We are told that everyone, at every age and at every stage of life, needs folic acid.
Cereals are fortified with it, and practically every multivitamin contains it. In fact, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), fortified cereals and a multivitamin are the two best ways that we can get our daily requirement of folic acid.
Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects in a developing embryo, such as spina bifida. This is why pregnant women and women who could be pregnant are told to supplement with at least 600 mcg of folic acid a day.
This means that folic acid is not naturally found in food or in the human body!
When we hear about the health benefits of folic acid, what we are really hearing about are the health benefits of folate. This is an important distinction to make.
Unlike folic acid, the body does require folate.
When we take a folic acid supplement or eat foods that are fortified with folic acid, it is shuttled over to the liver, where only a small percentage of it ever gets converted into a useable form, called tetrahydrofolate or folate.
Many multivitamins and supplements will use folic acid, rather than biologically active folate. This is because folic acid is cheaper and easier to use.
Even though folic acid does not cross the placenta in the same way as natural folate, supplementing with folic acid will still prevent birth defects.
When we fail to metabolize folic acid, this means that the body fails to use it. If left unmetabolized, “too much” could be as little as the recommended daily allowance (RDA), which is 400 mcg.
When we have excessive amounts of folic acid in the blood, this can:
Look for supplements that have plenty of natural folate. On the ingredient label, folate could also be listed as:
Foods that are particularly rich in folate are:
Folic acid is recommended for pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects in a developing baby, but folic acid is not biologically active in the body. This means that folic acid isn’t naturally found in the human body or in food. There is a distinct difference between folic acid and folate - required by the body to protect reproductive health, prevent anemia, and repair DNA.
To increase folate in your diet naturally, you can use the following tips:
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