Folate and folic acid are forms of a water-soluble B vitamin. Folate occurs naturally in food, and folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin. Since 1998, folic acid has been added to cold cereals, flour, bread, pasta, bakery items, cookies, and crackers, as required by federal law. Foods that are naturally high in folate include leafy vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, and lettuce), okra, asparagus, fruits (such as bananas, melons, and lemons) beans, yeast, mushrooms, meat (such as beef liver and kidney), orange juice, and tomato juice.
Folic acid is used for preventing and treating low blood levels of folate (folate deficiency) and high blood levels of homocysteine (hyperhomocysteinemia). Women who are pregnant or might become pregnant take folic acid to prevent miscarriage and “neural tube defects.” These are serious birth defects such as spina bifida, when the fetal spine and back do not close in the womb. Folic acid is also used for many other conditions including depression, stroke, the decline in memory and thinking skills in older people that is more than what is normal for their age, and many others.
Folic acid is often used in combination with other B vitamins.