Do you get enough Folic Acid?

 Women of childbearing age (typically ages 11 to 49) need 400 to 800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid is found in vitamins and foods like breakfast cereal or bread that have folic acid added.

Everyone needs folic acid, but it’s especially important for women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant. Folic acid is a vitamin that can prevent birth defects. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your doctor can help you figure out how much folic acid is right for you. You may need more than 400 mcg folic acid if you have a health condition or are taking certain medicines.

Getting enough folic acid is important even when you aren’t planning to get pregnant. It’s needed during the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she’s pregnant.

How can I get enough folic acid?
Getting enough folic acid every day is easy. You can eat foods like breakfast cereal or bread that have folic acid added. Or you can take a vitamin with folic acid.

Look for breakfast cereal with folic acid.
Check the Nutrition Facts label on the side of the box to see how much folic acid the cereal has. Choose cereal that has 100% DV (Daily Value) of folic acid.

Take a vitamin with folic acid.
You can take a multivitamin or a small pill that has only folic acid. Vitamins and folic acid pills can be found at most pharmacies and grocery stores. We like Vitality Multivitamin and Mineral—it’s formulated with 24 essential nutrients and 200% DV. It comes in formulations for women, men, prenatal and 50+.

 It’s easy to get the folic acid you need. Just eat a bowl of cereal with 100% DV of folic acid – or take a vitamin – every day.

Check the label.
nutrition label with folic acid highlightedWhen you are at the grocery store, look for foods with folic acid in them. Choose cereal that has 100% DV of folic acid.

Folic acid is also in foods like enriched breads, pastas, and other foods made with grains. Check the Nutrition Facts label.

If you buy vitamins, be sure to check the label for folic acid. This label shows a vitamin with 100% DV of folic acid.

 

If you take a vitamin, make it easy to remember.

  • Take it at the same time every day. For example, take it when you brush your teeth in the morning or when you eat breakfast.
  • Leave the vitamin bottle somewhere you will notice it every day, like on the kitchen counter.

Eat healthy.
Eating healthy means getting plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and foods with protein. A healthy diet also includes foods with folate (a different type of folic acid).

In addition to eating cereal that has 100% DV of folic acid or taking a vitamin, it’s important for women to eat foods with folate, such as:

  • Spinach and other leafy greens
  • Asparagus
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Beans and peas
Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Folate and Folic Acid [7]
Food mcg DFE
per serving
Percent DV*
Beef liver, braised, 3 ounces 215 54
Spinach, boiled, ½ cup 131 33
Black-eyed peas (cowpeas), boiled, ½ cup 105 26
Breakfast cereals, fortified with 25% of the DV† 100 25
Rice, white, medium-grain, cooked, ½ cup† 90 23
Asparagus, boiled, 4 spears 89 22
Spaghetti, cooked, enriched, ½ cup† 83 21
Brussels sprouts, frozen, boiled, ½ cup 78 20
Lettuce, romaine, shredded, 1 cup 64 16
Avocado, raw, sliced, ½ cup 59 15
Spinach, raw, 1 cup 58 15
Broccoli, chopped, frozen, cooked, ½ cup 52 13
Mustard greens, chopped, frozen, boiled, ½ cup 52 13
Green peas, frozen, boiled, ½ cup 47 12
Kidney beans, canned, ½ cup 46 12
Bread, white, 1 slice† 43 11
Peanuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce 41 10
Wheat germ, 2 tablespoons 40 10
Tomato juice, canned, ¾ cup 36 9
Crab, Dungeness, 3 ounces 36 9
Orange juice, ¾ cup 35 9
Turnip greens, frozen, boiled, ½ cup 32 8
Orange, fresh, 1 small 29 7
Papaya, raw, cubed, ½ cup 27 7
Banana, 1 medium 24 6
Yeast, baker’s, ¼ teaspoon 23 6
Egg, whole, hard-boiled, 1 large 22 6
Vegetarian baked beans, canned, ½ cup 15 4
Cantaloupe, raw, 1 wedge 14 4
Fish, halibut, cooked, 3 ounces 12 3
Milk, 1% fat, 1 cup 12 3
Ground beef, 85% lean, cooked, 3 ounces 7 2
Chicken breast, roasted, ½ breast 3 1
* DV = Daily Value. The FDA developed DVs to help consumers compare the nutrient contents of products within the context of a total diet. The DV for folate is 400 mcg for adults and children aged 4 and older. However, the FDA does not require food labels to list folate content unless a food has been fortified with this nutrient. Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient.
† Fortified with folic acid as part of the folate fortification program.

Check out this list of foods with folate.

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