Folate

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Folate is one of the B vitamins. Why is it important? Folate is needed in adults and children to produce red blood cells. The body also needs folate to make DNA and RNA, and is especially important during times of rapid cell division like pregnancy and infancy!  

Because it is difficult to get the recommended amounts of folate from foods, the Institute of Medicine recommends taking a supplement that contains folic acid.

Difference between Folate & Folic Acid

  • Folate is the water soluble B-vitamin that occurs naturally in some foods.  Folic acid is the man-made form that is added to supplements and fortified foods.
  • Both forms are absorbed by the body and will help you reach your recommended amounts.

How much folate is needed?

The National Institute of Health suggests:

  • For infants, breastmilk and formula provide them all the folate they need during the first 6 months of life.
  • 1-3 years old = 150 micrograms 
  • 4-8 years old = 200 micrograms 
  • 9-13 years old = 300 micrograms 
  • 14+ years old = 400 micrograms
  • Pregnant Women = 600 micrograms
  • Lactating Women = 500 micrograms

Folic acid is very important during the first couple weeks of pregnancy, usually before moms even know they’re pregnant. Having enough folic acid in your body before becoming pregnant can reduce your chance of having a baby with spina bifida or neural tube defects. 

For this reason, it’s very important to make sure you are getting enough folic acid at least 30 days prior to getting pregnant.

Women of childbearing age should have 400 micrograms of folic acid a day. This should come from a multivitamin containing Folic acid or food sources.

Folate Deficiency

Women who are deficient when they become pregnant are at risk of:

  • Infants born with certain birth defects, like Neural Tube Defects
  • Low birth weight infants
  • Premature delivery

In infants and children who are deficient, overall growth can be slowed. In adults, long term folate deficiency can cause anemia.

Other symptoms of folate deficiency can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Headaches

Food Sources

  • Broccoli, spinach, asparagus, peas, dark green leafy vegetables
  • Avocado
  • Sunflower seeds, peanuts
  • Dried beans and peas 
  • Oranges/orange Juice, grapefruit
  • Fortified grain products such as WIC cereals and whole wheat bread

Sample Menu

  • Breakfast:  Scrambled egg, cooked potatoes, whole wheat toast*, orange juice*
  • Lunch:  Cheese sandwich made with: american cheese and whole wheat bread*, mixed green salad made with: iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, and raw spinach*, cantaloupe*, low fat milk
  • Dinner:  Chili*, carrot sticks, pineapple, cornbread*, low fat milk
  • Snacks:  Banana, raw cauliflower, orange, whole wheat toast* with peanut butter*

Note: (*High in folic acid or folate)

Sources: USDA Infant Feeding & Nutrition – A Guide for Use in WIC, National Institutes of Health


This post was last updated on December 18th, 2019 at 4:01 PM

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