"Folic acid" is the term used for the man-made or synthetic form of the B vitamin folate. Folic acid is added to vitamin or nutritional supplements and grain foods that say "enriched" on the label. The synthetic form of the vitamin (folic acid) is more easily absorbed by the body than the natural form of the vitamin found in certain foods.
Most multivitamin supplements contain folic acid along with other vitamins and minerals. Check the Nutrition Facts panel and look for a multivitamin that provides 400 micrograms, or 100% of the Daily Value, of folic acid.
Folic acid supplements contain only folic acid (no other vitamins or minerals). They are smaller and may be easier to swallow than multivitamins. Look for a folic acid supplement that provides 400 micrograms of folic acid per tablet.
Taking a multivitamin every day is the best way to get the recommended amounts of folic acid. However, sometimes it is difficult for people to remember to take a multivitamin. They may have trouble swallowing a multivitamin or they do not take one for other reasons. Here are some tips to help:
- Put the bottle in a location where you will see it every day. This may be near your toothbrush, with birth control pills or other medications, or in another visible spot.
- If you find it difficult to swallow a multivitamin, try chewable vitamins, liquid vitamins, or a folic acid supplement which is smaller and may be easier to swallow.
- If you are concerned about the expense of multivitamins, buy store brands that may be less expensive than name brands. You'll still get the folic acid you need.
Many ready-to-eat breakfast cereals have 100-400 micrograms of folic acid per serving. Check the Nutrition Facts panel to be sure. Cereals are a great way to get folic acid if you don't take a multivitamin every day.
Grain products that say "enriched" on the label have folic acid added to them. This includes bread, rolls, rice, pasta, instant oatmeal, and other foods made from enriched flour (e.g., crackers, cookies, and flour tortillas). At this time, whole grain foods do not have folic acid added to them.
Foods imported from other countries may not contain folic acid. Check the ingredients list on the label to be sure.
Some foods contain the natural form of folate, called food folate. The body does not absorb food folate as easily as the folic acid in vitamin supplements and enriched grain foods. However, foods with food folate can help you increase your folate intake.
Here are some examples of folate-rich foods:
- Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens and broccoli.
- Legumes such as dried beans and peas (black-eyed peas and black, pinto, kidney and navy beans) and peanuts.
- Orange juice and oranges.