- Benefits for Moms
This B vitamin helps prevent up to 70% of neural-tube birth defects. In order for it to work best, you need to be taking it before you're pregnant. So even if you're not trying to have another child at the moment, you should still pay attention to folic acid because many pregnancies are unplanned. If you don't become a mom-to-be again, the folic acid won't be wasted; it may lower your risk of heart disease and cancer.
Your Daily Needs
800 micrograms (mcg) for women ages 19 to 50, 1,000 mcg if you're pregnant, 900 mcg if you're breastfeeding. At least half the amount should come from fortified food or supplements.
1 cup enriched breakfast cereal (100 to 400 mcg), 1 cup cooked lentils (358 mcg), 1 cup cooked kidney beans (229 mcg), 6 asparagus spears (131 mcg), 1 cup enriched pasta (120 mcg), 1 cup orange juice (109 mcg)
1 cup broccoli (78 mcg), 1/2 papaya (58 mcg), 1 medium orange (44 mcg), 1 slice enriched bread (40 mcg)
- Supplemental Advice
If you don't eat many foods fortified with folic acid, you can opt for a multivitamin (most contain 400 mcg of folic acid) or a separate supplement. Pregnant women should take a prenatal vitamin with 1,000 mcg of folic acid. Whichever you choose, look for a brand with USP on the label -- it signifies that the manufacturer has followed a proven "recipe" for the vitamin so your body can absorb it.