Most people who have been pregnant or are trying to get pregnant have been told to take folic acid. Maybe you knew why and maybe you didn’t care what the exact reasons were because you figured it was good for you since your doctor recommended it. While folic acid is an essential vitamin for those who are trying to get pregnant, there are many benefits of folic acid for both men and women. There are so benefits of folic acid that this vitamin is the superstar you did not know you needed in your diet.
What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, which is a B vitamin. Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 and is found in many foods. It is added to a number of foods and sold as a supplement in the form of folic acid. One of the benefits of folic acid is that it is actually better absorbed by the body than the naturally occurring form (85% vs. 50%, respectively).
Folate occurs naturally in foods such as dark green leafy vegetables that include turnip greens, spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. It is also found in beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, fresh fruits and fruit juices, whole grains, liver, and eggs. Folic acid, the form that is better absorbed by the body, is added to commonly eaten foods like bread, cereals, pasta, rice, and other grain products.
Benefits of Folic Acid
Check out all of these amazing benefits of including this one vitamin in your diet.
One of the benefits of folic acid is it can help stimulate the formation of digestive acids. Folic acid is also essential for digestive health. A folate deficiency can cause diarrhea and peptic ulcers, which are sores in the lining of the stomach and intestines.
Folate plays a key role in breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid that can cause harmful effects if it builds up in the body in high amounts. Some studies have found an association between high levels of this amino acid and an increased occurrence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, there are studies that show a link between low folate levels and a higher risk of dementia. So far clinical trials have not found that folic acid can prevent the development of dementia or improve cognitive function. However, studies are ongoing.
There is some evidence that one of the benefits of folic acid can decrease the decline in age-related memory and thinking skills.
READ MORE: CHAMOMILE BENEFITS: IT IS MORE THAN JUST TEA
One of the incredible benefits of folic acid is that it helps produce healthy red blood cells. It also helps reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
The majority of people with kidney disease have high levels of the amino acid homocysteine. Getting enough folic acid can help prevent kidney issues.
There is extensive research on the benefits of folic acid and folate as it relates to human papillomavirus or HPV. Higher levels of folate and folic acid have been consistently linked to lower rates of cervical dysplasia from HPV as well as with the prevention of cervical cancer. Numerous studies also show that low blood folate levels in women are consistently coupled with a higher risk of cervical cancer from HPV. All of this provides evidence that folic acid likely plays a role in preventing HPV from progressing into cervical cancer.
DNA and RNA Creation and Repair
Our bodies use folic acid to create new cells. It helps form and repair DNA and RNA. In addition, all cells require folic acid for growth. Folic acid also helps the body break down, use, and create new proteins in the body.
Healthy Hair, Skin, and Nails
One of the benefits of folic acid is that it is responsible for healthy cell growth. That includes the cells found in skin, hair, and nail tissue. So getting enough folic acid helps you have healthy hair, skin, and nails.
Birth Defect Prevention
One of the most well-known benefits of folic acid is its prevention of birth defects. Folic acid helps form the neural tube, so it is key in preventing neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are disorders of the development of the brain and spinal cord. The most common neural tube defect is spina bifida. That is why doctors recommend folic acid for pregnancy.
The neural tube forms the beginnings of the brain and spine, which happens early on in pregnancy. Therefore, folic acid can only help prevent neural tube defects during the first weeks of pregnancy, usually, before a woman even knows she is pregnant. That is why it is important for anyone who is able to get pregnant and who is sexually active should be sure to get enough folic acid every day.
Recommended Amounts of Folic Acid
The recommended daily amount of folate for adults is 400 micrograms (mcg). The Centers for Disease Control recommends 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily. It is not recommended to take a higher dose of folic acid (more than 400 mcg) if trying to become pregnant unless a doctor recommends taking more because of other health issues or because of a past pregnancy that resulted in a neural tube defect.
It is important to note that unlike some vitamins that can collect in the body and become toxic if someone consumes too much of them when more folic acid is consumed than the body needs, it is flushed out by the urinary system. So while it is not recommended to take a higher dose of folic acid, it will not cause someone harm if they consume more than 400 mcg in a day.
How to Get the Benefits of Folic Acid
In order to reap all the benefits of folic acid, you have to make sure you are getting enough of it in your diet. In addition to eating foods with folate from a varied diet, you can get folic acid from taking a vitamin supplement with 400 mcg of folic acid. Another way is to eat fortified foods such as certain bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, and other grains.
And obviously, you can do a combination of all of these things: eat a diet that includes folate-rich foods as well as fortified foods and take a daily vitamin supplement with folic acid. None of these ways to get your daily value of folic acid is better than the other.
Frequently Asked Questions about Folic Acid
What happens when you take folic acid everyday?
You help break down homocysteine, an amino acid that can cause harmful effects if it builds up in the body in high amounts. You help your body create healthy red blood cells as well as new DNA and RNA. Plus, you may prevent cervical cancer and lower your chances of developing age-related memory problems.
What are the side effects of taking folic acid?
Folic acid usually has few side effects and an allergic reaction to folic acid is rare.
What is the work of folic acid in a woman’s body?
Folic acid is best known to prevent birth defects. However, in women it can also lower rates of cervical dysplasia from HPV as well as help prevent cervical cancer.
Is it OK to take folic acid when not pregnant?
Absolutely. Folic acid is an important piece of a healthy, balanced diet. The benefits of folic acid reach much farther than the one that is pregnancy-related.
There are so many benefits to folic acid. It is an important vitamin that should be part of everyone’s diet. From keeping your heart and other organs healthy to preventing birth defects and protecting against cervical cancer, folic acid is a vitamin superstar. So be sure to eat those folate-rich dark green veggies, add cereal to your weekday morning breakfast routine, and think about taking a vitamin. Your body will reap the benefits.
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