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Folic acid (vitamin B9): foods & benefits

Siski Green / 08 November 2021

Folic acid (Vitamin B9) is used for growth & development in the human body. It is often found in green vegetables and fortified foods like cereal and bread.

Folic acid rich spinach on a wooden board
Fortified breakfast cereals and some green vegetables contain vitamin B9

Folic acid – or vitamin B9 – is mostly associated with pregnant women as it’s so important to the foetus’s development, but it’s also crucial for other women’s health too as well as men.

What is folic acid used for and does it really work?

It’s good for your circulation and heart. Folic acid helps prevent the over-production of the amino acid homocysteine in your body – and as homocysteine is involved in heart disease, stroke, blood flow and blood clots, this makes folic acid extremely important in older age.

It also appears to be beneficial to memory. A study published in the Lancet found that taking supplements improved cognitive function in older men and women.

Low levels of folic acid (less than 200mcg per day) are also associated with other illnesses, such as certain cancers (breast and colon, for example). While this doesn’t suggest that increasing your intake will prevent such cancers, it does suggest that maintaining healthy levels is key to overall health.

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What’s the best way to take folic acid?

Many food products have folic acid added – cereals and pasta for example. Check the label to see. It is naturally found in Marmite and other yeast products, green leafy vegetables, dried peas and beans, liver and sunflower seeds. You need around 200mcg per day.

Where can I get folic acid?

Aside from adding more folic-acid-rich foods to your diet, you can look for fortified food products at the supermarket – many will give you your entire RDA in one serving. You can also buy supplements at supermarkets and health shops, as well as online.

What are the side effects or contraindications of taking folic acid?

Before taking vitamin B9 supplements see your GP. Not only can certain medications (antacids, H2 blockers, for eg) reduce levels of folic acid in your body, if you take a supplement without checking whether you are deficient first the supplement might mask your deficiency but not treat all the symptoms that come with it.

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Disclaimer

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.