A word from Curtis Chan

Good evening San Francisco!  I hope everyone was able to enjoy the perks of folic acid awareness week.  This week was just the beginning of a new year, a year where awareness and action will be the driving force taking control of our very own health!

Today’s blog comes to us from the fabulous Curtis Chan, MD, MPH, Medical Director of Maternal, Adolescent & Child Health in SF.  Let’s here what he has to say….

  1. Importance of Folate
  • Vitamin B9, also called folic acid or folate is found naturally in some foods, including leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, salmon, and whole grains.   However, most women do not eat enough of these foods to provide the optimal health benefit of folic acid.
  • B9 is an essential nutrient for amino acid synthesis and DNA replication.  Hence, it’s particularly important during the critical first 8 weeks of pregnancy, during the critical window of early brain and spinal cord development of the fetus.
  • Compelling research showing that folic acid drastically prevented neural tube defects caused the US Preventive Services Taskforce and the National Academy of Sciences (1996) to recommend daily consumption of 400 mcg of folic acid.
  1. Study Findings
  • In July 2014, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the main professional organization for OB-GYN physicians, published in its highly reputable peer-reviewed scientific journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology, a research article from Harvard Medical School, “Maternal pre-pregnancy folate intake and risk of spontaneous abortion and stillbirth.”
  • The study showed that the risk of miscarriage (or spontaneous abortions) was 20% lower among women taking high amounts of folate acid (730 ug/d) compared to those with the lowest intake (0 ug/d).
  • Since 1992, public health and medical authorities have recommended that all women U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all women capable of becoming pregnant take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to prevent neural tube defects.  While many women aren’t familiar with the brain and spinal cord deformities of neural tube defects, research has since shown other health benefits of folic acid to the mother and infant.
  • The significant risk reduction in miscarriage is another important reminder about the benefits of women taking folic acid vitamins as part of their daily routine, before becoming pregnant.

Curtis Chan, MD, MPH

Medical Director of Maternal, Child & Adolescent Health

San Francisco Department of Public Health

30 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 260b, SF, CA 94102

Hi again…!

Hi again everyone! It’s been a while since we’ve last posted, so we decided to start to get back on track. First things first, a warm welcome to all of our new followers and an even warmer hello to our dedicated previous followers. Go Folic! Get Healthy is a nutritional project we have created here in San Francisco. We are all about YOU! Our primary focus is ensuring every female of child-bearing age gets the proper amount of folic acid (according to the NIH an average of 400mcg). Go Folic! Get Healthy is so committed to making sure every female in SF can get adequate folic acid we provide FREE VITAMINS!! Currently you can come to 30 Van Ness, suit 210 during business hours (Monday – Thursday, 1pm-4pm) and we will give you a free bottle of multivitamins.

Folic Acid Awareness Week is January 5, 2014- January 11, 2014 and during that week we will have so many great activities going on in the community, but most importantly that will be the start of your local community clinics distributing multivitamins. Way more convenient, right?!

WHAT IS IT REALLY? What is folic acid?? Folic acid is water-soluble B vitamin, which is important for women to get before, during, and after pregnancy. Folic Acid helps produce DNA and form healthy new cells. The process of creating new healthy cells is inevitably important to a developing fetus.

WHY? Why, you ask. 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned! WHAT THE FOLIC?? So all you women out there who are not planning on having a baby anytime soon and women who are…. Listen up…. Folic Acid is VERY important in helping reduce the number of babies born with neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are defects in the brain or spine of the developing fetus, which ultimately lead to various problems when the baby is born.

So now that we know why us ladies should take folic acid if we get pregnant, let’s talk about the other reasons we want to take folic acid. How many times have you looked in the mirror and wondered when is your hair finally going to grow out of the, not-so-hot-haircut-anymore? Well ladies, fortunately the answer has been right in front of us. Yes, you guessed correctly, the answer is folic acid. Folic acid has shown to increase the rate of hair and nail growth. And speaking from first hand experience here at Go Folic! Get Healthy, we have experienced it ourselves!

