Can We Talk About Folic Acid?

(FN704, Reviewed Oct. 2022)

Half of all pregnancies in women from age 18 to 24 are unplanned. Since birth defects develop early in pregnancy, starting to take folic acid now is important.

Lead Author
Lead Author:
Julie Garden-Robinson, food and nutrition specialist
Other Authors

Students from English 275, Introduction to Writing Studies (2007): Katie Moen, Abi Gaugert, Patricia Jacobsen and Ryan Kahly.

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What is It?

OK, so you’ll think about taking folic acid, but what is it exactly?

Folic acid is a human-made form of the B vitamin folate, and is necessary for making new, healthy cells in the body.

Everyone Needs It

Recent studies have shown that folic acid may reduce the risk of cardiac disease and certain types of cancers. Some studies suggest it also might help lower the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease.

Helpful Info for Everyone

Making a small decision to take folic acid can greatly impact you, any children you might have and your future. For more information, visit:






Half of all pregnancies in women from age 18 to 24 are unplanned. That’s a lot.

What if you get pregnant? You want your baby to be as healthy as possible.

You’ve probably heard about this vitamin called folic acid, and it can make a big difference. Here’s why:

1 in 1,000

About one in 1,000 babies in the U.S. will suffer from a neural tube defect. These are birth defects that affect the structure that will become the baby’s brain and spinal cord. Without
folic acid, the baby’s spine could be exposed, or its brain won’t develop properly.

Neural Tube Defect
Illustration of a Neural Tube Defect

Fight Defects!

Since birth defects develop early in pregnancy, starting to take folic acid now is important. This can prevent up to 70 percent of neural tube defects Folic acid also might prevent other types of birth defects of the limbs, heart and face.

400 Micrograms

That’s where you come in. You probably are not planning on becoming pregnant. You’re in school and working hard. That’s not for you right now. Getting 400 micrograms of folic acid every day (and you have lots of ways to get it) is a decision that will impact your future, both planned and unplanned, by ensuring the health of your baby some day.

Take Action

You can get folic acid a lot of different ways. Check nutrition labels (such as the one below) to see how much folic acid is in the foods you eat. Many cereals are enriched with folic acid, so one bowl meets the recommended daily amount. And you are able to get it from more than just cereal. Certain foods, such as cooked dry edible beans, rice, broccoli, kiwi, strawberries and orange juice, all contain folate.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 1 cup (29g)

Amount Per Serving

Calories 130

Calories from Fat 10

% Daily Value

Total Fat 1g 2%

Saturated Farg 0g 0%

Trans Fat 0g

Polyunsaturated Fat 0g

Monounsaturated Fat 0g

Cholesterol 0mg 0%

Sodium 200mg 8%

Potassium 85mg 2%

Total Carbohydrate 23g 8%

Dietary Fiber 3g 10%

Sugars 6g

Other Carbohydrates 14g

Protein 2g

Vitamin A 10%

Vitamin C 25%

Calcium 10%

Iron 100%

Vitamin D 10%

Vitamin E 100%

Thiamin 100%

Riboflavin 100%

Niacin 100%

Vitamin B6 100%

Folic Acid 100%

Vitamin B12 100%

Pantothenic Acid 100%

Phosphorus 8%

Magnesium 6%

Zinc 100%

Copper 2%

Take Folic Acid

“I don’t like any of those foods, and I don’t have time to check nutrition labels.”

That’s OK. Getting folic acid other ways is easy. One very simple and effective way to add folic acid to your diet is to make sure your multivitamin has enough folic acid, 400 micrograms.