What Is Folic Acid & What Foods Can I Find It In?

3D-model of Folic acid (src)

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. Folate is a naturally occurring B vitamin.

Folic acid is fully oxidized and used in fortified foods and dietary supplements.

Folic acid converts in the body to folate.

Although most people consume adequate amounts of folate, there are those at risk of insufficient intakes. Mostly women of childbearing age.

Folic acid is required by all human cells, particularly important during the early stages of embryo development. It is also essential for cell division and growth.

Table of Contents

Folic Acid Is A Vitamin B

Folic acid is a member of the vitamin B family. (source )

It helps in the metabolism of amino acids, nucleic acids, and certain drugs. Folic acid also plays a vital role in the synthesis of nucleotides, DNA, and RNA.

Folic acid supplements are taken as a prevention of birth defects.

Taking Folic Acid When Pregnant

Dietary supplementation with folic acid around the time of conception has long been known to reduce the risk of NTD, neural tube defects, in the child.

It has been estimated that the dietary intake of folic acid decreases the risk of NTDs in infants by approximately 70%.

Deficiency is associated with abnormalities in both mother and fetus. (source )

Folic acid deficiency can lead to reduced cell proliferation and increased apoptosis, resulting in embryonic and fetal growth restriction, a congenital heart defect, and birth defects of the nervous system, such as spina bifida.

The first study on the need for folates when pregnant

The earliest evidence for a link between folate and birth defects was observed in a large-scale epidemiologic study conducted in China.

That study found that maternal use of folic acid supplements before conception and during early pregnancy was associated with a lower risk of neural tube defects in the offspring.

Make sure you get enough folic acid

There are many evidence supporting the benefits of folic acid consumption before and during pregnancy.

But many women do not take adequate amounts of folic acid before or during their pregnancies.

There are even less than 25% of women of childbearing age in the United States that are estimated to take folic acid supplements daily.

Differences Between Folic Acid And Folate

Folic acid and folate have the same effects.

In foods

Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate. Folic acid is therefore used in fortification of foods, used in processed foods, and supplements.

While folate is found in whole foods like eggs and leafy vegetables. (source )


Folic acid can nearly be 100% absorbed when consumed as a supplement on an empty stomach.

But the folic acid found in fortified foods only has about 85% absorbability.

While naturally occurring folates have a much lower absorbability than fortified foods. (source )

Foods You Can Find Folic Acid In

You find Folic Acid mostly in spices and herbs, and breakfast cereal.

Examples of food sources include

Foods in our nutrition tool

You can find regularly updated top-ranked lists of foods for over 200+ nutrients in our nutrition tool.

If you are interested in what foods contain the most Folic acid, we recommend you visit our tool.

Here's our top-ranked list of foods that contain Folic Acid.

Sara Niemelä

co-founder Care Omnia, Head Content Creator

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Nutrition is my passion. I've spent thousands upon thousands of hours reading, analyzing, categorizing and comparing research studies.

I’m a wife and a mother of three. I enjoy the outdoors, cooking, and spending time with my family.