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Getting Enough Folic Acid

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Do some women need more folic acid? continued...

It can be hard for women to get extra folic acid from food. So experts say that all women who are able to get pregnant should take a daily supplement that has 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid.3

Some women need even higher doses.

  • Women who are pregnant with twins or more should take 1000 mcg a day.4
  • Women who have a family history of neural tube defects, who have already had a baby with a neural tube defect, or who are on medicines for seizures should take 4000 mcg a day. 5

Follow your doctor's advice about how to get higher amounts of folic acid. Don't just take more multivitamins. You could get too much of the other substances that are in the multivitamin.

What if you're not planning to get pregnant right now, or ever?

Even if you aren't planning to get pregnant, your doctor may recommend a daily supplement.

Many pregnancies aren't planned. And the birth defects that folic acid can prevent start to form in the first 6 weeks of pregnancy. This is often before a woman even knows she's pregnant.

So you can see why getting enough daily folic acid—even before you get pregnant—is so important. If you are pregnant and you have not been taking a vitamin containing folic acid, begin taking it right away.

What foods contain folic acid?

Foods high in folate include liver, citrus fruits, dark greens like spinach, and fortified breakfast cereals and breads. Read food labels to see how much folate the food contains.

Estimates of folic acid in certain foods6
Food Serving size Folic acid amount

Fortified (with 100% of daily requirement) breakfast cereal

1 cup

400 mcg or more

Spinach, cooked

1 cup

230 mcg

Beef liver, cooked

3 oz

215 mcg

Frozen peas, boiled

1 cup

94 mcg

Asparagus, boiled

4 spears

89 mcg

Enriched white rice, cooked

1 cup

154 mcg

Frozen broccoli, cooked

1 cup

168 mcg

Strawberries

1 cup

40 mcg

Orange

1 small

39 mcg

Lentils, cooked

1 cup

358 mcg

Enriched macaroni, cooked

1 cup

167 mcg

Folic acid tips

  • Breads, breakfast cereals, and pasta are often fortified with folic acid. Read labels for the folic acid amount.
  • Eat vegetables raw or lightly steamed. Cooking may destroy some of the folic acid found in food.
  • Multivitamins often contain folic acid.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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