Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor a health professional. The following post comes from what I’ve researched and what I’ve discussed with my own doctor. As always, consult with your physician before taking any advice and any vitamins. This is post is not intended as medical advice.
I remember in my early 20’s being told by a doctor during a regular check-up that I should be taking folic acid if I plan to have kids someday in the future. This advice is so widely spread I am pretty sure almost everyone knows that they should be taking folic acid, even if they’re not even trying to have a baby.
Folic acid is a form of the vitamin B-9, but there are actually two version of this vitamin: folic acid, which is the synthetic version and folate, which is the natural version. There is no doubt this is a very important supplement to take, especially if you plan to have a baby in the future.
However, there are some main differences between folic acid and folate that you should be aware of before you start taking this supplement. Before we get into it, let me explain to you why folic acid is always recommended by doctors.
Why is folic acid (Vitamin B) important?
From Baby Center:
Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects (NTDs) – serious birth defects of the spinal cord (such as spina bifida) and the brain (such as anencephaly). The neural tube is the part of the embryo from which your baby’s spine and brain develop.
Some research suggests that folic acid may help lower your baby’s risk of other defects as well, such as cleft lip, cleft palate, and certain types of heart defects.
Vitamin B not only prevents neural tube defects but it’s important for healthy red blood cells production, for the synthesis and repair of DNA and RNA, and it also enhances brain and heart health.
There is no doubt, everyone’s health can greatly benefit from taking this supplement. It is even more important to take it if a women eventually wants to have children so when conception takes place the body has enough Vitamin B to create a healthy fetus. Once a women starts proactively trying to get pregnant, her physician will recommend to up the intake of Folic Acid. That’s how important it is.
Keep in mind that Vitamin B (Folic Acid / Folate) is a water soluble vitamin, which means a lot of this vitamin is expelled through urine and your body might not be storing enough of it. Hence why this is a supplement that should be taken daily.
So, what’s the difference between Folic Acid and Folate?
Folic acid and Folate are used interchangeably and some doctors might not even be aware of the difference, but there there is a difference and an important one.
The main difference is that Folic Acid is the synthetic form of Vitamin B and Folate is the naturally-occurring form of this vitamin. According to this study:
Folate is a general term for a group of water soluble b-vitamins, and is also known as B9. Folic acid refers to the oxidized synthetic compound used in dietary supplements and food fortification, whereas folate refers to the various tetrahydrofolate derivatives naturally found in food.
The biggest problem with Folic Acid is that it has been linked to the development of cancer. Chris Kresser goes a little bit more in depth in this post. Some other side effects of taking too much folic acid are stomach and skin problems, confusion, loss of appetite, nausea and even seizures.
There is no doubt Vitamin B is extremely important for the health of our body cells, DNA and our future babies. This is a supplement that should be taken by women and I cannot stress this enough. However, why take the synthetic version when you can take a natural version of this vitamin that doesn’t come with side effects?
Can you get folate from foods?
Of course you can, however, depending on how you prepare your foods and your overall diet, you may not be getting enough. This is why you should be taking a supplement, even if you’re eating foods that contain folate.
Folate can be found in foods like asparagus, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, mustard greens, beets, lentils, peas and liver.
How much Vitamin B (Folic Acid / Folate) should you take?
The general recommendation is that adults take the following quantities:
- Men and women, 19 years and older: 400 mcg
- Pregnant women: 600 mcg
- Breastfeeding women: 500 mcg
However, please consult with your doctor first to make sure you’re taking the right quantity for your needs.
Where can I find folate?
Luckily there are many companies that are creating food based vitamins and using folate instead of folic acid. If you’re buying your vitamins at a store, make sure you check the label on the back. It will clearly state if they’re using folic acid or folate. Your best bet is to buy vitamins or prenatals that are made from food sources, but always check the label since I have found some vitamins that claim to be food based but use folic acid.
Here’s a list of prenatal vitamins that are food based and contain folate:
- INNATE Response Formulas
- MegaFood – Baby & Me
- Garden of Life Vegetarian Prenatal
- Garden of Life Organic Prenatal
- New Chapter Perfect Prenatal
- Best Nest Prenatal Vitamin
- Raw Green Organics
*Consult your physician or licensed qualified healthcare professional before using any of these products.
Which prenatal vitamins do I take?
My doctor has prescribed INNATE prenatals for me and I’ve also taken the Megafood prenatals. Their vitamins are formulated under the guidance of Tieraona Low Dog, M.D, an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, dietary supplements and women’s health.
I had the honor to see Dr. Tieraone Low Dog at a conference last year (2016) and I was blown away by her knowledge so I trust even more these companies since she oversees their vitamins. If you want to learn more about her work, I recommend you read her book Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More.
I’ve been asked what other supplements I take during pregnancy and breastfeeding. These were prescribed by my own doctor so if you want to take these supplements too I would consult with your doctor first. Along with the INNATE prenatal, I take Nordic Naturals Proomega and Ortho Molecular – Ortho Biotic Capsules.
I said this earlier in the post but I really want you to remember this:
There is no doubt Vitamin B is extremely important for the health of our body cells, DNA and especially to avoid to neural tube defects in our future babies. This is a supplement that should be taken by women and I cannot stress this enough. However, why take the synthetic version when you can take a natural version of this vitamin – one that doesn’t come with side effects?
I am all about using natural sources, especially when it comes to products we ingest. It’s great that we have the option to consume food based vitamins which are overall better and easier to digest for our bodies. Not to mention, many women have shared that food based vitamins are easier to keep down during the morning sickness part of pregnancy.
I hope that this post has inspired you to talk to your physician about taking some of these food based vitamins that contain folate. Your baby deserves the best start in life and your health is essential for this.
Do you take a vitamin with folate? If so, which one?
Sources used for this post on Vitamin B – Folic acid and Folate:
- Folic acid: Why you need it before and during pregnancy
- Folic Acid: Importance, Deficiencies, and Side Effects
- Vitamin B9 (Folic acid)
- Folic Acid and Pregnancy
- The importance of folic acid
- Folic Acid – Key Points
- Folic acid under scrutiny
- The little known (but crucial) difference between folate and folic acid
- Folate and cancer prevention: a closer look at a complex picture
- Folate vs Folic Acid… 1 is Healthy and 1 is Dangerous
- Folate vs. Folic Acid for Pregnancy: What you need to know
- Folic Acid vs. Folate: Part I
- Food fortification with folic acid: has the other shoe dropped?