by Donna Quirk MBA, RD, LD at LMC
January is Folic Acid Awareness Month. Folic Acid, also known as folate, is a B-vitamin and an important nutrient for all. Folic Acid is needed for the body to produce the genetic material DNA and to make the new cells it needs on a daily basis. Skin, hair, nails, and the gastrointestinal tract all lose and regenerate cells everyday.
Women of child-bearing years should eat foods with Folic Acid because it reduces the risk by 50% to 70% of developing birth defects of the spine and brain, also known as neural tube defects. Remember to include Folic Acid even if don’t think you are pregnant! Spine and brain development happens early in pregnancy so you need that Folic Acid before you know you are pregnant.
Including Folic Acid into your eating plan is easy. For the past 16 years enriched bread, cereal, pasta, flour, crackers and rice have been fortified with Folic Acid. Many fruits and vegetables, like oranges and avocado, are an excellent source of this vitamin. Yet another great reason to eat more fruits and vegetables!
Good sources Folic Acid are orange juice, spinach, Romaine lettuce, broccoli, okra, asparagus, bananas, melons, peanuts, avocado, enriched-grain products, and fortified breakfast cereal. If a food, like cereal, is fortified with Folic Acid the amount will appear on the Nutrition Facts Label. The recommended daily requirement is 400 mcg. Check the label to be sure you are getting enough.
Not sure you are getting the Folic Acid you need from food? Go ahead and take a vitamin that has Folic Acid in it every day. Most multivitamins sold in the United States have the amount needed.
So, next time you reach for fortified breakfast cereal (or another Folic Acid source) for you or your family remember you are also keeping everyone healthier right down to the DNA.