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This Is Why Folic Acid Is Crucial
Who Can Benefit From Folic Acid?
When we think of folic acid, the first thing that comes to mind is that it is a supplement for pregnant women. While this is true, and it is very important for pregnant women to take it, most of us don’t realize that it is also important to not be folate deficient at other times. For instance, even women that are planning to become pregnant should be taking folate as a supplement, for up to one year before they want to become pregnant. After pregnancy, women should continue taking folic acid as a supplement, in quantities of 500mcg during the time they are lactating.
Some sources suggest that any woman over the age of 14 should be taking folic acid supplements, about 400mcg a day. In 2009, the PLOS Medicine journal stated that women that take folic acid supplements 12 months before becoming pregnant decrease their chances of having a premature pregnancy by 50-70 percent. This is especially important for women that have high-risk pregnancies or have had premature pregnancies before.
Folate, the naturally occurring form of folic acid, may also be a good supplement for teenagers. Not only are their bodies growing rapidly again as they did during infancy, but some studies seem to show that folate might be linked to an increase in academic achievement for teenagers. As always, make sure to not only increase the intake of folic acid but also of Vitamin B12 and other nutrients so that the body can properly digest and use the folic acid.
Where Can You Find Folic Acid?
Folic acid is available in many foods and it is readily available in supplements as well. Some foods that have high naturally occurring forms of folate include dark, leafy greens (spinach and kale), baker’s yeast, blackberries, cabbage, asparagus, cruciferous vegetables ( broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower), egg yolks, lentils, milk, papaya, kiwi, parsnips, peas, oranges, and sunflower seeds. In most instances, eating these foods fresh rather than cooked provides more folic acid – except when vegetables are pressure cooked which actually increases the amount of folic acid present significantly. As previously mentioned, make sure that when ingesting the natural form of folic acid from foods that your body is also ready to convert this inert form into the active form – keeping your liver healthy is essential for this.
Folic acid can also be found in many fortified foods including whole wheat breads, cereals, and oat based products (cereal or granola bars, instant oatmeal packets, etc.). Typically, two servings of most fortified cereals provides all the folic acid that a pregnant woman needs in one day and more than enough for anyone else. This does not necessarily mean that those types of foods are nutritionally healthy, as most of the fortified cereals are also full of sugar and empty calories.
Folic acid can also be found in supplements. Usually, this is an easier form of folic acid for our bodies to use as it is already activated and sometimes the supplements include the other vitamins that our bodies need as well to convert the folic acid. Another thing to consider is that when taking supplements with food or after a meal, about 30% of the folic acid in the supplement is not absorbed by the body, so make sure to account for this fact or take your supplements before a meal to be able to absorb the full amount.
READ ALSO: Phytates & Phytic Acid: Friend Or Foe?
Folic acid is a supplement that everyone’s body needs to able to function properly and prevent diseases such as anemia from forming. Folic acid is especially important when the body is going through rapid growth such as during pregnancy, infancy, and early adulthood (for teens). You can find folic acid readily available in many foods but many people don’t get the daily recommended value just from food, so it must be supplemented. Whether you work to get folic acid from your daily diet or add supplements, make sure to have enough of this crucial vitamin in your diet for your body to function well.