Folic acid

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Folic acid is a B vitamin which is needed by our bodies to make new cells. Needed by all, it is also called Folacin, Folate, Pteroylglutamic acid, Vitamin B9. Folate and folic acid are interchangeable terms. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, which is found naturally in some foods, including leafy vegetables, beans (legumes), citrus fruits, and whole grains.

Folic acid was first identified in the 1930s as a substance that helped prevent anemia. By the 1970s, it had become possible to fortify vitamins with folic acid.


Why should I be aware of this?

  • If a woman has enough folic acid in her body before and during pregnancy, it can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine.
  • Women need 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
  • Men also need to take folic acid regularly as it is important for their overall health and vitality. It may lower risk for heart disease and certain cancers.

All about folic acid

Folic acid is a chemical that is essential to sustain human life and must be provided in adequate amounts through food or other dietary supplements.

When to start taking folic acid

For folic acid to help prevent major birth defects, a woman needs to start taking it at least three months before she becomes pregnant and while she is pregnant.

However, every woman needs folic acid every day, whether she’s planning to get pregnant or not, for the healthy new cells the body makes daily. Think about the skin, hair, and nails. These – and other parts of the body – make new cells each day.

Foods with folic acid

Foods with folic acid include leafy green vegetables, fruits, dried beans, peas and nuts. Enriched breads, cereals and other grain products also contain folic acid. If you don't get enough folic acid from the foods you eat, you can also take it as a dietary supplement.

Folate-rich sources include:

  • 11 Brussels sprouts: 127 mcg
  • 1/2 cup cooked lentils: 175 mcg
  • 1 cup Macaroni, cooked: 140-160 mcg
  • I cup noodles cooked: 160 mcg
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas: 140 mcg
  • 1/2 cup cooked spinach: 130 mcg
  • 3/4 cup cooked white rice: 60 mcg
  • 1 cup tomato juice: 50 mcg
  • large jacket potato: 39 mcg
  • 4 tbsp black eyed beans: 220 mcg
  • 1/2 cup kidney beans: 115 mcg
  • 7 tbsp bran flakes: 113 mcg
  • 25g / 1oz wheat germ: 100 mcg
  • 4 spears steamed or boiled asparagus: 88 mcg
  • medium sized papaya: 115 mcg.
  • 2 spears steamed broccoli: 61 mcg
  • large orange: 54 mcg
  • large hard-boiled egg: 22 mcg
  • 75g / 3oz tinned salmon: 17 mcg
  • fortified breakfast cereals: 100-400 mcg

90 degrees -- What we do not know yet?

  • Folic acid may also suppress allergic reactions and lessen the severity of allergy and asthma symptoms.[1]
  • For nearly a decade, folic acid, a chemical form of a common B vitamin (folate), has been added to wheat flour and other grain products in the U.S. and Canada. This public health measure was enacted after evidence was discovered linking folic acid with birth defects. Two commentaries appearing in Nutrition Reviews find that the introduction of flour fortified with folic acid into common foods was followed by an increase in colon cancer diagnoses in the U.S. and Canada.[2]
  • Scientists increasingly suspect, however, that a greater consumption of folic acid may also reduce the danger of Alzheimer's disease, and also offer some protective effects against certain kinds of cancer as well as heart disease.[3]


  • In a survey of women of childbearing age in the US, only 7% knew that folic acid should be taken before pregnancy to avoid birth defects.
  • Repeated studies have shown that women who get 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) daily prior to conception and during early pregnancy reduce the risk that their baby will be born with a serious neural tube defect (a birth defect involving incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord) by up to 70%.
  • These defects occur during the first 28 days of pregnancy — usually before a woman even knows she's pregnant.


  • What Is Folic Acid?
  • Folic Acid
  • Folic Acid
  • Why you need folic acid
  • Folic Acid Fortification: Fact and Folly; USFDA; Junod, Susan White


  1. Folic Acid May Help Treat Allergies, Asthma:ScienceDaily
  2. Folic Acid Linked To Increased Cancer Rate, Historical Review Suggests:ScienceDaily
  3. Folic Acid Fortification: Fact and Folly; USFDA; Junod, Susan White.