Lifestyle: Nutrition

Folic Acid or Folate? Which is Best for a Prenatal?

Folic Acid VS FolateFolic Acid VS Folate

If you’re confused about which form of folate to look for in your prenatal vitamin, you’re not alone. It can be hard to know the differences between forms of vitamins and what that can mean for your health, and being informed about your options can make your pregnancy choices easier. 

Keep reading to learn more about why folate is important during pregnancy, the differences between folate and folic acid, sources of folate, and why you may want to choose one form of folate over another. 

Why is Folate Important? 

Folate is one of the most well-known nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy. It is a water-soluble vitamin, also known as vitamin B9, that is necessary for both overall health and fetal development. 

Normally, folate is necessary for red blood cell formation and the growth of new cells, and supplementation can support brain and heart health. In pregnancy, folate is also essential for the development of a healthy baby by preventing neural tube defects like spina bifida. 

Folate vs Folic Acid

Folate and folic acid are both forms of vitamin B9, but they are sourced in different ways. 

Folate is the naturally occurring form of vitamin B9, naturally found in a variety of foods. Folic acid, however, is a manmade form of vitamin B9 that is often added to various foods and supplements. 

How much folate do you need during pregnancy? During pregnancy, your folate needs increase significantly to support healthy fetal development and your own health. Current recommendations for folate during pregnancy are 600 mcg of dietary folate equivalents (DFE), compared to 400 mcg of DFE needed daily during adulthood. 

Folic acid is more bioavailable than folate, with every 1 mcg of folic acid equaling 1.7 mcg DFE compared to folate (1 mcg of folate equals 1 mcg DFE). However just because folic acid is generally more bioavailable, it may not mean that your body is able to use it effectively. 

Your Genes and Folate Metabolism 

A percentage of the population has an MTHFR C677T mutation that impacts their ability to metabolize folate but may not know they have it. People with this gene mutation may not be able to process folic acid or certain forms of folate to prevent the buildup of homocysteine, an amino acid, in the body. 

Methylfolate, the active form of folate, can be used more easily in the body by people with the MTHFR gene compared to folic acid. This form of folate is naturally found in leafy greens and other vegetables. 

Food Sources of Folate 

The easiest way to remember where you can find folate in your diet is to think of the word “foliage.” Some well-known sources of folate include spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale, and asparagus. 

However, that’s not the only place where you can naturally find folate – foods like beef liver, black-eyed peas, avocado, and kidney beans are natural sources of folate. 

Starting in the late 90s, countries including the United States began to fortify cereal grains and foods such as bread, pasta, rice, and flour with folic acid to help reduce neural tube defect risks worldwide. 

Why Garden of Life Uses Folate 

Folic acid may be more bioavailable than normal dietary folate, but there are advantages to choosing prenatal vitamins made with folate. 

Our prenatal vitamins have 800 mcg DFE (133% DV) of folate to make sure that you’re still getting all of the folate you need for a healthy pregnancy. 

Over-supplementing with folic acid can also be an issue if you don’t have adequate B12 levels in your blood. Excessive folic acid can interfere with vitamin B12 metabolism. The use of other forms of folate like methylfolate appears to protect against some of the risk factors associated with folic acid supplementation. 

We also strive to provide the nutrients that you need from real whole foods, not synthetic vitamins. 

Folic Acid or Folate - Bottom Line 

Nutrition is of the utmost importance for mamas-to-be before, during, and after pregnancy to support healthy fetal and child development. Regularly getting natural sources of folate in your diet can help make sure that your nutrient intake is adequate to prevent complications like neural tube defects, but a prenatal supplement can help fill in any dietary gaps. 

Garden of Life’s mykind Organics Prenatal Once Daily Tablets and Prenatal Multi Tablets are made with 800 mcg DFE folate from a unique organic food blend that is gentle on your stomach. 

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