Folic acid supplements
What does folic acid do for the body?
‘Buy folic acid supplements’ is the usual recommendation you might hear from your doctor – especially for women who want to have children or for pregnant women. Folic acid is the synthetically produced form of folate, also known as vitamin B9 or vitamin B11. The body needs the natural B vitamin folate for cell division and growth processes, but it cannot produce it itself. Find out here how to meet your daily folic acid requirement.
What is my daily folic acid requirement?
As a healthy person with a normal daily requirement, you should consume 200 microgrammes of folic acid daily. However, it is common for the UK population to consume far less than these recommendations. Those who are deficient in folate can buy folic acid supplements and take them in tablet form.
Especially when your daily folic acid requirement is higher than the normal amount, you can quickly develop a vitamin deficiency. Risk groups who need to up their folic acid intake include:
- Women who wish to have children
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- People with gastrointestinal diseases
- People with an alcohol addiction
Our tips for women who want to have children
- Combine folic acid with vitamin B12 supplements when you are most fertile: both vitamins are involved in cell division. One study showed that folic acid increases progesterone levels and can have a positive effect on the regularity of ovulation. In men, it can increase the number of sperm.
- Make sure you have high folate levels even before you become pregnant. You should take folic acid at least four weeks before you want to try for a baby. This reduces the risk of neural tube defects.
- Large amounts of alcohol inhibit the absorption of folic acid in the body. If possible, avoid alcohol during your most fertile phase. Gastrointestinal diseases or medication can also reduce folic acid absorption.
Should I buy folic acid supplements?
Whether you should buy and consume folic acid supplements even though you do not belong to the above risk groups depends on your lifestyle. A balanced diet with fresh vegetables and fruit is a good source of this B vitamin. Green vegetables such as spinach, lamb’s lettuce and kale are considered the main sources of folate. However, folate is very sensitive: light, heat and oxygen can quickly reduce the vitamin content of vegetables.
Since folate in food is sensitive, you can boost your intake by taking folic acid drops or folic acid tablets. Drops are particularly suitable if you travel a lot – they can be taken without water. Harmful side effects of an accidental overdose are not known. The maximum recommended intake for adults is 1,000 microgrammes daily.
4 tips for handling your leafy greens
- 1. Hold the leaves briefly under running water instead of soaking them so that the folic acid is not washed out.
- 2. Do not chop the vegetables until after they have been cleaned.
- 3. Store the vegetables for as short a time as possible in a dark and cool place – for example, in the vegetable drawer of the fridge.
- 4. Eat your greens raw or cook them gently in as little water as possible.
4 folate-rich healthy meals
- 1. Eat muesli for breakfast: porridge with walnuts and linseed
- 2. Eat salad for lunch: baby leaf spinach or lamb’s lettuce with tomatoes and peppers plus a dressing made from peanut butter, oil and lime juice.
- 3. Drink a green smoothie inbetween: a handful of kale and spinach, half a banana, half an apple, a glass of water, a teaspoon each of turmeric and linseed oil, a piece of ginger.
- 4. Enjoy potato wedges with dips for dinner: serve potato wedges from the oven with a houmus and avocado dip.