Everything You Need to Know About Folic Acid
Morgane Leten - Nutrition & Fertility Coach
If you’ve been pregnant before or want to have a baby, you’ve probably heard about the benefits of folic acid. But you can also take folic acid perfectly before, during and after your pregnancy to support your health. (Read more about it here)
In this blog post, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about folic acid treatment - what it is, why you need it and how to get the best folic acid.
Folate and folic acid are forms of vitamin B9 (B11 in the Netherlands). Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate (the type you'll find in a supplement), while folate is the natural form found in food.
Folate plays an important role in our bodies and yet we cannot make it ourselves, so we must get it through food and sometimes trough supplements.
Why is folic acid important?
Folic acid is most often taken by women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant. Folic acid supplementation increases the mother's folate status. Low maternal folate status is a risk factor for the development of neural tube defects in the developing fetus.
Therefore, it is recommended to all pregnant women, and is included in all prenatal supplements.
Folic acid also contributes to the formation of the placenta and the growth of the uterus during pregnancy.
It further contributes to normal blood formation, normal psychological function, plays a role in the cell division process, normal functioning of the immune system, contributes to the reduction of fatigue and tiredness
How do you know if you need folic acid?
Folate performs several important functions in the body like keeping your nervous system healthy. How can you know if your folic acid is low? Be on the lookout for some telltale symptoms. Severe folate deficiency can cause anemia, intestinal disorders, fatigue and birth defects.
How much folic acid does a woman need?
The general guidance is that women need a minimum of 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. This is especially important if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. It is widely recommended that women take folic acid for up to 12 weeks when pregnant and then after that, it is not as critical.
Research suggests that longer-term use of folic acid, could reduce the risk of perinatal depression.
What type of folic acid is recommended?
Active folate is the best absorbable version of folic acid. Folic acid and folate from food are not biologically active so your body needs to convert it to the metabolically active form called 5-methyletrahydrofolate (or 5-MTHF for short). Many people, due to their own genetics, actually can’t convert folic acid to 5-MTHF. This means that even though you may be taking folic acid, it still cannot do its job properly. This active form is actually the only form that your body can use immediately, so you can be sure to get all the benefits.
I want to increase my folate intake naturally. What can I eat?
It’s easy to get your daily dose of folic acid because lots of foods naturally contain folate. Folic acid is also routinely added to foods like bread, cereal, pasta, rice and other grain products.
Good sources of folate are things like:
- Green leafy vegetables (Think: spinach, kale, asparagus, broccoli)
- Sunflower seeds
- Whole grains
- Fresh fruits (strawberries, citrus, kiwis and melon)
Still have questions about folic acid? Get in touch. We can help answer any questions you have.