pregnancy, check out my Fab 4 Pregnancy course.