(CNN) - January is folic acid awareness month, and although it may sound a little dangerous, folic acid is an essential ingredient for our bodies, especially for women of childbearing age. That's because folic acid can, among other things, help prevent some major birth defects.
Folic acid is also known as vitamin B9. Our bodies use it to make new cells. And although everyone needs folic acid, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges all childbearing age women to take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, starting at least one month before getting pregnant, to help prevent major birth defects of the baby's brain and spine.
Because folic acid creates new healthy cells, it's also essential for our hair, skin and nails to grow. These are all parts of the body that make new cells every day.
Nutritionists say there are two easy ways to make sure you get enough folic acid each day.
The first is through diet by eating lots of dark, leafy greens, like spinach or broccoli. Enjoy citrus fruit or add beans, peas or lentils to your meal. All are high in folic acid. And look for breakfast cereals that have 100 percent of the daily value of folic acid. Not all cereals have that amount, so check the labels.
If you can't get these items into your diet, take a vitamin that has folic acid in it every day.
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