Here's Why Folate Is Good for You
Folate, also known as folic acid, is a B vitamin that is essential for good health.
Folic acid plays an extremely important role in preventing birth defects. Low blood levels of folate during pregnancy can cause neural tube defects—anencephaly and
spina bifida. Because these defects occur in the first month of pregnancy, before a woman knows she is pregnant, it is important for any woman of childbearing age to get 400 mcg (micrograms) of folic acid daily. Taking folate during pregancy may offer additional benefits, like reducing a child's risk of having severe language delays. Pairing folate with iron may reduce the number of infants born with low birth weight and reduce infant mortality.
Folate deficiency can also result in megaloblastic anemia. This is due to the role that folic acid plays in the DNA synthesis and red blood cell division. Without folic acid new red blood cells can’t divide and thus stay large and immature.
|Age group (in years)||Recommended Dietary Allowance|
|1 - 3||150 mcg||150 mcg|
|4 - 8||200 mcg||200 mcg|
|9 - 13||300 mcg||300 mcg|
|14 - 18||400 mcg||400 mcg|
|Pregnancy, ages 14-18||600 mcg||n/a|
|Lactation, ages 14-18||500 mcg||n/a|
|19+||400 mcg||400 mcg|
|Pregnancy, ages 19+||600 mcg||n/a|
|Lactation, ages 19+||500 mcg||n/a|
Here's How You Can Get Folate
Major Food Sources
Foods with the high amounts of folate include:
- Fortified breakfast cereal
- Beef liver
- Egg noodles
- Great Northern beans
Tips For Increasing Your Folate Intake
To help increase your intake of folate:
- Spread a little avocado on your sandwich in place of mayonnaise.
- Drink a glass of orange juice or tomato juice in the morning.
- Add spinach to your scrambled eggs.
- Slice a banana on top of your breakfast cereal.
- Sprinkle some toasted wheat germ on top of pasta or a stir-fry.
- Throw some chickpeas or kidney beans into a salad.
- If you take a vitamin supplement, make sure it contains folate.
Folate. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/. Accessed August 28, 2012.
Folate deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 15, 2012. Accessed August 28, 2012.
Folic acid. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/folicacid/index.html. Updated March 10, 2011. Accessed on August 26, 2012.
Folic acid information. WIC Learning Center website. Available at:
http://www.nal.usda.gov/wicworks/Learning_Center/WICfood_folic.html. Accessed on August 28, 2012.
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11/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Christian P, Stewart CP, LeClerq SC, et al. Antenatal and postnatal iron supplementation and childhood mortality in rural Nepal: a prospective follow-up in a randomized, controlled community trial. Am J Epidemiol. 2009;170:1127-1136.
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10/21/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/: Roth C, Magnus P, Schjølberg S, et al. Folic acid supplements in pregnancy and severe language delay in children. JAMA. 2011;306(14):1566-1573.
Last reviewed August 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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