Folic Acid and Folate in your Diet

It is usually hard to get folate from your diet alone. However, there are some foods and supplements that contain this important vitamin. Folic acid is especially important for pregnant women as it ensures that the foetus does not develop certain deformities.

If you’re planning to get pregnant, it’s important to consume folic acid for a full year before conception to increase its efficiency. Let’s explore some of the essential things regarding folic acid or folate.

What is the Difference Between Folic Acid and Folate?

 Folic acid is a synthesized type of vitamin B-9 that is water-soluble. It is added to supplements and processed food products such as flour. On the other hand, folate is the naturally occurring form of vitamin B-9 that is found in foods.

 Foods rich in folate include:

  • Green leafy vegetables such as sukuma wiki, and spinach
  • Meats such as liver
  • Legumes e.g. kidney beans 
  • Citrus fruits such as oranges
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Bread

In Kenya, most maize flour brands are fortified with folic acid.

What Causes Folate Deficiency?

Depletion of folate stores in your body may be caused by:

  • Lifestyle 
  • Gene mutations
  • Some medications  

During pregnancy, the needs of the developing foetus increases the need for more folate levels. High demand for this nutrient may need the use of supplementation together with eating foods rich in the mineral.

Why Is Folate or Folic Acid Important?

  • Research shows that folic acid is essential in the development of a baby’s skull, brain, and spine. This nutrient is especially important during the first weeks of pregnancy and that is why one is advised to take it two to three months before pregnancy while trying to conceive. 
  •  It also reduces the risk of getting problems such as heart and urinary tract defects and cleft palate.
  •  It enhances the development of neural tube in a baby during pregnancy
  •  It is a key component in the development of nucleic acid, which partly forms a person’s genetic material.
  • It also enhances the development of more red blood cells in infants
  • It prevents loss of hearing ability in babies

How to Consume Supplements or Foods

Healthy women need to supplement their normal diet with about 0.4 mg of folic acid daily.

Women who may need a higher level of folate supplementation include those who:

  • Have a history of neural tube defect
  • Have epilepsy, diabetes, or advanced liver disease
  • Have undergone a gastric bypass operation
  • Have had a previous child with neural tube disorder

If you’re not sure about the level of folic acid you require, talk to your doctor. Remember that folic acid is not utilized as well as folate in your body. Consequently, having unconverted folic acid may have a negative health impact.


#Please note that development differs from one child to another. Content intended for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice from your doctor.

#Be careful when using any products mentioned on this website. We hold no regulations for such products or their providers.

Last reviewed January 2019

Sources: avawomen, medicalnewstoday, webmd

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