What Does Folate Do?
A folate-rich diet is essential to good health
Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that occurs naturally in leafy dark green vegetables, citrus fruits, liver, broccoli, beans, peas, eggs, and many other foods. Folate is also known as folic acid, folacin, and vitamin B9. (Its scientific name is pteroylglutamic acid.)
The terms folate and folic acid are often used interchangeably, though they are different. Folic acid is a man-made form of this vitamin and is actually easier for the body to absorb and use. Folic acid is in fortified grain-based cereals and breads. Supplements are available in tablet and powder form in pharmacies and health food stores. Most multivitamins contain folic acid.
Folate helps produce and maintain new cells, which is particularly crucial during periods of rapid cell division and growth such as infancy and pregnancy. Folate is needed to make DNA and RNA, the building blocks of cells. It also helps prevent changes to DNA that may lead to cancer. Both adults and children need folate to make normal red blood cells and prevent anemia. Folate is also essential for the metabolism of homocysteine, and it helps maintain normal levels of this amino acid.
In the United States, the current recommended dietary value of folic acid is 400 micrograms (mcg or µg) per day for adults (anyone 19 or older), 500 mcg per day for women who are lactating, and 600 mcg per day for those who are pregnant.