Folic acid, also known as folacin or folate, is a water-soluble B vitamin that gets flushed from the body on a daily basis. For this reason, it is crucial that the body's level of folic acid gets restored regularly as it is responsible for healthy pregnancies and other bodily functions.
Reproductive health constitutes one of the core reasons for sufficient folic acid intake. Folic acid is an important supplement for pregnant women as it helps protect their developing babies from neurological and musculoskeletal birth defects, such spina bifida and cleft palate. In order to effectively protect against birth defects, it is important for both the mother and the father to consume adequate amounts of folic acid as it sustains healthy sperm in men.
Additional Health Concerns
Folic acid preserves the body's structural integrity and prevents organs from malfunctioning. A diet rich in folic acid helps prevent a low count of red blood cells, generates energy and encourages DNA replication. Without these functions, the body is prone to diseases such as megaloblastic anemia. Folic acid also allows for proper detoxification within the liver as it allows S-adenosyl methionine to convert into glutathione, a detoxification molecule in the liver. In the absence of folic acid, the S-adenosyl converts to homocysteine which is a toxic free radical that causes damage to cell walls.
According to Women's Health,an informational website provided by the U.S. government, the average adult requires 400 mcg of folic acid daily. Expecting or new mothers require a slightly higher amount of folic acid as some of the folic acid transfers over to the fetus or nursing babies. Pregnant women should consume between 400 to 800 mcg daily while nursing mothers require a minimum of 500 mcg. However, individuals must be cautious not to exceed 800 mcg of folic acid per day as it may inhibit the body's absorption of other B vitamins.
Folate Rich Foods
Foods rich in folate include leafy greens, folate fortified food products as well as calf's liver. Spinach, beet greens and lettuce are examples of leafy greens rich in folate while folate-enriched foods include grains, cereals, bread and pasta. Folate does not naturally occur in meat products, with the exception of chicken liver. According to Ohio State University, a 3.5 oz. serving of chicken liver contains 770 mcg of folic acid, nearly twice the amount recommended by the Food and Drug Administration.