logo complete_herbal_guide_2

Subscribe To The Complete Herbal Guide Health & Wellness Newsletter

happy

Join 300,000+ monthly fellow readers! Get The Complete Herbal Guide latest health articles straight to your inbox.


We respect your privacy.

Folic Acid: Everything You Need to Know and More

The Complete Herbal Guide / Vitamins & Minerals  / Folic Acid: Everything You Need to Know and More
folic acid

Folic Acid: Everything You Need to Know and More

Folic acid is the man-made form of folate, a naturally occurring B vitamin. Because it is a water-soluble vitamin, it cannot be stored in the body so it needs to be supplied on a continuous basis. Folic acid helps form and maintain new cells. It is needed to make red blood cells and for the metabolism of homocysteine. It helps produce DNA, and it helps prevent changes in DNA that may lead to cancer.

How much do I need to consume?

The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for folate are expressed in a term called Dietary Folate Equivalent (DFE). The naturally occurring folate is absorbed differently than the man-made folic acid, so the DFE was developed to help account for these differences. One DFE is equal to 1 microgram (mcg) of food folate and 0.6 mcg of folic acid from supplements and fortified foods.

The RDA for folate:

Age
Males and Females
Pregnancy
Lactation
1 to 3 years
150 mcg
N/A
N/A
4 to 8 years
200 mcg
N/A
N/A
9 to 13 years
300 mcg
N/A
N/A
14 to 18 years
400 mcg
600 mcg
500 mcg
19+ years
400 mcg
600 mcg
500 mcg

There is insufficient information to establish an RDA for folate for infants. In this case, an Adequate Intake (AI) has been established:

Age
Males and Females
0 to 6 months
65 mcg
7 to 12 months
80 mcg

What are the sources of folic acid?

Folate can be found naturally in many foods, including fruits, leafy green vegetables, and dried beans. Folic acid is added to certain foods because of regulations published by the Food and Drug Administration in 1996. These foods are considered enriched because the folic acid is replacing the folate that was lost during processing. Some common folic acid-enriched foods are cereals, bread, pasta, rice, flours, and cornmeal. Folic acid can also be added to foods and beverages in addition to the nutrients that they already contain. These foods are considered fortified with folic acid. In 1998, the folic acid fortification program was initiated to help Americans reach their folic acid recommendations.

Food sources of folate and folic acid are:

Food
Amount
Folate/Folic Acid Content
Asparagus, cooked
4 spears
85 mcg
Avocado, sliced, raw
½ cup
45 mcg
Banana, raw
1 medium
20 mcg
Beef liver
3 oz
185 mcg
Broccoli, chopped, frozen, cooked
½ cup
50 mcg
Broccoli, raw
2 spears
45 mcg
Cantaloupe, raw
¼ medium
25 mcg
Great Northern beans
½ cup
90 mcg
Green peas, frozen, cooked
½ cup
50 mcg
Papaya, raw, cubes
½ cup
25 mcg
Rice, white, enriched, cooked
½ cup
65 mcg
Spinach, frozen, cooked
½ cup
100 mcg
Spinach, raw
1 cup
60 mcg
Tomato juice
6 oz
35 mcg

 Do I need to take a folic acid supplement?

The goal is to consume a balanced diet that provides your daily folate needs. The folate-enriched and -fortified foods make this much easier to accomplish. When you have a medical condition that interferes with the amount that you can consume, if you are unable to absorb all of what you consume, if your diet is limited, or if you have an increased need for folate, a supplement would be the best option. It is recommended that women who may become pregnant take 400 mcg of folic acid from fortified foods and/or dietary supplements along with consuming a well-balanced diet.  Another possible reason to take a supplement would be for heart protection. Some studies have shown that folic acid can lower homocysteine levels by up to 25%. High blood levels of homocysteine can damage the inner surface of blood vessels, promote blood clotting, accelerate atherosclerosis, and thus lead to heart attacks and strokes.

What happens if I don’t have enough folic acid?

One very severe consequence of not getting enough folic acid is the possibility of neural tube defects during pregnancy. Neural tube defects usually develop in the first 28 days of pregnancy. Many women do not know that they are pregnant during this time and are not monitoring their folic acid intake.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to make sure that you have an adequate daily intake before trying to conceive. A deficiency in folate can lead to megaloblastic (or macrocytic) anemia. It may also cause poor growth, gray hair, glossitis, mouth ulcers, diarrhea, and peptic ulcers. Studies have shown that low blood folate levels are associated with high blood homocysteine levels. High blood levels of homocysteine can damage the inner surface of blood vessels, promote blood clotting, accelerate atherosclerosis, and thus lead to heart attacks and strokes.

There are medical conditions and medications that can increase the need for folate, increase its excretion, or interfere with its utilization:
  • pregnancy and lactation
  • liver disease
  • kidney dialysis
  • malabsorption
  • alcohol abuse
  • triamterene
  • barbiturates
  • anticonvulsant medications
  • sulfasalazine
  • metformin
  • methotrexate

It is best to speak with your doctor if any of these applies to you.

Is there such a thing as too much folic acid?

There is no Tolerable Upper Limit (UL) set for natural sources of folate found in food.
There are UL set for folate from fortified foods and supplements.
Age
Males and Females
Pregnancy
Lactation
1 to 3 years
300 mcg
N/A
N/A
4 to 8 years
400 mcg
N/A
N/A
9 to 13 years
600 mcg
N/A
N/A
14 to 18 years
Suggest 800 mcg
800 mcg
Suggest 800 mcg
19+ years
1,000 mcg
Suggest 1,000 mcg
1,000 mcg
Going above the UL increases your risk for adverse health effects.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Herbal Guide Staff

schillemi@thecompleteherbalguide.com

The Complete Guide to Natural Healing believes that food, vitamins, supplements, and alternative medicine can be your best medicine. Our staff will show you the truth about health and wellness, so you can help your family and closest friends get even healthier. You’ll learn exactly what you should do and how to eat to get healthy, exercise to get your leanest, healthiest body and how to take control of your family’s health, using natural remedies as medicine.