Which folic acid supplement is best?
Dietary supplements are a convenient way to assure the proper amount of key nutrients are being consistently consumed. Folic acid supplements are frequently used to avoid a folate deficiency, which is especially important for anyone who’s pregnant or planning to become pregnant. While there are a wide variety of folic acid supplements on the market, the best choices are tested for purity and safety. For instance, NOW Supplements Folic Acid with Vitamin B-12 is a top choice because the supplement is third-party tested.
What to know before you buy a folic acid supplement
What is folic acid?
Folic acid is essential for forming healthy new cells. Various foods contain folate or have folic acid added to them. Federal law has required folic acid to be added to cold cereals, flour, breads, pasta, bakery items, cookies and crackers since 1998. As a supplement, folic acid is also available to consumers and it’s commonly taken with other B vitamins.
In addition, folate is also naturally occurring in:
- leafy vegetables
- certain fruits
- orange juice
- tomato juice
Folic acid benefits
Folic acid is considered an essential nutrient. Deficiencies in folate or folic acid may cause pregnancy complications. Folate and folic acid are forms of vitamin B9. They’re especially useful for women planning to conceive. Getting enough folic acid before and during pregnancy can prevent serious birth defects in a baby’s brain or spine.
Beyond pregnancy, folic acid is useful for protecting against and treating low folate levels in the blood (folate deficiency) and high levels of homocysteine (hyperhomocysteinemia). Folate acid is also used for treating and preventing anemia, as well as numerous other conditions, including depression, strokes, cognitive decline and more.
Safety and side effects
Folic acid is likely safe when taken orally in appropriate doses. Folate and folic acid are excreted in the urine when they’re consumed in excess.
The use of folic acid orally can cause the following side effects:
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Feeling of nausea
- Appetite loss
- Disturbance of sleep patterns
Folic acid supplements may cause allergic reactions in people with allergies. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
- Rash on the skin
- Itchy skin
- Breathing difficulties
What to look for in a quality folic acid supplement
It’s important to be aware of supplement ingredients, especially when dietary restrictions are involved. Folic acid supplements are available depending on individual needs, including those that are gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, soy-free, yeast-free, sugar-free and sodium-free. There are also folic acid supplements formulated for vegetarians and vegans, as well as organic and kosher supplements. If dietary restrictions are being adhered to, look for the appropriate folic acid supplement formula.
A third-party certified product means that it has been tested by an independent lab that is not involved in the production or sale of the supplement. A third-party independent reviewer verifies that the supplement’s label matches the product and it’s safe for consumption. While there are a number of certification programs for supplements, here are the top three to be aware of: Consumer Lab, NSF International and US Pharmacopeial Convention. Beyond third-party testing, consumers should be aware of Current Good Manufacturing Practices for supplement companies and GMP certified products. A folic acid supplement that displays the GMP certification label has met the FDA standards for good manufacturing practices. As far as safety is concerned, supplements that are third-party certified and GMP certified are best.
Bioavailability is important because it determines the amount of a nutrient that gets absorbed and used by the body. A variety of nutritional supplements contain folic acid, including multivitamins, prenatal vitamins, supplements containing other B-complex vitamins and supplements containing only folic acid.
Supplemental folic acid (in all of the forms listed above) is nearly 100% bioavailable. This bioavailability can be compared with naturally occurring folate in food, which is approximately 80% bioavailable. It should be noted that methylfolate, a reduced form of folate, can also be found in dietary supplements. Supplements containing methylfolate are considered to have the same bioavailability as food.
How much you can expect to spend on a folic acid supplement
The price of a folic acid supplement is dependent on the quantity of tablets and quality of ingredients. Expect to spend $5-$15 on a bottle of folic acid supplements with 250 tablets.
Folic acid supplement FAQ
What’s the difference between folate and folic acid?
A. Folate is a form of vitamin B9 that is considered natural. Folate occurs naturally in foods such as leafy greens or beans. The synthetic form of folate is known as folic acid. Folic acid is commonly used to fortify foods and for dietary supplements because it’s designed to be heat stable. Both folate and folic acid perform similar functions in the body so the terms are commonly interchanged, despite their differences.
What do expecting mothers need to know about prenatal vitamins and folic acid?
A. A prenatal vitamin is a multivitamin designed specifically for mothers to deliver additional, key nutrients during various stages of pregnancy. Since folic acid is so important to the healthy development of a baby, an additional folic acid supplement is recommended if a prenatal vitamin lacks adequate amounts. Double-check the ingredients list of a prenatal vitamin’s formula to assure it’s delivering the recommended amount of folic acid.
What’s the best folic acid supplement to buy?
Top folic acid supplement
What you need to know: A bottle with 250 tablets of folic acid dietary supplements that may contribute to the healthy function of the cardiovascular and nervous systems.
What you’ll love: NOW manufacturing is GMP certified, and their folic acid supplement is kosher, non-GMO and lab tested for stability, potency and formulation.
What you should consider: Some report bloating and stomach cramps after taking an 800mcg dose of folic acid.
Top folic acid supplement for the money
What you need to know: 250 folate tablets that can be taken daily during mealtime by pregnant and nursing mothers after consulting their healthcare practitioner.
What you’ll love: Solgar’s folate dietary supplements are free from gluten, wheat, dairy, soy, yeast, sugar, sodium, artificial flavor, sweetener, preservatives and coloring.
What you should consider: The ingredients include phosphate.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Each bottle contains 250 easy to take tablets recommended for pregnant or nursing mothers after consulting a doctor.
What you’ll love: This folic acid dietary supplement is suitable for vegetarians and is non-GMO with no artificial color, flavor or sweetener.
What you should consider: The 800mg dose may cause stomach discomfort compared to a lower dose.
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Elizabeth Foley writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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