Folic acid, also called folate, when it's found in foods -- is part of the vitamin B complex. Getting enough folic acid when you're trying to get pregnant or early in pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Women of child-bearing age who could become pregnant should take folic acid supplements as well as consuming a diet high in folate-rich foods; neural tube defects occur in the first weeks of pregnancy, often before you realize you're pregnant.
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Meat generally doesn't supply large amounts of dietary folate. The one exception to this rule is beef liver. A 3-oz. serving of live supplies 215 micrograms (mcg) of folate, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Pregnant women should consume at least 600 mcg of folic acid per day, while women of childbearing age should get at least 400 mcg, the ODS advises. Pregnant women who can stomach beef liver will meet a good portion of their daily needs with just one serving.
Beans of all kinds can provide an expectant mom with plenty of folate to support her baby's development. Beans including kidney, garbanzo, pinto, black, navy and lima, as well as cooked lentils are all good sources of folate. Kidney beans, for example add 46 mcg per 1/2-cup serving to your folate intake, according to the ODS.
A variety of fruits are high in folate and safe for consumption by pregnant women. The American Pregnancy Association recommends oranges as a good source of the nutrient, especially orange juice from concentrate. A 3/4-cup serving og orange juice contains 35 mcg of folate. Papaya ranks as another excellent source of folic acid for the fruit-loving mom, weighing in at 27 mcg per 1/2-cup serving. Other fruit sources of this B vitamin include bananas, with 24 mcg per medium banana and cantaloupe, with 14 mcg per wedge.
A wide range of vegetables are high in folic acid and can help a pregnant woman get her daily allowances. Green peas, spinach and other greens as well as cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli contain folic acid. Asparagus and spinach are at the higher end of the scale, with a 1/2-cup serving of spinach providing 131 mcg and four asparagus spears providing 89 mcg. A 1/2-cup serving of Brussels sprouts adds 78 mcg to your intake, while broccoli will boost your folate by 52 mcg. A cup of shredded Romaine lettuce will add 64 mcg.
Breads and cereal products don't naturally contain folic acid, but many of these foods are enriched with the vitamin, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Products in this group include pasta, rice and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. Daily values vary from food to food; check labels carefully to make sure you're getting enough of the essential nutrients to stay healthy during pregnancy.