What is Folic Acid? And Why Is It Vital for Women

What is Folic Acid? And Why Is It Vital for Women

Folic acid is part of the B complex family of vitamins that helps the body make healthy new cells and tissues. While you may hear folic acid interchanged with folate, folic acid is the form found in a vitamin supplement and folate or vitamin B9 is the form found in food. Both are different terms for the same B vitamin and are important for a healthy body.

Why do I need Folic Acid?

All people need folate. It is important to make red blood cells and if you do not get enough folate, you may develop a type of anemia where you feel tired, weak and unable to concentrate. Folate is also thought to play a role in heart health and cell changes that may lead to cancer.

For woman of childbearing age, a folic acid supplement is very important before and during pregnancy. Folic acid is needed for the proper development of the baby’s brain, skull and spinal cord and the prevention of neural tube birth defects such as Spina Bifida and other birth abnormalities. It is recommended that women of childbearing age take 0.4 mg/day (400 mcg) of folic acid to supplement their dietary intake at least 3 months prior to becoming pregnant and continue the supplement throughout pregnancy.

How much Folic Acid does an adult need?

Age Recommended Amount * Do Not Exceed**
Men and Women19 + Years 400 mcg/day 1000 mcg/day
Pregnant Women 600 mcg/day 1000 mcg/day
Breastfeeding Women 500 mcg/day 1000 mcg/day

*This includes food and supplements **Follow-up with your healthcare provider regarding higher supplement amounts

What foods are a good source of folate?

Fruits & Vegetables: Dark green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, edamame. Fruit juice (orange juice, canned pineapple juice) and fruits such as cantaloupe, honeydew, grapefruit juice, banana, raspberries, grapefruit, strawberries.

Meat Alternatives: Dried legumes such as chickpeas, beans and lentils as well as sunflower seeds and peanut butter.

Grain Products: In Canada, folic acid is added to all white flour, enriched pasta and cornmeal products.

10 tips to increase your Folate intake:

  1. Eat at least 1 dark green vegetable daily.
  2. Add kidney beans, black beans or lentils to your chili, stew or soup.
  3. Add fresh or frozen spinach to lasagna, casseroles, pizza, omelettes or soups.
  4. Enjoy a smoothie made from blended frozen papaya, frozen raspberries, orange juice and yogurt
  5. Make a salad with spinach or romaine. Top with seeds and legumes for a vegetarian protein alternative.
  6. Consider roasted chickpeas as a crunchy evening snack
  7. Make your own trail mix with peanuts, soy nuts, sunflower seeds and dried fruit
  8. Enjoy enriched cereal for breakfast or on top of yogurt with fruit for an afternoon snack.
  9. Cook vegetables for short periods of time to limit folate loss
  10. Store food in tightly sealed containers to limit folate loss