Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin belonging to the B-complex group of vitamins. These vitamins help the body break down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars to be used for energy. The roles of folic acid include maintenance of healthy pregnancy, bones, hair, red blood cells, nervous system, digestion, immune systems, protein metabolism, and conversion of homocysteine to methionine (high homocysteine increases the risk of cardiovascular disease). Folic acid must be consumed daily as excess B vitamins are excreted from the body rather than stored for later use.

Folic acid is also known as folate, or folacin. Folic acid is found in leafy green vegetables, beans, peas and lentils, liver, beets, brussel sprouts, poultry, nutritional yeast, tuna, wheat germ, mushrooms, oranges, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, bananas, strawberries, and cantaloupes.

Daily requirements: 400 micrograms dietary folate equivalents. Pregnant women should increase this to 600 micrograms daily.

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 135 – January/February 2003