Folate and Folic Acid for Kids: The Healthy Start a Child Deserves
- Folate is a B vitamin that helps your child’s body develop correctly and gives them energy.
- Kids need folate from before birth through their early development and all the way into adulthood.
- Folate is found in many whole foods as well as fortified foods that children like.
- Like folic acid for kids, folate also comes in supplement form, which is useful for picky eaters and children who don’t have much appetite.
We know your child’s healthcare is important, and to take care of it, it’s important to know what they need. Folate and folic acid for kids is a topic that isn’t given enough attention, especially considering how serious the effects of a deficiency are.
Can your little one get enough folate from food? If not, do vitamin supplements help? Let’s look at what folic acid is, how it's different from folate, why your child needs it, and how you can boost their daily dose.
What Is Folic Acid (or Folate)?
Folic acid is one of the B vitamins — vitamin B9 to be precise — and an important nutrient. In its natural state, it’s known as folate and is found in many fruits and vegetables. Folic acid is the synthetic version that’s added to supplements or fortified foods. Folic acid is more heat stable. While that may be handy if you’re going to cook with a fortified food like flour, natural folate is usually the better option.
Folate is much more easily converted in your gut to the form of vitamin B9 that your body needs, and it’s then readily absorbed and used. Your body needs to work harder to convert folic acid to a form your body can use, so it takes more energy and time.
There’s also another risk with folic acid. Around 40% of people have a gene mutation called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). That means they don’t have enough of the enzyme that’s needed to convert folic acid to an active form. Then, unmetabolized folic acid can build up in the body and cause health issues you really don’t need.
Even if your body can convert folic acid, too much isn’t good for you. It can cause side effects like accelerated mental decline in old adults and slower brain development in children.
All things considered, while people sometimes use the two terms interchangeably, natural folate is the safer option. Check the ingredients list before you buy supplements.
Benefits of Folate for Kids
Your growing child needs folate throughout the different stages of their development — and beyond. Let’s explore the many benefits of folate for kids.
Your child’s need for folate begins before birth. If you don’t get enough folate during pregnancy, you run the slight risk of your baby developing serious birth defects like a spina bifida (a neural tube defect that affects the spinal cord) or a cleft lip or palate.
For both these conditions, medical intervention is needed shortly after birth. No one wants their baby to suffer through that. Why take the risk?
To avoid birth defects, your baby needs folate during the first three to four weeks of your pregnancy — which may be before you know that you’re pregnant. So it’s a very good idea for all women of childbearing age to supplement with folate, whether they’re planning a pregnancy or not.
And because your baby uses a lot of folate while you’re pregnant, as a mother, you’re at risk of developing folic acid deficiency anemia. This can lead to symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and lightheadedness. You certainly don’t need that when you already have so much to deal with.
The Early Years
More than folic acid for kids, folate is a safe, important way to help cell and tissue growth as well as the synthesis and repair of DNA and RNA — all processes their little body is very busy with throughout childhood. Folate supports the development of their brain, as well as their digestive, nervous, and immune systems.
Kids need folate to make red blood cells too. So if your little one has a folate deficiency, they may suffer from a shortage of red blood cells — a condition known as folic acid deficiency anemia. Because red blood cells move oxygen and energy around the body, your child could struggle with low energy or shortness of breath. They may also develop diarrhea, lose their appetite, or complain of a sore tummy or sore eyes.
Folate for kids also supports their metabolism, converting the food they eat into energy so they can climb trees or play ball with their friends.
There is even evidence to show that folic acid may boost your child’s language skills. And later on, it may reduce the risk of strokes and other cardiovascular diseases.
How Much Folate Your Growing Child Needs
Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) of folate are measured in micrograms (or mcg of folic acid) and vary according to your child’s age:
- Babies 0-6 months: 65 micrograms
- Babies 6-12 months: 80 micrograms
- Children 1-3 years: 150 micrograms
- Children 4-8 years: 200 micrograms
- Children 9-13 years: 300 micrograms
- Children over 13 years: 400 micrograms
On the adult side, most women (and men) need 400 micrograms of folate. As we’ve discussed though, pregnant and breastfeeding women need more:
- Pregnant women: 600 micrograms (or 1000 micrograms if you have twins)
- Breastfeeding women: 500 micrograms
How to Get More Folate Into Your Child’s Diet
A great place to get started is to increase your child’s folate intake through their food. These foods are good natural sources of folate for kids:
- Orange juice
- Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale
- Egg yolks
- Green peas
- Wheat germ
Fortified foods like bread, breakfast cereal, and pasta are also good sources of folate for kids. This is a good thing as many kids love a good PB&J sandwich, crunchy cereal, or mac and cheese. If you buy fortified foods though, just be aware that they may have a lot of sugar — check the ingredients list carefully.
Why Would My Kid Need a Folate Supplement?
Even if you eat many of the foods listed above, as an expectant or new mother, getting your daily dose of folate from food can be a challenge. You’d need to eat three cups of cooked rice, more than two cups of boiled spinach, or three cups of boiled black-eyed peas. Not to mention that if your digestive system isn’t quite up to par, you may not absorb all the folate you get from food.
And moving on to your little one, especially if they’re a picky eater, getting enough folate through foods can be an equal — if not greater — challenge. Cut up veggies and serve them with a healthy dip like guacamole, blend up a delicious soup, make mini-wraps using beans and avocados, or freeze orange juice into healthy and refreshing ice lollies.
Tempting snacks for your child can go a long way but sometimes they’re not enough. In which case, a dietary supplement that includes folate can be very useful.
If you choose a multivitamin, read the label carefully to make sure you’re getting a decent dose of folate (which may also be listed as folacin or vitamin B9), as well as other important nutrients.
For example, Llama Naturals Plant-Based Multivitamin Gummies for Kids contain 13 essential plant-based vitamins — including natural folate — sourced from real fruit and veggies, which are slow-cooked to preserve the nutrients. They’re organic, strawberry-flavored and suitable for kids of two years and up.
Llama Naturals gummies are free of added sugar, artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, and preservatives, giving your little one all-natural goodness without any nasty additives. They’re available for kids and adults, and, best of all, kids absolutely love them.
Look for Folate, Not Folic Acid for Kids for a Healthy Start
Rather than folic acid for kids, folate for kids is important from before birth, right through their early years, and into adulthood. It helps their little bodies and brains to develop properly and gives them the energy to do all the things kids love, from playing tag to playing hide-and-seek.
Folate-rich foods are an important part of the equation and a good place to start. Supplementation is equally important though, especially if your little one is a picky eater or just doesn’t have much appetite. Choose a high-quality folate acid for kids from a brand you can rely on to keep your child healthy, happy, and full of beans — or gummies, as the case may be.
Llama Naturals is a plant-based nutrition brand that has created the World's First Whole Fruit Gummy Vitamins that are made with no added sugar and whole-food vitamins. They are USDA Organic, Vegan, Gluten Free, free of common allergens, and are slow-cooked on low heat to retain rich phytonutrients & fruit flavor. It’s a win-win gummy vitamin that you and the family will love.