We all need folic acid every day to help our bodies make new cells - new cells for our skin, our hair, our nails and of of course all the other parties of our body. Folic acid is a type of vitamin B – it is very essential to us all to lead a healthy life.
Most people become aware of the benefits of folic acid only when a woman in their family is pregnant because folic acid and a healthy pregnancy go together and these days new moms-to-be are well educated on the importance of folic acid.
It is a great energy booster and also increases the production of the red blood cells. Food that is rich in folic acid provides adequate amounts of folic acid to counteract our vitamin deficiencies and the problems related to it. With no side effects, folic acids is a particularly safe substance to consume for health benefits in pregnancy. Important in the metabolism of protein and the prevention of anemia, folic acid is very essential for pregnant women to prevent many severe medical conditions including spina bifida or split spine, which is a severe spinal chord disease found in infants.
Foods rich in folic acid are found in 4 of the main food groups
Meat – liver, chicken giblets, kidney and egg yolk.
Legumes – dried beans, lentils, split peas, soya products, almonds and other nuts.
Starches – wholegrain breads, wheat flour, potatoes and sweet potato.
Fruit and Vegetables – spinach, beetroot, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, banana, oranges and peaches.
Important points to remember about folic acid
- Fruit and vegetables should be eaten raw as much as possible as cooking can destroy folic acid.
- Avoid alcohol in your diet as it can lead to a folic acid deficiency.
- Pregnant women have much higher requirements for folic acid and should take folic acid supplements from the very beginning of their pregnancy and before becoming pregnant if planning to do so.
- Unless you are pregnant or thinking of having a baby, you should be able to get all the folic acid you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.
The symptoms of a folic acid deficiency include
- Poor growth.
- A smooth, red and painful tongue.
- Stomach and intestinal problems such as diarrheea or constipation.
- Poor or no appetite.
- Fatigue and tiredness.
Apart from being so important during pregnancy for preventing birth defects as well significantly maintaining the health of the mother and lowering the rate of recurring miscarriages, there are many benefits for us all.
General health benefits
- Blood heath - folic acid regulates and increases the production of the red blood cells to prevent anemia - folic acid also stabilizes and regulates blood pressure levels by relaxing the blood vessels so as to reduce the risks of both high and low blood pressure.
- Mental health – folic acid helps retain memory and aids mental agility as we grow older and in addition, it is said that folic acid helps control the temper, while treating depression if taken with other vitamin B complex.
- Increases breast milk.
- Helps prevent Alzheimer's disease.
- Takes care of our skin.
- Improves brain development and functioning.
- Prevents cancer.
- Improves fertility.
- Prevents eye diseases like macular degeneration.
Several situations and conditions - such as alcohol abuse, a diet with poor nutritional value, liver disease, problems in digestive tract, kidney disease and the incorrect medication being prescribed - can result in a folic acid or B9 vitamin deficiency.
To make sure you are not the victim of such a deficiency, keep a check on your folic acid levels while consuming foods rich in folic acid in sufficient quantities to guard against such problems.