Women of childbearing age (typically ages 11 to 49) need an extra 400 to 800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid is found in vitamins and foods like breakfast cereal or bread that have folic acid added.
Why is folic acid important?
Everyone needs folic acid, but it’s especially important for women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant. Folic acid is a vitamin that can prevent birth defects.
Getting enough folic acid is important even when you aren’t planning to get pregnant. It’s needed during the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she’s pregnant.
Talk with your doctor about folic acid.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your doctor can help you figure out how much folic acid is right for you. You may need more than 400 mcg folic acid if you have a health condition or are taking certain medicines.
How can I get enough folic acid?
Getting enough folic acid every day is easy. You can eat foods like breakfast cereal or bread that have folic acid added. Or you can take a vitamin with folic acid.
Look for breakfast cereal with folic acid.
Check the Nutrition Facts label on the side of the box to see how much folic acid the cereal has. Choose cereal that has 100% DV (Daily Value) of folic acid. Use this list to find cereals with folic acid.
Take a vitamin with folic acid.
You can take a multivitamin or a small pill that has only folic acid. Vitamins and folic acid pills can be found at most pharmacies and grocery stores. Get tips for choosing a vitamin with folic acid.
It’s easy to get the folic acid you need. Just eat a bowl of cereal with 100% DV of folic acid – or take a vitamin – every day.
Check the label.
When you are at the grocery store, look for foods with folic acid in them. Choose cereal that has 100% DV of folic acid.
Folic acid is also in foods like enriched breads, pastas, and other foods made with grains. Check the Nutrition Facts label.
If you buy vitamins, be sure to check the label for folic acid. This label shows a vitamin with 100% DV of folic acid.
If you take a vitamin, make it easy to remember.
- Take it at the same time every day. For example, take it when you brush your teeth in the morning or when you eat breakfast.
- Leave the vitamin bottle somewhere you will notice it every day, like on the kitchen counter.
Eating healthy means getting plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and foods with protein. A healthy diet also includes foods with folate (a different type of folic acid).
In addition to eating cereal that has 100% DV of folic acid or taking a vitamin, it’s important for women to eat foods with folate, such as:
- Spinach and other leafy greens
- Oranges and orange juice
- Beans and peas
- Check out this fact sheet on folic acid [PDF - 612 KB].
- Tell a friend how important it is to get enough folic acid, especially if she might get pregnant some day.
- Try one of these cereals with 100% DV of folic acid per serving.