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What To Know About Folic Acid: The Basics


Folic acid is a vitamin that does a lot of good for the body. This nutrient helps prevent congenital disabilities and can also reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. While most Americans get enough folic acid from their diet, some still need to take supplements or eat fortified foods to meet their needs. In this article, we will discuss what you need to know about folate, including how much you should be getting every day and where you can find it!

Uses & Effectiveness

The benefits of folic acid are vast, but his nutrient is essential for pregnant or trying to conceive because it helps form the neural tube in the baby’s brain and spine. Folic acid can also help prevent significant health problems later on in life, such as heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. The following list summarizes some possible benefits of folic acid supplements:

Depression – Folate and vitamin B12 both help to reduce symptoms of depression.

Anxiety – Low levels of folate are linked with increased anxiety.

Birth Defects – Folic acid can help prevent significant congenital disabilities in the baby’s brain and spine.

Pregnancy – Folic acid helps prevent significant congenital disabilities such as spina bifida, anencephaly, and cleft palate. It also reduces the risk for premature delivery and low birth weight.

Heart Disease – Taking folic acid supplements may reduce your risk of heart disease.

Autism – Folic acid is linked with improved brain function and might help reduce the severity of autism.

Stroke – Folate may also protect against strokes.

Cancer – Taking folic acid supplements may lower your risk for colon cancer, esophageal cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical dysplasia, colorectal tumors, oral cleft defects (when taken before pregnancy), pancreatic carcinoma, breast cysts/cancer (in women who are at increased risk).

Bone Health – Folate helps prevent osteoporosis by increasing calcium levels in bones.

Who Should Be Taking Folic Acid?

While most people get enough folate from their diet, some still need to take supplements or eat fortified foods to meet their needs. According to the Institute of Medicine, women should be getting 400 micrograms (mcg) per day while pregnant and 500 mcg before they become pregnant. Women who are not planning on becoming pregnant within one year should also aim for 400 mcgs every day through supplementation or food fortification. Here is a list describing which groups of people might benefit from taking folic acid:

Pregnant – Pregnant women need at least 600-800 μg/day during pregnancy because it helps prevent congenital disabilities in the baby’s brain and spine. For this reason, doctors recommend that pregnant women take a folic acid supplement before and during pregnancy. Folate is also essential for the overall health of both mother and baby after birth, especially when breastfeeding, because it helps protect against depression.

Breastfeeding – New mothers need at least 500 μg/day while breastfeeding to reduce their own risk for developing postpartum depression (PPD). Taking supplements or eating fortified foods will help increase levels in breast milk so they can be passed on to the baby through nursing.

Trying To Conceive – Some research shows that taking additional folate might improve fertility by increasing cervical mucus quality and reducing DNA damage caused by free radicals. Many doctors recommend taking a 400-600 μg/day supplement when trying to conceive.

Sources Of Folic Acid?

Fortunately, it is easy to get enough folic acid in your diet. It can be found naturally in broccoli, peas, spinach, avocados, and oranges. However, certain factors such as low dietary intake or genetic mutations might prevent you from getting all the folates you need each day through food alone. In these cases, taking a supplement may help fill this gap while also providing additional benefits associated with vitamin B12 supplementation (such as preventing congenital disabilities).

You should consider taking whole-food supplements because they are better absorbed than synthetic forms of nutrients. You should consider adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet to increase daily fiber consumption for digestive health. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive, make sure to take a prenatal multivitamin that includes 400-800 μg of folate. If you have any other health concerns like heart disease or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), talk to your doctor about whether taking a folate supplement is right for you.

Side Effects Of Folic Acid?

If you take a folic acid supplement, the most common side effects include diarrhea, gas, and bloating. You may also notice that your urine has turned bright yellow (and sometimes orange), which indicates excess vitamin B12 in your system. This usually occurs during supplementation because it can affect how well each nutrient gets absorbed by the body, so take this as a sign to reduce or stop intake until symptoms subside.

Too much folic acid might lead to negative consequences like increased cancer risk. Always following dosage guidelines on product labels is essential when increasing your intake of any essential micronutrient through supplements or fortified foods.


As you can see, folic acid is an essential nutrient for overall health, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding. And don’t forget to add more fruits and vegetables into your diet – they are not only great sources of fiber but also many essential vitamins and minerals! Make sure to talk to your doctor if you consider taking a supplement, as they can help determine whether it is the right choice.