What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is a "B" group vitamin which is soluble in water. It is also referred to as 'Folate' (when in a slightly altered ionic state), 'Vitamin B9', 'Vitamin M' or 'Folacin.' For those interested, it has the molecular formula C19H19N7O6.
What role does Folic Acid have in the body?
The body requires Folic Acid for the exact replication of DNA and the production and maintenance of new cells. It is for this reason that it is important for a pregnant woman to consume sufficient quantities of folic acid both before and during pregnancy (especially the early stages). The growing fetus requires this substance, provided by the mother, to assist healthy cell replication. Folic Acid During Pregnancy is also needed for the production of red blood cells (thus preventing anemia) as well as assisting in the rapid growth of the placenta.
What are the recommended daily intake levels?
In the USA, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of folic acid is 400 μg on average per day for a healthy adult, rising to 600 μg for pregnant women and 500 μg for a woman who breastfeeds her child. An upper limit of 1000 μg is also proposed to ensure that this vitamin does not mask a deficiency of vitamin B12 within the body.
What are the potential risks of a folic acid deficiency?
Have shown that a deficiency in folic acid can lead to a poorly developed fetus, resulting in Neural Tube Defects (NTDs), heart defects or a cleft lip/palate. See this article for further details of NTDs.
Which foods are a great source of Folic Acid During Pregnancy?
Vitamin supplements that contain folic acid may be prescribed by a medical practitioner if a pregnancy is diagnosed. Certain fortified breakfast cereals, bread, rice & pasta also have high levels of this substance. Having said that, there are plenty of good sources of folates in a healthy balanced diet. The following list shows some foods that are naturally rich in folic acid, with the better sources being from vegetables or pulses:
- Fruits and juice: Grapefruit, Orange.
- Vegetables: Globe artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, Brussel-sprouts, endives, okra, parsnips, peas, spinach, Spring onions, leeks, Avocado, fresh parsley, cress, chicory leaves.
- Pulses, cereals & nuts: Beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, red kidney beans, lentils, peanuts, soy flour, hazelnuts, corn flakes, wheat germ, yeast, yeast extract.
- Animal products: Crab meat, cooked liver, fois grass, beef, pork, chicken, egg yolks.