Why IS Folic Acid So Important?

We have all heard that folic acid is important to include in your diet if you are trying to become pregnant, but have you ever wondered why?

Well, the first reason is because it protects the baby from neural tube defects like Spina Bifida and anencephaly. It also reduces the chance of anemia by promoting healthy red blood cells.And speaking of cells, it also plays an important role in DNA and the production and division of all new cells.

Another reason is that it helps keep the mother’s body healthy so that she doesn’t deliver the baby prematurely. In fact, there was a study in the PLOS Medicine Journal that actually found that when women included folic acid in their diet for a year before conceiving that they had a 50% lower chance of having their baby early. This is important because premature babies are at a higher risk of many medical conditions.

So how much folic acid should you be taking on a daily basis? According to the most recent studies, women trying to become pregnant should be taking 400 mcg, pregnant women 600 mcg and women who are breast feeding should take 500 mcg. You should never consume more than 1000 mcg however, because then it actually becomes harmful to the body.

Most women will use both food and supplements to reach their target folic acid levels. The foods to eat that are loaded with folic acid are green leafy vegetables, sunflower seeds and liver. In many countries folic acid can be found in fortified flours and grains as well.

So if you are trying to conceive or are already pregnant, talk with your doctor about a plan for including folic acid in your diet!

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By TTC veteran and mother of two, Elizabeth Andrews.