Are you getting enough folic acid? Also known a vitamin B9 or folate, this nutrient is needed for overall health. Most people associate it with pregnant mothers, but we all need to get enough. Folic acid has a crucial role in the body. Aside from helping convert food to fuel, folic acid is needed for so many body functions. Here’s why it’s important to get enough.
1. Proper Growth
During times of intense growth, folic acid is a must. It helps cells and tissues develop properly. Healthy infancy, adolescence, and pregnancy all depend on enough folic acid.
In pregnant mothers, adequate folate helps the brain and spinal cord develop. If a mother doesn’t get enough, the baby is at risk for neural tube defects are likely. Some might die in the womb or shortly after birth.1
2. DNA Production
In the same vein, folic acid fuels DNA and RNA synthesis. This ensures that cells can function on the daily. In fact, some scientists believe that folic acid may prevent DNA mutations.2
3. Red Blood Cell Synthesis
Iron isn’t the only nutrient for healthy blood. To work properly, it needs folate and vitamin B12. Folate also helps the body make enough red blood cells. Without enough, synthesis declines, and the cells that are made are often large and immature. This leads to a disease known as megaloblastic anemia.3
4. Emotional Health
Along with vitamin B12, folate is needed by the nervous system. These nutrients support brain metabolism, function, and repair, so it’s essential for feeling good. In fact, compared to vitamin B12 deficiency, folate deficiency doubles the risk of depression. Even without deficiency, folate can still enhance mood.4 It’ll also kick irritability to the curb.
5. Mental Health
The brain benefits of folate don’t stop at feelings. Cognitive function, memory, and reasoning all depend on folate. For older people, folate keeps dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay.5
Food Sources Of Folic Acid
Like all B vitamins, folic acid is water-soluble. This means the body doesn’t store it. In America, deficiency is rare, but most of us barely get enough. That’s why eating a folate-rich diet is vital. Luckily, it’s easy to find it in both natural and fortified foods.6 7
- Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and mustard greens
- Black-eyed peas
- Brussels sprouts
- Fortified breakfast cereal
- Beef Liver
- Enriched spaghetti
- Wheat germ
Daily Recommendation For Folic Acid
The amount of folic acid to be consumed by different groups of people are as follows.8
- Adults between the ages of 19 to 50: 400 mcg DFE (dietary folate equivalents)
- Adults from 51 to 70 years: 400 mcg DFE
- Adults 71+ years: 400 mcg DFE
- Pregnant teens and women: 600 mcg DFE
- Breastfeeding teens and women: 500 mcg DFE
A Word Of Caution
Folic acid might be essential, but don’t overdo it. Supplements and fortified foods shouldn’t be eaten in excess unless your doctor says so! For adults, the upper limit is 1,000 mcg a day.
Eating a lot of folate can “mask” vitamin B12 deficiency. This condition has its own slew of issues, including nerve damage. It might even raise the risk of colon cancer in some people.9
Before taking supplements, check with your doctor. She can recommend a dose that’s right for you. Otherwise, focus on getting folic acid from natural, whole sources.
|↑1||Neural Tube Defects. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑2, ↑6, ↑9||Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid). University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑3||Folate. National Institute of Health.|
|↑4, ↑5||Reynolds, Edward. “Vitamin B12, folic acid, and the nervous system.” The lancet neurology 5, no. 11 (2006): 949-960.|
|↑7||Folate. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑8||Folate. National Institutes of Health.|