The debate between folate and folic acid is a popular one. They are both actually different despite their similar sounding names. During pregnancy, have you ever had to decide between folate vs folic acid and which had more health benefits? The truth is that they both are very important during pregnancy in both supporting the fetus’s growth and development in utero and preventing any neuro or birth defects.
Folate vs folic acid: What’s the difference?
Although Folate and folic acid are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. The key difference is that folate and folic acid are natural and synthetic forms of vitamins respectively.
What is Folate?
Have you ever heard of the term B-9 in reference to vitamins? Folate is the natural form of B-vitamins popularly known as B-9. Since it is natural, Folate can be found in foods such as spinach, asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, lentils and liver. Beans are a rich source of folate including garbanzo beans, pinto beans and navy beans. Does this explain why your gynecologist keeps urging you to take green leafy vegetables and lentils?
So, what are the benefits of Folate?
- Facilitates the development of red blood cells
- Aids in preventing neural tube defects for newborn babies.
- Beneficial to the nervous system.
- Important during conception: affects ovarian function and implantation.
If your goal in pregnancy is to be as natural as possible, then reach for the Folate-rich foods.
Cons of Folate:
The only con of Folate is that not as easily absorbed into the body as Folic acid. In addition, sometimes in pregnancy, it’s difficult to keep things down as many pregnant women suffer from nausea and hyperemesis gravidarum. This makes it difficult for pregnant women to take the recommended amount of dietary folate.
If you fall into this group, don’t worry because you can’t stand the sight of black beans. You can opt for folic acid.
What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid, on the other hand, is a dietary supplement. Unlike Folate which is natural, Folic acid is a vitamin or supplement.
Benefits of Folic Acid
WebMD defines folic acid as the superhero of pregnancy. Why? Folic acid is essential in preventing neural birth defects. According to the CDC, taking 400mg of folic acid particularly in the first weeks of pregnancy helps in preventing defects in a baby’s brain (anencephaly) and spine (spina bifida). Folic acid is considered the super supplement as it aids in development of new cells.
The human body develops new cells each day even when not pregnant. To stress on the importance of folic acid, the CDC recommends that women-pregnant or not- should take a folic acid supplement or cereal fortified with folic acid daily. Even when not pregnant, folic acid is beneficial to your hair, skin and nails. Remember it aids cell developments?
However when pregnant, folic acid is critical in ensuring your baby doesn’t have neural birth defects.
Any con of folic acid?
Pregnancies vary and while some pregnant women can’t stand black beans, others get nausea from taking supplements. If you are getting nausea from folic acid, that means the supplements is not being absorbed. Talk to your doctor about switching the brand or from the synthetic to natural B-9.
So what’s the best: Folate vs folic acid?
At the end of the day, the choice between Folate vs Folic acid depends on your pregnancy’s orientation towards natural stuff or synthetic.
If you are looking for natural vitamins, grab folate-rich foods. Otherwise, Folic acid just works as well.