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The power of folic acid: Health benefits and sources

| Healthy You | Wellness | Women’s Health

Woman making a salad

Everyone needs this B vitamin for good health.

Folic acid is a B vitamin that isn’t naturally made by our bodies. But it’s a key nutrient that your body uses to create new cells. It’s also called vitamin B9 or folate.

Everyone needs folic acid. It can be found in a daily vitamin or supplement and also in food. 

According to the CDC, everyone should get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid each day.

In addition to helping reduce the likelihood of birth defects, it may also help reduce the risk of heart disease. Along with vitamin B12, folic acid helps form RNA and DNA (aka instructions) to build new protein for your heart. Folic acid also helps to break down certain amino acids that can be harmful to the body.

Importance of folic acid 

If you’re pregnant or planning to have kids, folic acid may help prevent major birth defects in a baby’s spine and brain. These are called neural tube defects, like spina bifida

Before trying to get pregnant and while pregnant, try getting at least 400 micrograms of folic acid each day. 

What else does folic acid do for you?

This vitamin also contributes to helping rapidly regenerating cells, like red blood cells and immune cells, to help with overall health and strengthen your immune system. 

Getting too little of it may result in anemia, a condition where your blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells. Taking a folic acid supplement may quickly resolve it.

Folic acid naturally occurs in some foods like:

  • Beans and legumes like garbanzo beans, pinto beans or lentils.
  • Leafy green vegetables, like spinach, kale or Romaine lettuce.
  • Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes.
  • Beets, particularly red beets.
  • Wheat germ.
  • Nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds and chia seeds.

A daily multivitamin is another option. Look for one that has 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid. It can also be found as a supplement on its own.