Folic acid is a type of vitamin B9 which offers a myriad of benefits to the body. It is the man-made or the synthetic version of folate, which can be found in a lot of fortified foods and supplements. The term folic is derived from folium, which is the Latin word for leaf and is an appropriate term for it since it can be found in most leafy vegetables. Here are some of the benefits that folic acid offers.
Folic acid is known to be an excellent vitamin which could promote the healthy production of red blood cells. This is important in preventing anemia and other diseases of the blood.
In pregnant women, an adequate intake of folic acid is important to significantly reduce the risk of the fetus developing neural tube defects such as spina bifida as well as the risk of anencephaly, which is a condition wherein the baby’s brain does not develop. It also prevent heart problems and premature births. As a matter of fact, folic acid has been used by pregnant women since the 1930s. It can also help in the proper growth and development of the other organs of the baby, which is why most doctors recommend women who are already pregnant or are planning to get pregnant to eat more foods which are rich in folic acid or to take a folic acid supplement. Women who are planning to get pregnant or are already pregnant should take about 600 micrograms of folic acid, while breastfeeding women should also take 500 micrograms of folic acid every day.
There have also been studies which suggest that folic acid could prevent cancer, particularly colorectal, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancer.
This vitamin can also relax the blood vessels, which help in lowering blood pressure. Through maintaining a health blood pressure, various cardiovascular diseases could also be prevented, including stroke and heart disease.
Folic acid can also reduce or delay the signs of aging through sharpening the memory and enhancing mental acuity. There have also been some data which suggest the vitamin could help in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
The vitamin can also help in the regulation of mood, especially if it is taken with the other B complex vitamins. This is because there have been studies which suggest it can efficiently reduce the levels of homocysteine, a hormone that is found in high levels in individuals suffering from depression.
You could increase your intake of folic acid through consuming foods which are high in it. Some examples of foods which are excellent sources of folic acid would include: green leafy vegetables such as spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, lettuce and peas; fruits such as papaya, kiwi fruit, avocadoes and oranges; tomato juice; grains; liver; egg noodles; peanuts; soymilk; fresh milk; wholemeal and white bread; wheat germ; and beans.
You could also eat foods which have been fortified with folic acid. The vitamin is usually added to some breads, cereals and flours. Check if a product that you are buying has it by reading the nutritional label.
There are also plenty of health product and supplement stores which sell a variety of folic acid supplements that you could take whether you are or are not pregnant. However, make sure that you would be buying a supplement with the right amount of folic acid to ensure you would be getting the amount your body needs. Also, always remember that taking a folic acid supplement is just one step to achieve better health. You would also need to eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly while avoiding bad lifestyle habits.
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