What it does… folic acid
What is it?
One of the B-vitamins (B9) that is necessary to form red blood cells and, in combination with B12, is essential to help nerves function properly. It’s also vital for the formation of DNA, allowing each cell to replicate perfectly.
What does it do?
Helps prevent neural tube defects: The most common of these is spina bifida. Evidence is overwhelming that folic acid prevents these defects.
How do I get it?
Eat: Good sources of folic acid (or folate as it’s called in foods) include green leafy veg, beans and legumes, yeast and beef extracts, wholegrains, poultry, pork, shellfish and liver, and fortified foods, such as some breakfast cereals.
Take: Government guidelines recommend that all women who are planning a pregnancy should take 400mcg daily from before conception up to the 12th week of pregnancy. Combine this with vitamin B12 to ensure effective take-up.
Be careful if…
You’re aged over 50 – avoid folic acid supplements containing more than 200mcg a day as this could mask the nerve damage caused by vitamin B12 deficiency, which is more common as we age.