Folic acid and folate are both versions of a water-soluble B vitamin. Folate is the natural form of folic acid. Folate can be found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, dry beans and peas, oranges and other citrus fruits, broccoli, asparagus, lentils and whole grain products. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. Folic acid is added to many foods, including breakfast cereals, flour, rice, pasta, cornmeal and bread. Foods to which folic acid has been added are considered “fortified.”
Folic acid helps with healthy cell growth and also helps to make both DNA and protein. It is particularly important to embryo development because it encourages the rapid cell division needed to make body and organ tissues in the embryo and fetus.
Common Questions about Folic Acid
How much folic acid should women who are of childbearing age take each day?
Women who are of childbearing age should take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day to help prevent neural tube defects should they become pregnant.
Is it true that men don’t need to worry about getting enough folic acid?
Folic acid provides health benefits for men as well. It’s essential for red blood cell formation, synthesis of proteins, and is needed to help metabolize homocysteine, an amino acid that some research links to poor heart health.
Folic acid is essential in preventing what type of birth defect?
Folic acid plays a major role in preventing neural tube defects, including Spina Bifida and Anencephaly, in babies. According to the NIH, a daily intake of 400 micrograms of folic acid before and an intake of 600 micrograms during the first few months of pregnancy is recommended.
Is it possible to get enough folic acid on a daily basis without taking a supplement or multivitamin?
Folic acid is found in many nutritious foods, such as orange juice, leafy green vegetables, broccoli and many whole grain products. There are also some breakfast cereals, such as Quaker Instant Oatmeal Nutrition for Women, flour, pasta and other food products that have been fortified with folic acid. Of course, if you have trouble reaching the recommended 400 micrograms a day, you can always take a folic acid supplement or a multivitamin with folic acid. If you are capable of becoming pregnant you should be sure to get 400 micrograms of folic acid from either fortified foods or a supplement.