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  • What is the difference between Folate & Folic Acid?
  • Registered Dietician Q&AThe Basics: Food & Nutrition
What is the difference between Folate & Folic Acid?
Q: Is there a difference between folate and folic acid? I know both are important during pregnancy but can you please explain why, in laymen’s terms? And last, but not least, how much should I be getting during pregnancy?
A: Great questions, Jill!

Folic acid is the synthetic version of the B vitamin, folate (i.e. the supplement form). All women in their childbearing years should pay particular attention to their intake of folate/folic acid, as it plays a very large role in a healthy pregnancy, for both mom and baby. Perhaps folate/folic acid is best known for helping to prevent neural tube defects (most commonly, spina bifida) during the first month or so of pregnancy when the neural tube forms, which eventually becomes your baby’s spine and brain. For this reason, it is recommended that women begin taking adequate doses of folate/folic acid before becoming pregnant (400 mcg/day). 

The benefits of folate/folic acid, however, do not end after the first trimester of pregnancy. It plays a vital role in the formation of new and healthy red blood cells, and evidence suggests that having adequate levels in the bloodstream are linked to appropriate growth during pregnancy, and protecting your baby from heart abnormalities, cleft lip and cleft palate. It may also decrease the risks of anemia for the mother, miscarriage, preterm delivery, and low birth weight.
The recommended daily amounts are as follows:
Non-pregnant (of childbearing years) 400 mcg/day
Pregnant 600 mcg/day
Nursing 500 mcg/day 
Woman who have a history of neural tube defects, are carrying multiples, have diabetes, or are obese, will need higher amounts of folate/folic acid during pregnancy and should ask their health care provider for guidance on dosages.
Folate is found naturally in many foods but can also be found in fortified foods, as well as a daily folic acid supplement. It is a nutrient found in the delicious momme meals Go Chews. It can also be found in:

Spinach, cooked, 1 cup 263 mcg
Lentils, cooked, 1/2 cup 179 mcg
Broccoli, cooked, 1 cup 168 mcg
Orange juice, 8 oz 110 mcg
White beans, cooked, 1/2 cup 85 mcg
Strawberries, sliced, 1 cup 40 mcg 

Folic Acid
Whole grain Total cereal, 3/4 cup 807 mcg 
Wheat Chex cereal, 1 cup 404 mcg
White rice, enriched, cooked, 1 cup 195 mcg
Spaghetti, enriched, cooked, 1 cup 172 mcg
Bread, enriched, 2 slices 34 mcg

It is important to note that the body absorbs folate and folic acid differently. The Institute of Medicine found that the body absorbs 50% of natural folate, 85% of folic acid in fortified foods, and 100% from a folic acid supplement (when taken on an empty stomach).
Woman of childbearing age (pregnant and not pregnant) should strive to get the appropriate amounts of folate/folic acid every day, whether through foods (natural or fortified), supplements, or a combination of both. It will provide great health benefits for you and your growing baby!

* Reference: Expect the Best by Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

  • Registered Dietician Q&AThe Basics: Food & Nutrition

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