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Folic Acid (Folate) Supplements

Folic acid can also be called folate or folacin. We are just beginning to learn more about the roles this vitamin plays in the body. We’ve known for some time that folic acid is needed to prevent a type of anemia (a shortage of red blood cells). More recent studies have shown that folic acid can also prevent certain birth defects. And it now seems that this vitamin may even reduce the risk of heart disease.

Close-up of many varieties of cooked beans in a bowl.

Suggested Daily Value

Daily Values are safe, reasonable amounts to have each day for good health.

Folic acid — 400 mcg

Why Use a Supplement?

Taking folic acid helps prevent serious health problems, such as birth defects and heart disease. A supplement may also be helpful if you drink alcohol often. You may want to use a folic acid supplement if you check off one or more of the following:

Image  I am a female of childbearing age.

Image  I am planning to get pregnant.

Image  I have heart disease, or am at increased risk for heart disease.

Image  I rarely eat green leafy vegetables, dried beans, or lentils.

Image  I rarely eat cereal and whole grains (wheat germ, brown rice, whole-wheat bread).

Image  I often have more than one drink of alcohol a day.

If You Take Folic Acid

Here are some tips to help you get the most from a folic acid supplement:

  • Read the label to be sure the product will not expire soon.

  • Choose a supplement that provides 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid.

  • Store the supplement in a cool, dry place, away from sun and heat.

  • Eat a healthy diet to provide all the nutrients your body needs.

Food Sources of Folic Acid

When you think of folic acid, think of the word “foliage.” Plants are the main food source of folic acid. Some good sources include:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, collards, romaine lettuce

  • Lentils, chickpeas, and dried beans such as pinto, kidney, and black beans

  • Asparagus, bok choy, broad-beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts

  • Avocados, oranges, and orange juice

  • Wheat germ and whole-wheat products

  • Products fortified with folic acid, such as cereal, pasta, bread, and rice

Online Medical Reviewer: Wilkins, Joanna, RD, CD
Last Review Date: 12/19/2012
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.