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Prairie Fare: Don’t Miss This Nutrient

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
Step right up and hear about a special nutrient that’s a real deal for your health.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Best deal of the season!” promised an advertisement. “Don’t miss this one!” another sales ad announced.

Lately my mailbox contains catalogs, coupons and all sorts of special deals for the upcoming holiday season. Businesses are enticing me to buy clothing, toys, special foods and other holiday gifts.

Sometimes the ads tempt me to spend money. Most of the time, advertisements inspire me to think like a marketer when it comes to nutrition.

So, step right up and hear about a special nutrient that’s a real deal for your health.

You don’t want to miss this nutrient, especially if you are a woman who could become pregnant. Research shows that timely consumption of this vitamin by women during childbearing years can prevent up to 70 percent of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.

Research shows that only 10 percent to 15 percent of women know they need this nutrient before and during pregnancy.

According to research, men who would like to become dads also should read closely. Men’s reproductive health may be influenced positively by meeting the recommendation for this nutrient.

If you want to help protect your heart, pay attention to information about this nutrient, which has had promising results in some studies. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. As a bonus, many of the foods naturally high in this nutrient, such as cooked dry beans, also are high in heart-healthy soluble fiber.

People who would like to protect their brains from the effects of dementia, and potentially Alzheimer’s, should perk their ears, too. In some research studies, this nutrient has shown positive benefits for brain health.

What is the nutrient? It’s folic acid, a B vitamin that the body needs for healthy cells and blood.

Sometimes folic acid is referred to as folate, which is the natural form of the vitamin found in foods, such as leafy green vegetables (such as spinach), dry edible beans, lentils and citrus fruits. Folic acid is a man-made form of the B vitamin found in fortified breakfast cereals, bread, pasta and rice, plus vitamin supplements.

Folic acid helps form a baby’s brain and spine. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women who could become pregnant get 400 micrograms of folic acid every day starting at least a month before becoming pregnant.

The North Dakota Folic Acid Task Force and NDSU Extension Service are carrying out a multifaceted intervention media campaign and various promotional activities to promote this message to women.

Coalition task force members include Extension Service agents; nurses/midwives; public health nutritionists/nurses; Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program nutritionists; tribal educators; pharmacists; and graduate students.

We could use your help, too, to carry the message to women you know.

Our project partners include the National Council on Folic Acid, Dakota Medical Foundation, March of Dimes, North Dakota State Pharmacy Association, North Dakota Health Department, WIC, McDonald’s, Northarvest Bean Growers Association, Northern Pulse Growers Association and Hornbacher’s Foods.

Watch for signs and brochures about folic acid. Pay attention to information on the radio about folic acid. Meeting your needs could have a positive benefit for your overall health. You can learn more by visiting

Try this folate-rich snack from the Grain Foods Foundation at

Parmesan-toasted Trail Mix

3 c. O-shaped cereal

1 1/2 c. small pretzels

1 c. cheese crackers or animal crackers

2/3 c. almonds

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat. Spread mixture on a baking sheet in an even layer. Bake eight to 10 minutes, until lightly toasted.

Makes about 16 snack-size servings (about one-third cup each). Each serving has about 115 calories, 7 grams (g) of fat, 1.5 g of fiber, 190 milligrams of sodium and 70 micrograms of folate.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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