9 foods with folate

Folate, also referred to as folic acid or vitamin B9, is an essential nutrient that becomes increasingly important during pregnancy. Folate is essential in the creation and growth of red blood cells, which are responsible for getting oxygen to the various tissues within the body. While this is an important function for anyone, it's doubly so for pregnant women, who rely on the proper amounts of oxygen reaching the fetus in order to ensure healthy baby development.

When the body doesn't have enough healthy red blood cells, the result is anemia. To avoid this, many women who are expecting take folate supplements. However, there are a number of foods that naturally supply the nutrient. Loading up on these foods can help you ward off anemia and ensure healthy baby development naturally.

1. Asparagus: This delicious and healthy vegetable is loaded with nutritional benefits such as fiber, potassium, and a number of essential minerals. It's also a great source of folate - just 1 cup of fresh asparagus provides 17 percent of your daily value.

2. Avocado: 1 cup of fresh, raw avocado contains a whopping 30 percent of your daily folate needs. It's also rich in omega fatty acids (good fats), vitamin C and fiber. So try adding a thick slice to your sandwich at lunch or making a big batch of guacamole!

3. Beets: Most people have a love-or-hate relationship with beets, but if you're a lover, it'll pay to load up on these veggies. The beet root is a great source of folate, with  1 cup of the raw vegetable providing 37 percent of your daily recommendation. Beet roots are also high in fiber, vitamin C, potassium and other essential minerals. The raw greens are also especially rich in folate, as well as protein, zinc, vitamin B6 and other healthy minerals.

4. Broccoli: A cup of raw broccoli will give you 14 percent of your daily folate intake. It will also provide a healthy dose of calcium, protein and vitamins A, C, E and K, which all contribute to a healthy pregnancy.

5. Cauliflower: Like broccoli, cauliflower is rich in folate as well as a number of other healthy vitamins and minerals that contribute to healthy baby development.

6. Citrus fruit: Most fruits are high in folate, but citrus fruits take the crown. Fruits such as oranges and grapefruits provide up to 10 or 8 percent, respectively. Include fresh fruits, especially citrus, in your diet for a nutrition boost during pregnancy.

7. Dark, leafy vegetables: Perhaps the best-known sources of folate, leafy greens vary in the amount of folate they provide. Rich green, earthy spinach can give you up to 65 percent of your daily value, while lighter, crisper greens such as romaine lettuce still provide almost 20 percent, according to the Global Healing Center.

8. Seeds, nuts and legumes: Beans and legumes provide the most folate, with lentils packing a punch at 90 percent of your daily value and pinto beans coming in second at 74 percent. Seeds and nuts are also especially potent sources, with peanuts providing 22 percent and sunflowers providing 21 percent of recommended intake. All of these foods are also incredibly high in protein, which is essential for your pregnancy.

9. Squash: Both winter and summer squashes will provide you with folate, but it's found in higher amounts in winter squashes such as acorn, butternut, spaghetti and a number of other varieties.

Which of these folate-rich foods are your favorites? Share your thoughts - or recipe ideas - in the comments section!