While it's ideal to get your vitamins and minerals from a healthy diet, that isn't always possible. Both folic acid and zinc are important nutrients needed by the body. For this reason, this vitamin and mineral are often taken together as part of a multivitamin.
Folic acid and zinc are common ingredients in a multivitamin — both are essential for health. Talk to your doctor about the best zinc and folic acid supplements based on your individual needs.
Read more: Top 10 Multivitamins for Women
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Folic Acid and Zinc Benefits
Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, is used to make new cells, including those in your skin, hair and nails. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, folic acid is particularly important during pregnancy as it plays a role in the development of the neural tube and helps to prevent birth defects.
Folic acid is often added to grains and cereals and can be found in orange and tomato juice. Folic acid is also present in other foods, including spinach, broccoli, asparagus and legumes.
Zinc is a mineral that helps to form proteins that create new cells. According to Harvard Health Publishing, zinc is needed for your senses of taste and smell. In addition, your immune system requires zinc to function properly. This mineral also helps with wound healing.
Zinc naturally occurs in red meats, poultry and some seafood. It can also be found in beans, nuts and fortified cereals.
Know the Numbers
According to Harvard Health Publishing, both male and female adults need 400 micrograms of folic acid per day. The upper limit — or the maximum amount that can be taken without health risks — for this nutrient is 1,000 micrograms. Adult males need 11 milligrams of zinc per day while women need 8 milligrams. The upper limit for zinc is 40 milligrams.
If you have a deficiency of folic acid or zinc in your blood, you'll likely need to take a supplement. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, folic acid deficiency can occur with diseases that affect the digestive system, overindulging in alcohol, as a side effect of kidney dialysis and from a diet that is lacking in the vitamin. Folic acid can lead to anemia, or a low red blood cell count.
Symptoms of folic acid deficiency can include the following:
- Stunted growth
- Smooth/tender tongue
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), zinc deficiency is more common in people who've had gastrointestinal surgery or a diagnosis of sickle cell disease.
Vegetarians are also at a higher risk of zinc deficiency, as meat is a main source of this mineral. Symptoms of zinc deficiency can include:
- Hair loss
- Sores on the eyes and skin
- Weight loss
- Slow wound healing
- Loss of appetite
- Decreased alertness
Follow These Precautions
Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin. This means that any excess that isn't used by your body will be lost through your urine.
However, it's possible to consume too much zinc. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, cramping, diarrhea and headaches, according to the NIH. In addition, zinc supplements can interfere with your body's ability to absorb certain medications.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about any supplements you take, including the best zinc and folic acid supplements for you.