Most vitamins and minerals are known by their individual names and are accepted as standing on their own – like Vitamin A, or Vitamin C. The B vitamins, on the other hand, are mostly referred to by their designated number (B-2, B-6, B-12) and are considered a family. One B vitamin that’s not usually referred to by its number is Folic Acid (although it is also recognized as Vitamin B-9).
Folic Acid, like its fellow B vitamins, contributes to energy metabolism. Folic Acid is probably best known as an important vitamin for women’s health – especially around the time of pregnancy. Healthful diets with adequate folate may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with a neural tube birth defect. Daily consumption of Folic Acid beginning before pregnancy is crucial, because birth defects of the brain and spine can occur in the early weeks following conception, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.
In order to reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects, women can take 400 micrograms of Folic Acid daily starting before pregnancy, and in early pregnancy. This may help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, including spina bifida.
Folic Acid also plays a significant role in the formation of new red blood cells. Principal food sources of folic acid are liver, green leafy vegetables, nuts, asparagus, strawberries and bananas. But a simple, consistent way to make sure you’re getting enough Folic Acid is to take a supplement on a daily basis.