Folic Acid: General Info

Folic acid, also known as folate, is one of several B vitamins. Whereas folate is the synthetic form often added to foods, folic acid is the natural form of the vitamin. Folic acid is necessary for the synthesis of DNA and RNA as well as for the creation of new cells such as blood cells. It is an essential vitamin for the prevention of anemia, especially in children and women.

Foods containing folic acid

Many foods such as breads and cereals are fortified with folate. Another dietary source of folic acid is green leafy vegetables such as spinach, citrus fruits, and legumes such as peanuts, peas, and dried beans. Folic acid in the diet is quickly lost in fresh foods. Vegetables that are harvested, washed, and then shipped across the country before they arrive at the grocery store generally contain an insignificant amount of folic acid by the time they make it to your table. Because of this, folic acid supplements are usually in order for many people, especially women.

Folic acid is important during pregnancy

Women who do not have adequate amounts of folic acid may give birth to children with birth defects, particularly neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Women of childbearing age are encouraged to take folic acid supplements. Folic acid supplements can be in the form of a multivitamin that includes folic acid or a separate supplement of folic acid alone. The recommended intake of folic acid amounts to 400 micrograms (µg) a day. Preliminary studies have shown that folic acid may also play a part in battling heart disease and some types of cancer for all groups of people; however, these studies are still underway, and this supposition cannot yet be confirmed. Another point of interest is that alcohol seems to block absorption of folic acid in the body—leading to just another reason to take folic acid supplements.