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Why Folic Acid?

The Ministry of Health recommends that ALL women who could become pregnant should eat a healthy, folate-rich diet and take a daily vitamin supplement containing 0.4 mg of folic acid.

Folic Acid is a B vitamin that is essential for the healthy development of an unborn baby’s spine, brain and skull. Folic Acid can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects (spina bifida, anencephaly) by as much as 70%.

Folic Acid is the synthetic version of Folate which is found naturally in foods. Most diets do not meet the required amounts of folate necessary to prevent neural tube defects.

Therefore, it is recommended that women planning a pregnancy or in the early stages of a pregnancy take a vitamin supplement with 0.4 mg of a folic acid. Most of these women are informed of this requirement.

However, even in our modern times, approximately 50% of all pregnancies are not planned. It is therefore recommended that all women of childbearing age that could become pregnant (sexually active) also take a vitamin supplement containing 0.4 mg of folic acid

How do we get the message out there? The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is promoting awareness of folic acid supplements through information tear offs handed out with oral contraception prescriptions. All pharmacists in Haldimand and Norfolk have been given the folic acid facts tear off sheets to distribute over the next 3 months to all women picking up birth control prescriptions.

The tear off contains the facts:

  • If you could become pregnant, folic acid, a B vitamin, may help to protect your unborn baby against birth defects of the spine and brain.
  • All women of childbearing age need folic acid every day.
  • Choose foods rich in folic acid daily.
  • Take 0.4 mg folic acid supplement every day. Your pharmacist can advise you on your best choice.

On the back of the tear off is a list of foods rich in folate. The following table provides a list of possible sources of folate.

Folate Sources:

Excellent Sources Good Sources
Asparagus, cooked, 4 spears Avocado, 1/4 fruit
Baked beans with port, 2/3 cup Beansprouts, stire-fried, 1/2 cup
Beechnuts, 1/4 cup Beets, cooked, 1/2 cup
Belgian Endive (witloof), raw, 1 head Boysenberries, 1/2 cup
Black Beans, cooked, 1/2 cup Bran breakfast cereals, 30 g
Broadbeans (fava), cooked, 1/2 cup Broccoli, cooked, 1/2 cup
Brussels sprouts, cooked, 1/2 cup Casab, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, 1/10 fruit
Chestnuts, roasted, 10 Cauliflower, cooked, 1/2 cup
Collards, frozen, cooked, 1/2 cup Chinese cabbage (pak-choi, pe-tsai), cooked, 1/2 cup
Greens of turnip, mustard, chicory (not beet) cooked, 1/2 cup Corn, sweet, canned, 1/2 cup
Kidney beans, cooked, 1/2 cup Eggs, cooked in shell, 1 large
Lentils, cooked, 1/2 cup Filberts, hazelnuts, whole, 1/3 cup
Lima beans, cooked, 1/2 cup Lettuce, romaine, escarole
Peanuts, 1/4 cup Orange, 1 med.
Pinto beans, cooked, 1/2 cup Orange juice, fresh or frozen, 1/2 cup
Soy flour, low fat, 1/4 cup Parsnips, cooked, 1/2 cup
Soybeans, cooked, 1/2 cup Peanut butter, 2 tbsp.
Sunflower seed butter, 2 tbsp Peas, cooked, 1/2 cup
Sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup Plantain, 1 fruit
Spinach, cooked, 1/2 cup, raw, 1 cup Tahini (sesame butter), 2 tbsp
Wheat germ, toasted or raw, 30 g or 1/4 cup Walnuts, halves, 1/2 cup
Yeast, brewer’s or baker’s dry, 1 tsp
  1. Excellent source. Foods contain .055 mg or more of folate.
  2. Good source. Foods contain .033 – .054 mg folate.

Note: 1 tsp – 5 ml 1 tbsp = 15 ml 1/2 cup = 125 ml
Reference: Health and Welfare Canada, 1993

If you would like more information on Folic Acid supplementation, contact your pharmacist, doctor or local Health Unit.