Folate being a water- soluble vitamin is not readily stored in the body unlike fat- soluble vitamins, therefore, you need to get it on a daily basis to make sure you always have enough available. While every nutrient is needed by the body, some are very very important for overall health. Women go through a lot physically and mentally in their lives at different phases and for that, nutrition is imperative. In this article, Dr. Archana Dhawan Bajaj, Gynaecologist, Obstetrician and IVF Expert, Nurture IVF Clinic explains why folic acid or folate or vitamin B9 is extremely necessary for a woman.
Folic acid or Vitamin B9 is one of the important nutrient required by our body to perform a variety of tasks daily. Folate, the synthetic form of folic acid has a vital role in cell reproduction. The super-star nutrient has an even greater role when you are pregnant because of its role in the prevention of neural tube defects (NTDs).
Importance of folic acid
Neural tube defects in babies are known to affect around 300,00 babies across the globe each year. These defects are described as birth defects of the spinal cord such as the brain like anencephaly, spina bifida, Chiari malformation-defect that causes brain tissue to descend into the spinal canal. The good news is between 50 and 70 percent of neural tube defects can be prevented with folic acid intake in a prenatal vitamin or supplement.
The key to keeping these serious birth defects at bay is to take folic acid every day irrespective of whether you are planning a pregnancy or holding it off for a while. The reason is, the moment you are pregnant even before you get a positive pregnancy test – those important neurological cells vital for the development of the brain and spine are already reproducing. Moreover, as most of the pregnancies are unplanned, sufficient intake of folic acid is a good plan should you have a surprise. Adequate levels of folate are also known to lower the risk of having a child who is obese.
The importance of folic acid remains throughout pregnancy and it needs to be constantly replenished to maintain healthy levels. Folate being a water- soluble vitamin is not readily stored in the body unlike fat- soluble vitamins, therefore, you need to get it on a daily basis to make sure you always have enough available.
How much folic acid is required daily?
While recommendations for folic acid may vary slightly in different countries, most women should take400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day as a vitamin or the same amount in a separate supplement before they get pregnant. This requirement increases to 600 mcg of folic acid during pregnancy and during breastfeeding.
Some women such as those having a family history of neural tube defects, with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Celiac disease, sickle cell disease or ones having malabsorption problems may need to take higher amounts in supervision with their medical professional. Further, women with autoimmune diseases or epilepsy or under medications for cancer may need to take larger doses too.
While you can easily get the required quantity of folic acid from supplements which is even efficiently digested and absorbed, you also need to get folic acid by eating foods such as beans, nuts and seeds, leafy green vegetables, citrus juices and bread and cereals fortified with folic acid. So, it’s time to kick off your day with these nutrient- rich foods along with your supplement and you’ll be off to a great start as regardless of how many folate-rich foods you eat along with your folic acid supplement you can never get too much folate.
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