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Getting Enough Folic Acid (Folate)

Table of Contents


Overview

What is folic acid?

Folic acid is one of the B vitamins your body needs for good health. The vitamin is also called folate.

Getting enough of this vitamin prevents folate deficiency anemia. It also prevents certain birth defects.

Most people just say "folic acid" for either form of this vitamin.

What is the recommended daily amount?

Folic acid is measured in micrograms using Dietary Folate Equivalents (DFE). Here are the daily recommended amounts of folic acid:1

How much do women need?

Folic acid is measured in micrograms using Dietary Folate Equivalents (DFE). The recommended amounts of folic acid for women are:1

Women who don't get enough folic acid before and during pregnancy are more likely to have a child born with a birth defect, such as:

Even if a woman eats a well balanced diet, she may not get the extra folic acid she needs to prevent birth defects unless she also takes a supplement. So experts say that all women who are able to get pregnant should take a daily supplement that has 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid.2

Some women need even higher doses.

Follow your doctor's advice about how to get higher amounts of folic acid. Don't just take more multivitamins. You could get too much of the other substances that are in the multivitamin.

Folic acid recommendations for women who aren't planning to get pregnant

Even if you aren't planning to get pregnant, your doctor may recommend a daily supplement.

Many pregnancies aren't planned. And the birth defects that folic acid can prevent start to form in the first 6 weeks of pregnancy. This is often before a woman even knows she's pregnant.

So you can see why getting enough daily folic acid—even before you get pregnant—is so important. If you are pregnant and you have not been taking a vitamin containing folic acid, begin taking it right away.

What foods contain folic acid?

Folic acid is found in vitamin supplements and folic-acid-fortified foods such as breakfast cereals and breads. The natural form of folic acid is called folate. Foods high in folate include liver, citrus fruits, and dark greens like spinach. Read food labels to see how much folic acid or folate the food contains.

Folic acid and folate are measured in micrograms using Dietary Folate Equivalents (DFE). Here is a list of some foods that contain folic acid or folate.5

Estimates of folic acid or folate in certain foods

Food

Serving size

Amount

Fortified (with 25% of daily requirement) breakfast cereal

1 cup

100 mcg (micrograms) DFE or more

Spinach, cooked

½ cup

131 mcg DFE

Beef liver, cooked

3 oz

215 mcg DFE

Frozen peas, boiled

1 cup

47 mcg DFE

Asparagus, boiled

4 spears

89 mcg DFE

Enriched white rice, cooked

½ cup

90 mcg DFE

Frozen broccoli, cooked

½ cup

52 mcg DFE

Avocado, raw

½ cup

59 mcg DFE

Orange

1 small

29 mcg DFE

Bread, white

1 slice

43 mcg DFE

Crab, Dungeness

3 oz

36 mcg DFE

Folic acid tips


References

Citations

  1. Food and Nutrition Board, et al. (2011). Dietary reference intakes (DRIs): Recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes, vitamins. National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56068/table/summarytables.t2/?report=objectonly. Accessed October 29, 2019.
  2. U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (2017). Folic acid supplementation for the prevention of neural tube defects: U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA, 317 (2): 183–189. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2016.19438. Accessed February 3, 2020.
  3. Cunningham FG, et al. (2010). Multifetal gestation. In Williams Obstetrics, 23rd ed., pp. 859–889. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  4. Cunningham FG, et al. (2010). Prenatal care. In Williams Obstetrics, 23rd ed., pp. 189–214. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  5. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health (2010). Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Folate. Available online: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional.

Credits for Getting Enough Folic Acid (Folate)

Current as of: September 23, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine


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