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Wilburn: Women, embrace folic acid
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Fresh finds at the Hall County Farmers Market

It is green time at the market. This is the time of year to purchase locally grown greens - spinach, collards, turnip, mustard, kale and lettuce. I bought lettuce that was harvested the evening before. I also purchased something I have never tried or seen before, tot soi, a cross between mustard greens and spinach. I plan on serving it prepared as an oriental stir fry, but you can also eat it fresh.

There were also strawberries from Dahlonega. They were so sweet and reminded me of the strawberries my grandmother used to grow - her only problem was picking them before the grandkids did.

Other produce for sale included local honey, locally grown broccoli, green onions, cabbage, cauliflower and radishes.

I also bought the freshest cornmeal I have ever seen, truly a taste of the past. Hugh Stowers poured the corn kernels into a 1929 corn mill and minutes later I had cornmeal. He also provided recipes for Southern cornbread and cornbread fritters. His small business will help pay the expenses for his granddaughter's college education.

The farmers market is open starting at 6 a.m. Tuesdays until sellout and 7 a.m. Saturdays until sellout. The earlier you get there, the better the selection. The farmer's market is located on the corner of East Crescent Drive and Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville, just off Interstate 985 at Exit 24.

Folic acid is a B vitamin; our bodies use it to make new cells.

Everyone needs folic acid, but for women who may be thinking about getting pregnant, it is really important.

If a woman has enough folic acid in her body before she is pregnant, it can help prevent major birth defects in her baby's brain and spine. These birth defects are neural tube defects, and women need to take folic acid every day, starting before they are pregnant, to help prevent these defects.

A woman's body uses folic acid to make healthy new cells for her baby. Scientists are not sure how folic acid works to prevent birth defects, but they do know that it is needed for making the cells that will form a baby's brain, spine, organs, skin and bones.

How much is enough?

Look for 100 percent daily value. The CDC and the U.S. Public Health Service urge every woman who could become pregnant to get 400 micrograms of synthetic folic acid every day.

One easy way is to take a daily vitamin that has folic acid in it. Folic acid pills and most multivitamins sold in the United States have 100 percent of the daily value of folic acid; check the label to be sure.

Make it easy to remember; try taking a vitamin when you brush your teeth, with your breakfast or after your shower. Seeing the vitamin bottle on the bathroom or kitchen counter can help you remember it, too.

If you have children, take your vitamin when they take theirs - that sets a good example.

These days, multivitamins with folic acid come in chewable chocolate or fruit flavors or liquids. Many stores offer a single folic acid supplement for just pennies a day.

Another good choice is a store-brand multivitamin. Unless your doctor suggests a special type, you do not need to choose among vitamins for women or active people, or even to go with a low-carbohydrate diet. A basic multivitamin meets the needs of most women.

A single serving of many breakfast cereals also has the amount of folic acid that you need each day, but check the label.

When should a woman start taking folic acid?

These birth defects happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman finds out that she is pregnant. All women of child-bearing age should get in the habit of taking folic acid daily, even when they are not planning to get pregnant.

Source: National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.

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