What’s the Difference Between Folic Acid and Folate?

What’s the Difference Between Folic Acid and Folate?

When hunting for the perfect prenatal vitamin there are several elements to consider, of course, but one of the most crucial ingredients your prenatal needs is folate. You may have read some labels with “folic acid” on the ingredient list; it’s important to keep in mind that folate and folic acid are not one in the same. To break down the difference, we checked in with Dr. Caitlin O’Connor, a Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in holistic treatment for women and children, for her take. 

What is the difference between folate and folic acid?

Folate refers to the water soluble vitamin “in its natural or methylated form, which is most bioavailable,” Dr. O’Connor says. Folic acid is the “synthetic version which requires processing by the body to become active and available.”

Why is folate preferable to folic acid?

 While you might think, “no biggie, my body can process folic acid for me,” you may be surprised to learn that up to 60 percent of women are unable to effectively convert folic acid which can lead to neural tube defects in pregnancy. That’s why at Perelel we use methylated folate which, unlike folic acid, is easily converted by the body for absorption. Not only do we use folate in our Core Prenatal, but also we add more before conception and during your first trimester when your body needs it most.

What are the benefits of folate?

“Folate is most well known for the prevention of neural tube defects and other midline birth defects. However, there is also evidence that it may help promote optimal fertilization and implantation. Additionally, folate may be beneficial to maternal mood. Anyone planning to get pregnant should take folate for at least three months prior to conception and continue through the postpartum period,” Dr. O’Connor suggests. 

How can you incorporate folate into your diet?

To incorporate folate into your diet, reach for leafy green vegetables, Brussels sprouts, legumes, asparagus, eggs, beets, and nuts and seeds.1  We love this recipe for folate-rich pesto spinach turkey burgers

How much folate should you take during pregnancy?

“Some folks may get enough folate from their diet, but some folks may have a higher need that is hard to meet with food alone depending on genetics. Folate is primarily found in vegetables and since only one in 10 Americans get their daily recommended vegetable dose2 it stands to reason that folate insufficiency is common,” Dr. O’Connor advises.

To supplement, “the recommended dose of folate is 700 mcg although some individuals may benefit from taking up to 4,000 mcg, especially if there is a history of neural tube defects.” 

Any other ingredient questions you’d like our experts to tackle? Tell us by joining our Perelel community on social or by subscribing to our newsletter.

1 "15 Healthy Foods That Are High in Folate (Folic Acid) - Healthline." 26 Feb. 2020. Accessed 29 Jun. 2021.

"Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables | CDC Online ...." Accessed 29 Jun. 2021.

Written by Jessica Lopez. Jessica Lopez is a freelance writer, digital content creator, and new mother. She has covered all lifestyle topics ranging from bridal to beauty for publications including Brides Magazine, Byrdie, THE/THIRTY, and more. Walking wide-eyed into motherhood has inspired her to connect with other parents through her writing and shared experience. You can follow more of her journey @Jessica.H.Lopez.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.