Folic acid... not just a pregnancy superhero

Folic acid is something most women associate with their pregnancy. But have you ever wondered why it is so important? For women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it is important to consume folic acid in the form of supplements to avoid deficiency of Vitamin B9. Although this vitamin is crucial during pregnancy, it is required by everyone. The recommended dietary allowance of this vitamin in the Indian population is 200µg/ day. This requirement increases to 500 µg/ day during pregnancy.

Folic acid and folates are forms of Vitamin B9, a water soluble B complex vitamin. (The naturally occuring form of Vitamin B is folate, whereas folic acid is a synthetic form derived from folate, commonly found in supplements or used in the fortification process.) Folate from dietary sources is more easily converted into a form that is absorbable by our body, as compared to folic acid from supplements. However, if your body is unable to meet the folate requirements through diet, supplementation with folic acid is recommended. 

Our body mainly uses folate for various bodily functions such as:

  • Helps in formation of DNA and RNA

  • Reduces the risk of neural tube defects (Spina bifida or anencephaly) during pregnancy which could be the result of  folate deficiency

  • Helps lower the levels of a hormone homocysteine - high levels of which are linked with increased risk of heart diseases.

  •  Aids in formation of red blood cells (RBCs).

Here are the top 5 rich sources of folate:

 Sources How to incorporate them in cooking Other benefits Spinach Parathas, soup, cutlets, sandwiches Rich in Vitamin A, K, iron, calcium Broccoli Salads, soups, pasta, chinese stir fry Helps in cell building and growth Rich source of Vit E, low calorie, low fat, low sodium, good source of fiber Lemon Lemonades, squeezing lemon over salads, vegetables, adding in green teas Rich in Vitamin C. Helps in cleansing the digestive tract Lentils Salads, soups, dals Help lower your blood cholesterol and control diabetes. Also rich in fiber, potassium, and iron Asparagus Salads, blanching and stir frying in olive oil, roasted/ baked in oven with olive oil, herbs, eaten raw with hung curd dip Rich in potassium, fiber, thiamin, and vitamins A, B6, and C

The evidence suggests that higher amounts of folate does not cause any harm in healthy adults. It may only help prevent some diseases, especially among people who do not get enough folate in their diets, and among individuals who drink alcohol. However, always consult your physician before taking any supplements.  

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