In recognition of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, we examine why women in particular should be concerned about getting enough folic acid. Folate is a B-vitamin that is naturally present in many foods. Folic acid, as a form of folate, is used in dietary supplements and fortified foods. All women and teen girls who could become pregnant should consume 400 mcg of folic acid daily from supplements, fortified foods, or both in addition to the folate they get naturally from foods. Women who don't get enough folate are at risk of having babies with neural tube defects, such as spina bifida as well as having a premature or low-birth-weight baby. All people with disorders that lower nutrient absorption such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are at risk for not absorbing enough folic acid from food and often need to supplement. Folate is naturally present in many foods and food companies add folic acid to foods like bread, cereal, and pasta. You can get recommended amounts of folate or folic acid by eating a variety of foods including vegetables such as spinach, mustard greens, asparagus and Brussels sprouts; fruits like oranges; nuts, beans, and peas; and whole grains as well as fortified cold cereals. To find out whether folic acid has been added to a food, check the product label.
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