Folic acid, also called Vitamin B9 and part of the vitamin B family, is an essential part of a healthy diet. Lack of this important vitamin can lead to a lot of problems.

It prevents heart diseases:  Heart diseases are usually linked to high homocysteine levels in the blood, and that is directly linked to folic acid and vitamin B deficiency. Too much homocysteine can cause serious artery damage. It is also essential for the formation of red and white blood cells as well as necessary for a healthy and safe pregnancy, and even when you are planning to get pregnant. Whether you are already expecting or just planning to get pregnant, you need to take folate rich food or folic acid supplements

What does it do?

Studies have shown that folic acid was able to decrease the risk of the most common NTD (neural tube defects): Spina bifida (the leading cause of childhood paralysis) and Anencephaly (a fatal condition in which an infant is born with a severely underdeveloped brain and skull).

Folic acid also prevents your baby from developing a heart defect and cleft lip (when the two lips cannot touch).

Consult your doctor about how much folic acid you should take before your pregnancy.

A study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions highlighted that taking a folic acid supplement daily before pregnancy may reduce the risk of gestational, or pregnancy-related, diabetes. To reduce the risk of conceiving a child with birth defects, women are encouraged to take a daily supplement containing 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid. The other benefits now are a reduction in the risk of gestational diabetes when the level of blood sugar, or glucose, rises too high. This condition increases a woman’s chances for cesarean delivery and for blood pressure disorders during pregnancy. It also raises the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes later in life. For infants, gestational diabetes increases the risk of large birth size and of obesity during childhood and adulthood.

Hence, taking folic acid supplements before pregnancy might provide a low-cost way to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.

Among the other findings, previous studies have found that insufficient folate is associated with insulin resistance (difficulty using insulin to lower blood glucose), which may precede the development of type 2 diabetes in non-pregnant people.

Where can you get folic acid from?

Folic acid is condensed in green leafy vegetables like parsley, spinach and rocca as well as in lentils, beans and peas in the form of folate. Avocado, asparagus and sunflower seeds are also rich in folic acid.

However, studies show that it is actually better absorbed by the body in supplement form to maximize Vitamin B benefits. Folic acid is vital to the proper functioning of the human body, and so should not be neglected.

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