Folic Acid is a Vitamin from the B group that is needed for healthy growth and development. While everyone needs Folic Acid it is especially important for women of childbearing age, particularly those planning a pregnancy. Folic Acid enables the healthy development of babies in early pregnancy and significantly reduces the risk of certain abnormalities called neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
Women are recommended to take folic acid supplements (0.4 milligrams) for at least one month before becoming pregnant and for the first three months of pregnancy. If there is a family history of neural tube defects then women should check with their doctor before becoming pregnant, as they may need a higher dose.
It is important for women to also eat foods that have folate added (some breakfast cereals, breads and juices) or are naturally rich in folate (leafy green vegetables, chickpeas, nuts, orange juice and some fruits). You can always check the product information panel on the package to find out how much folic acid is present. The US and Canada have had mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid since 1998 and have found it effective in reducing neural tube defects.
In September 2009, it became a legal requirement in Australia that all bread-making flour, except organic flour, contain added folic acid. As a result, your bread now contains added folic acid. Three slices of bread (100g) contains an average of 120 micrograms of folic acid. This is a Government initiative that acts as a safety net for women to help protect their babies against neural tube defects.
For further information:
Food Standards Australia New Zealand – Folic acid/Folate and pregnancy
First Published 29/8/12