Q: "How can we get the folic acid we need?"
A: Senior nutritionist Rose Carr responds:
For most adults, the suggested dietary target from the Ministry of Health is 300-600mcg of folate each day. It is thought this level may optimise homocysteine levels and reduce overall chronic disease risk and DNA damage. When last measured in 1997, New Zealanders' mean folate intake was 286mcg for men and 220mcg for women.
For pregnant women or those planning pregnancy, the best advice is still to take a folic acid supplement. The research shows it is more difficult to raise blood concentrations of folate by eating foods naturally high in folate than taking a folic acid supplement.
While foods such as liver, yeast spreads, kidneys, red kidney beans and spinach are very high in folate, foods with useful amounts include broccoli, salad greens, citrus fruits and whole grain breads. Some breakfast cereals and fruit juices have folic acid added. Half a cup of fortified breakfast cereal, a slice of grainy bread, or half a cup of cooked spinach each provide around 25% of our daily needs.