Benefits of folic acidFolic acid, also called folate or folacin, is one of the B vitamins, also known as B9. Your body needs it to produce red blood cells, as well as norepinephrine and seratonin (chemical components of the nervous system). Folic acid is also one of the few nutrients known to prevent neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida. It helps synthesize DNA and normalize brain function, and is a critical part of spinal fluid. Women who don't get enough folic acid may increase their chance of miscarriage. Some experts consider it the miracle vitamin; studies have linked it to a lower incidence of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and diabetes.

How much do I need?
Before you conceive, you'd be wise to take a daily multivitamin containing at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid. Women trying to get pregnant need lots of folic acid -- actually, everyone could use a bigger dose of it since Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, so your body will flush out the excess if you take too much. Pregnant women will need at least 600 to 800 mcg daily.

When Should Folic Acid be taken?
Spina bifida and other neural tube defects (NTDs) occur between the third and fourth week of fetal development, before most women know they are pregnant. Whether or not you are expecting a child, it is recommended that women of childbearing age should take folic acid every day in order to help prevent NTDs. It is recommended that pregnant women take 600 to 800-mcg folic acid daily through the first 3 months of pregnancy. Please consult your physician about continuing folic acid intake during pregnancy.

What are the best food sources?
Although folic acid is found in vegetables, fruits, grain products, meat and meat alternatives, it is difficult to get the entire amount from food and hence it is recommended that you consume good sources of folic acid every day, as well as take a multivitamin supplement.

Dietary Sources of Folic Acid

1/2 cup chicken liver: 539 mcg
1/2 cup beef liver: 184.5 mcg
1/2 cup lentils: 179 mcg
1/2 cup cereal (fortified): 146-179 mcg
Medium-sized papaya: 115 mcg
1/2 cup steamed broccoli: 52 mcg
1-cup cantaloupe: 27.2 mcg
Large hard-boiled egg: 22 mcg
250 ml boiled beans: 15 mcg
250 ml boiled beet: 9 mcg
1 spear broccoli: 123 mcg
250 ml cooked cauliflower: 63 mcg
250 ml cooked spinach: 262 mcg
250 ml orange juice: 109 mcg


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