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The Benefits of Folic Acid

Folic acid can play a very important role in our bodies if we’re not getting enough folate (vitamin B9) in our daily diets. Are you getting enough of it in yours?  

January 16, 2020 | HF Healthy Living Team

Vitamin B9
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Folic Acid vs. Folate

Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate (the B9 vitamin). Folic acid is typically added to refined grain products such as white flour, bread, and cereals and to processed foods. It is also used in mineral supplements to boost B vitamin intake. Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 that occurs in foods like nuts, dark leafy greens, eggs, bananas, avocado, and more.

What can Folic Acid do for Me?

Folate—along with the entire group of B vitamins—plays an important role in cell metabolism. Our bodies have to regenerate new cells all the time through our skin, hair, and nails. Folate also helps the body make healthy new red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all parts of our bodies. This is vital to our health; without it we may become anemic or face other health issues. Anemia (typically an iron deficiency) can make you pale, tired, or weak and can often lead to other, more serious health issues.

Research suggests that most people don’t eat enough naturally folate-rich foods to meet their needs. When people don’t eat enough foods rich in folate, they may take (or a doctor may recommend) a folic acid supplement to boost their B9 intake.

Taking folic acid as a vitamin supplement may work to your benefit. But be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, vitamins, or medications, especially if you are sick, not feeling well, or under a doctor’s care.

Folic Acid is Especially Important for Women of Childbearing Age
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Folic Acid is Especially Important for Women of Childbearing Age

You doctor may recommend taking a supplement if you are trying to get pregnant and after you conceive. This is to help prevent neural tube defects (and other types of birth defects) in your unborn child that can happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Be sure to talk to your doctor about preconception healthcare to make sure your health is on the right track for you to conceive and give birth to a healthy baby.

How Much Folic Acid do Women Need?

Folate-deficiency anemia is more common in women of childbearing age than in men. See this chart to find out how much folic acid you need. Some daily dose recommendations include:

  • taking a daily multivitamin containing 400 mcg (micrograms) of folic acid each day
  • eating a bowl of breakfast cereal each day that contains 100% of the daily value of folic acid
  • eating a diet with plenty of fortified grains, as well as foods that are rich in folate

Other Uses for Folic Acid

  • Kidney disease: Taking folic acid lowers homocysteine levels in people with serious kidney disease.
  • Toxicity caused by the drug methotrexate: Taking folic acid seems to reduce nausea and vomiting, which are possible side effects of methotrexate treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions? Visit the CDC website to get additional details on folic acid, or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).


© 2020 HF Management Services, LLC.

Healthfirst is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Healthfirst group of affiliated companies.

This health information or program is for educational purposes only and not intended to treat, diagnose, or act as a substitute for medical advice from your provider. Consult your healthcare provider and always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.

“Folic acid,” The Office on Women’s Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed Jan. 7, 2020.

“Key Findings: Daily Multivitamin Use among Women of Reproductive Age Declines,” National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed Jan. 7, 2020.

“Folic Acid vs. Folate — What’s the Difference?,” Healthline. Accessed Jan. 8, 2020.

“Total folate and folic acid intake from foods and dietary supplements in the United States,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Accessed Jan. 8, 2020.

“Anemia,” Mayo Clinic. Accessed Jan. 8, 2020.

“Planning for Pregnancy,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed Jan. 8, 2020.

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