What is folic acid

What is folic acid?

Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (also called NTDs). Some studies show that taking folic acid may help prevent heart defects and birth defects in your baby’s mouth called cleft lip and palate.

Your provider can help you figure out the best and safest way for you to get the right amount of folic acid. You’re at high risk for NTDs if:

  • You’ve had a pregnancy with an NTD in the past.
  • You or your partner have an NTD.
  • Your partner has a child with an NTD.

You also can get folic acid from food. Some foods have folic acid added to them. Look for “fortified” or “enriched” on the package and check the “supplement facts” label to see how much folic acid you get in each serving. Foods that are fortified with folic acid include:

  • Bread
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Cornmeal
  • Flour
  • Pasta

You also can get folic acid from some fruits and vegetables. When folic acid is naturally in food, it’s called folate. Good sources of folate include:

  • Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and broccoli
  • Lentils and beans
  • Orange juice

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