Taking folic acid? Here’s what you need to know

Folic acid supplements have long been thought to have potential heart benefits, but a large new study which appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine, suggests that these pills don’t lower the risk of heart attacks or strokes. Folic acid does, however, need to be a key part of our diet.

As a synthetic version of folate, a B vitamin essential to cell growth, folic acid helps to stave off birth defects. Folate is found in green vegetables, fruits, juices, dried beans, peas, nuts, and in grain products that have been fortified with folic acid. Foods containing folate are often good for the heart, but most likely due to other nutrients, such as cholesterol-lowering fiber. We all need folic acid to create healthy new cells on an ongoing basis.

January is National Birth Defects Prevention month, so remind those who are pregnant that they need 400 mcg of folic acid each day. A supplement is encouraged to ensure that needs are met. For those who are not pregnant, requirements are the same, but the outcome of consuming less folate is less serious. Eating a healthy and balanced diet full of folate-rich foods is a natural way to ensure that you’re getting all of the essential vitamins, including folate. But, there’s no reason to super-supplement.

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