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The Importance of Folic Acid

What is folic acid? Folic acid, also known as folate and folacin, is an important B vitamin. Folate and folacin are naturally found in food. Folic acid is the form found in pills/supplements or added to food, such as white flour, enriched pasta and enriched cornmeal.

Why is folic acid important?1

Folic acid is important to make healthy red blood cells. Taking folic acid supplements before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy is important for the development of your baby’s eyesight, spine and brain. Low blood levels of folate early in pregnancy increases the risk of your baby’s spine developing a "neural tube defect", resulting in a malformation of the spine called spina bifida. 

 

How much folic acid do you need?

All women who could become pregnant, are pregnant or are breastfeeding should eat a diet rich in folate. They should also take a daily multivitamin that contains at least 0.4 mg of folic acid (400 µg), but no more than 1 mg per day.1 Talk to your health care provider about the best folic acid supplement for you.

Good Food Sources of Folate2

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Green beans
  • Oranges
  • Spinach and romaine lettuce
  • Bran cereal
  • Enriched pasta
  • Enriched white flour
  • Eggs
  • Kidney beans, lentils & chickpeas
  • Peanut butter & peanuts
  • Sunflower seeds
 

Foods Rich in Folate

Foods Rich in Folate
 

Top 10 Tips for Increasing Your Folate Intake

  • Choose breakfast cereals that contain wheat bran.
  • Make an omelette with asparagus, broccoli and spinach for breakfast or lunch.
  • Eat at least one dark green vegetable (e.g., peas, spinach, romaine lettuce) each day.
  • Limit excessive peeling and cutting of vegetables and fruit to protect the folate.
  • Cook vegetables and fruit for short periods of time in as little water as possible to limit the loss of folate. Try steaming or microwaving your vegetables and fruit.
  • Make a salad with spinach or romaine lettuce instead of iceberg lettuce.
  • Add sunflower seeds, orange slices, or avocado to your salads.
  • Store food in tightly covered containers to limit the loss of folate.
  • Add kidney beans, black beans or lentils to your chili, stew or soup.
  • Add fresh or frozen spinach to lasagna, casseroles, pizza, omelettes or soup.

Recipes to Increase your Folate Intake

Vegetables, like asparagus, broccoli and spinach are good sources of folate. Include asparagus, broccoli and spinach in your meals and snacks more often.

 
Date of creation: January 1, 2013
Last modified on: January 29, 2020
 

References

1Health Canada. (2018, January 29) Folic Acid and Neural Tube Defects. Retrieved from
https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/pregnancy/folic-acid.html
2Dietitians of Canada - Unlock Food. (2018, August 16). Information about Folate Retrieved from
http://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/Facts-about-Folate.aspx