Planning to have a baby? CDC recommends getting 400 mcg of folic acid each day to help prevent major birth defects of a baby’s brain and spine.

The Importance of Folic Acid

What is folic acid?

Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9, water-soluble and naturally found in many foods. It is also added to foods and sold as a supplement in the form of folic acid. Folic acid is better absorbed than folate from food sources—85% vs. 50%, respectively.  Get your 400 mcg of folic acid daily by taking a vitamin with folic acid and eating a balanced diet that includes folate-rich foods like spinach or oranges.

Why is folic acid important? 

Folic acid is a B vitamin that when taken before and during early pregnancy helps prevent birth defects of a baby’s brain and spine. You can get 400 mcg of folic acid each day by taking a vitamin with folic acid in it, eating fortified foods, or a combination of the two. It is not just important to those trying to conceive, our bodies use folic acid to make new cells. Think about the skin, hair, and nails. These–and other parts of the body – make new cells each day. 

Food sources of folate:

In January 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required food manufacturers to add folic acid to foods commonly eaten, including breads, cereals, pasta, rice, and other grain products, to reduce the risk of neural tube defects. This program has helped to increase the average folic acid intake by about 100 mcg/day. [38,39] Good sources of folate include:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables (turnip greens, spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli)
  • Black-eye peas
  • Avocado
  • Beef liver
  • Peanuts
  • Green peas
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Fresh fruits, fruit juices
  • Whole grains
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Fortified foods, such as pasta, bread, cereal and supplements

 Try this folate rich smoothie! 

Talk to your provider today about how to support your body and baby through a healthy pregnancy!

Learn more from the CDC

Learn more from Harvard School of Public Health

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