Folic acid is a B vitamin. Our bodies use it to make new cells. Everyone needs folic acid.
Folate is the natural form of folic acid that is present in food sources. Vegetables (especially dark green leafy vegetables), fruits, nuts, beans, peas, dairy products, poultry and meat, eggs, seafood, and grains are all sources of folate. Spinach, liver, yeast, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts are among the foods with the highest levels of folate.
Women should take 400 mcg of folic acid every day, starting at least one month before getting pregnant, to help prevent major birth defects of the baby's brain and spine.
Folic acid is very important because it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby's brain and spine (anencephaly and spina bifida).
When to start taking folic acid
For folic acid to help prevent some major birth defects, a woman needs to start taking it at least one month before she becomes pregnant and while she is pregnant.
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.
Getting enough folic acid
There are two easy ways to be sure to get enough folic acid each day:
1. Take a vitamin supplement that has folic acid in it every day. Most multivitamins sold in the United States have the amount of folic acid women need each day. Women can also choose to take a small pill (supplement) that has only folic acid in it each day.
Multivitamins and folic acid pills can be found at most local pharmacy, grocery, or discount stores. Check the label to be sure it contains 100% of the daily value (DV) of folic acid, which is 400 micrograms (mcg).
2. Eat a bowl of breakfast cereal that has 100% of the daily value of folic acid every day.
Not every cereal has this amount. Check the label on the side of the box, and look for one that has “100%” next to folic acid.
Reference: Center for Disease Control and Prevention