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January 8-14 is considered Folic Acid Awareness Week and is a good time for people to be reminded of the importance of getting some of that vitamin each day. Folic acid is an essential B vitamin, and a lack of it can lead to birth defects. It also serves a variety of functions within the body, and a shortage or absence of it can lead to health problems.
“Folic acid is important to our health, yet many people are not even familiar with what it is or why we need it,” explains Dwayne Adams, registered nurse and creator of the RNHealthCoach.com, an online health and wellness coach directory. “The more people know about it, and where to get it, the more they are able to make a point of including it in their diet. And the health benefits that result speak for themselves.”
Folic acid is considered a fundamental building block in our body. It is used for cell growth and reproduction, and it also helps in the building of DNA. Other health benefits of getting an adequate supply include it helping to protect against heart disease, stroke, and some mental conditions, such as Alzheimer’s Disease.
To help avoid birth defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly, it is important that women get enough folic acid, not only during pregnancy, but for at least a month before becoming pregnant, as well. Those not pregnant can still suffer serious health consequences from not getting enough folic acid, including anemia and irritability.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women need 400 micrograms each day. Getting the recommended daily amount of folic acid can be achieved as easily as taking a multivitamin that contains it, but a full daily supply can also be found in a variety of breakfast cereals, such as Kellogg’s Special K, Kashi Heart to Heart, and General Mills Total Raisin Bran.
A quick scan of the nutritional label will show how much folic acid is found in the cereal per serving. Additionally, some folic acid can be obtained through foods such as spinach, broccoli, black beans, pinto beans, and chickpeas. “Getting enough folic acid is crucial,” adds Adams. “The good news is that it is surprisingly easy to accomplish that each day.”