Folic Acid: How Much You Need and How To Get it

Folic acid is one of those nutrients that you hear about occasionally, but most of us aren't very sure what it is or what it does. Folic acid is actually a man-made form of folate, which is found naturally in food.

Most adolescents and adults require an intake of 400 micrograms (mcgs) of folic acid each day. Breastfeeding women should get up to 500 mcgs, and pregnant women need up to 600 mcgs. But what is folic really all about? And how do you ensure you're getting enough?

Why We Need Folic Acid

Your body is made up of cells, as you probably know. Cells don't live forever. Cells can get damaged, grow old, or even die. Everywhere in your body, old cells need to be replaced by new cells. Folate is what helps your body do this.

It's particularly important in matters of fertility-- because it helps to form sperm cells or egg cells, and helps a baby's cells develop in utero. This is why one of the first things a fertility doctor or obstetrician will check is your folate levels.

One other function of folate is to help remove levels of the amino acid homocystein. Too much of a build-up of this amino acid can be toxic.

Foods Rich in Folic Acid

There is an easy little rhyme to help you remember the best foods to eat for your folate intake: beans and greens.

Virtually any kind of legume—lentil, kidney, navy, lima, black, garbanzo, etc.—contains a healthy dose of folate per serving. In addition, dark leafy greens like spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, collard and turnip greens also contain it. Likewise, folate is found in many seeds and nuts.

Your folate intake will be fine if you regularly eat your veggies. It's found in many popular vegetables, like asparagus, beets, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, and squash.

Fruits that contain folate include papayas, strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, raspberries, and oranges. Breakfast can be another great source of folic acid, as many fortified breakfast cereals will provide you with a good portion of your daily dose.

Supplements

While many foods will provide you with folate, unfortunately, the body does not absorb it as readily as it normally absorbs folic acid. Many people – particularly pregnant and nursing women — will require supplements despite their best efforts to eat a nutritious diet. A quick blood test at the doctors should tell you if supplements are warranted. If so, remember that folic acid is like any other nutrient— more is not automatically better. Talk to your doctor about the best dose size to meet your needs.

Photo: Pexels

More Articles

More Articles

According to a study funded by the National Cancer Institute, reflexology -- in which a person's feet are massaged in order to stimulate other...

Besides being a yummy, quick breakfast treat, yogurt is a nutritional powerhouse and a healthy way to start your day. Yogurt supporters believe it...

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder in children, and although it is prevalent in kids, ADHD...

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder that causes hyperactive behaviors that are above normal levels. People...

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental health disorders affecting children. Although it is most...

Acne is a condition of the skin that is caused by pores being clogged by dead skin cells and oil. It appears on the forehead, face, shoulders,...

Acne is a skin condition that is primarily prevalent in teenagers, though it can affect people of all ages. It is caused by the clogging of hair...

Perimenopause is the transition period that leads to menopause. Menopause officially occurs when a woman has gone one year without a period....

Herbs and spices can do wonders for a meal, but did you know they can also spice things up in the bedroom? A number of these tasty garnishes have...

Cross-training is for those who want to master their body physically in all sorts of ways. Some athletes who train to do the same exercise...

By now you’ve probably heard about the prevalence of GMO foods in the United States. Just as a reminder, the term GMO stands for genetically...

For years, the media and the diet industry have gone back and forth with contradicting claims. Sometimes the buzz praises low-carb dieting as the...

Have you ever heard anyone say, “I’ll do anything to lose weight!” Some people actually mean it—and as a result, have suffered health problems or...

Do you feel like you’ve been dieting forever but getting nowhere? Does the scale seem fixated on a certain number and it just won’t budge below it...

There’s so much debate over which diets are best— people want to know, “which diet really works?” Well, there’s a little secret I’ll let you in on...