What You Need to Know About Folate vs. Folic Acid: How Do They Differ?


If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, folic acid is one nutrient you want to make sure you’re getting enough of. But what is the difference between folate and folic acid? And which form is better for you? Join us as we answer those questions and more. We’ll also discuss how much folate vs. folic acid you need during pregnancy, and share some other vitamins and nutrients important to mom and baby as well.

What Is Folate?

Folate is a water-soluble vitamin that belongs to the B-vitamin family. It is found naturally in many foods, including leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Folate is important for many bodily functions, including cell growth and DNA synthesis. It also plays a role in the formation of red blood cells and the prevention of neural tube defects (NTDs).

What Is Folic Acid?

Folate is also added to some foods and supplements in the form of folic acid. Therefore, folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. It is not found naturally in food but is added to fortified foods and supplements. The body converts folic acid into folate before it can be used.

How Much Folate vs. Folic Acid Do You Need During Pregnancy?

The recommended daily amount (RDA) of folate for pregnant women is 600 micrograms (mcg). This RDA applies to both natural and synthetic forms of folate. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that all women who are capable of becoming pregnant should take a daily supplement that contains 400 mcg of folic acid. This is in addition to eating a diet that includes folate-rich foods.

Why Is Folic Acid Important During Pregnancy?

Folic acid is important during pregnancy because it helps prevent certain birth defects, including NTDs. These defects occur in the early weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Folic acid helps prevent NTDs by reducing the risk of neural tube defects by 50 to 70%.

The benefits of folic acid in utero go beyond neural tube defect prevention. Folic acid has also been shown to improve pregnancy outcomes, including reducing the risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight. Additionally, folic acid supplementation has been linked to a reduced risk of preeclampsia and placental abruption.

How Can You Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Folic Acid?

The best way to make sure you’re getting enough folate is to eat a diet that includes folate-rich foods and take a daily supplement that contains folic acid. Some foods, such as breakfast cereals, bread, and pasta, are fortified with folic acid. You can also find supplements that contain both folate and folic acid.

What is 5MTHF Folate?

5MTHR Folate is the natural form of folate found in food and supplements. It is also known as methyltetrahydrofolate or methyl-folate. This natural folate can be more easily absorbed by the body than a generalized folic acid supplement. Therefore, it is another choice for pregnant women and is available in both food and supplement forms.

What Foods Are Good Sources of Folate?

Folate is found naturally in many foods, including leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fortified foods. Here are some good examples of folate sources you can consume naturally:

  • Spinach: One cup of cooked spinach provides 262 mcg of folate or 87% of the RDA.
  • Black-eyed peas: One cup of cooked black-eyed peas provides 358 mcg of folate or 119% of the RDA.
  • Fortified breakfast cereal: One cup of fortified breakfast cereal provides 100-400 mcg of folic acid or 25-100% of the RDA.
  • Nuts and seeds: One ounce of nuts provides 50-100 mcg of folate or 17-33% of the RDA.

Wrapping Up: Other Important Vitamins During Pregnancy

Folic acid is just one of the many important vitamins and nutrients you need during pregnancy. Protein is also an essential nutrient during pregnancy that helps the body build and maintain muscle tissue. It is also necessary for the production of enzymes and hormones. Here are some others:

  1. Vitamin A is a nutrient that is important for vision, the immune system, and cell growth. It also helps maintain healthy skin and mucous membranes.
  2. Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerves and blood cells healthy. It also helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells.
  3. Vitamin C is a nutrient that helps the body absorb iron and maintain healthy skin, bones, and connective tissue.
  4. Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus. It also helps maintain healthy bones and teeth.
  5. Vitamin E is a nutrient that helps keep the immune system strong. It also acts as an antioxidant, which means it helps protect cells from damage.

You can get most of the vitamins you need during pregnancy from food. However, you may need to take a supplement if you have certain medical conditions or don’t eat enough nutrient-rich foods. Be sure to talk to your doctor about which vitamins you need and how much to take.