So let’s recap… to help prevent any neural tube defects from happening, as well as to expedite your hair & nail growth, a daily multivitamin with 400mcg of folic acid, as well as eating folate rich foods help reduce your chances (or grow longer hair)! You can find folate (the form of folic acid once it gets broken down in the body) in food such as dark green vegetables, beans, and fortified cereals. In addition, a few fruits such as, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, oranges and grapefruit juice also are rich in folate.

Well ladies and gent’s (those of you wise guys who want to ensure their girlfriend, wife, sister, cousin, etc. stay healthy) it’s been a pleasure… This is just the start of many more blogs to come. As we continue to blog we will get more in depth of the specifics of folic acid. If there are any specific questions on folic acid please comment and let us know. Also, if there are any topics in particular you want to know more about, we can also take request for blog topicsJ

Until next time, keep folicin’ San Francisco.


Foodie Tuesday: Okra, Part 1 – History, Health and Beauty Benefits

Where Did Okra Come From?

this is an okra plantAmong the many vegetables that West Africans brought with them on the slave ships was okra, the seeds for which some historians believe people purposely hid in their hair.

The name for this vegetable, also known as “lady fingers” probably derives from the Niger-Congo group of languages. For instance, in the West African Twi language, okra is called nkuruma. In Louisiana, slaves taught Creoles how to use okra (called gombo in French) to thicken soups and the vegetable is an essential ingredient in the dish that is now called “gumbo.”

Okra is a vegetable with a long history. Historians believe that okra was cultivated in Ethiopia as far back as the 12th century B.C, making its way from there to West Africa. During the years of the Atlantic slave trade, it spread across the world. You’ll now see okra in African, Middle Eastern, Greek, Turkish, Indian, Caribbean, and South American cuisines.

Health Benefits

okra pods - the vegetable comes in both purple and green varietiesIn Japan’s Kowchi Prefecture, where farmers specialize in growing okra, residents credit their good health and beautiful smiles to the vegetable. And no wonder! One-half cup of this superfood contains 83.6 mcg of folate, or 22% of your daily requirement. It’s also high in a number of other B vitamins, as well as vitamin C and A, iron, and calcium. Okra’s high fiber content makes it useful for digestion.  In addition, mucilage and fiber found in okra helps adjust blood sugar by regulating its absorption in the small intestine, which makes it a great food for people who are concerned about Type II Diabetes.

Beauty Benefits

Cleopatra of Egypt and Yang Guifei of China, both of whom were considered beautiful women, loved to eat okra for its health and beauty benefits.  Okra can become “sticky” when cooked using certain techniques; it’s this slimy quality that makes it a good thickener in soups and stews. It also makes it a good setting lotion (see this recipe from Black Hair Media), final hair rinse, natural hair gel and lice eradicator. To make a natural okra-based conditioner:

  1.  Boil horizontally sliced okra till the brew become maximally slimy.
  2. Cool it and add a few drops of lemon or your favorite natural scent.
  3. Use this as your last hair rinse for body and softness.

Okra, Part 2 – Cooking Okra w/out the Slime

Tune in next Tuesday for information on how to cook okra, including a couple of really tasty recipes that use techniques that prevent it becoming “slimy.”

Foodie Tuesday: Zucchini Muffins!

Zucchini MuffinsThese muffins went fast when we served them at the SF Black Infant Health Improvement Project‘s Open House Event on January 28, 2010 (special thanks to our favorite caterer Claudine Daggit, owner of Stiletto & Spice)!  So fast, in fact, that we decided to include them in one of our recipe brochures, Go Folic! Easy Snacks.

This recipe is so good that we decided to feature it in today’s Foodie Tuesday.  In addition to making a great on-the-go breakfast, it can also serve as a very tasty snack. It’s easy to make, too!

Mini Healthy Veggie Bio: Did you know that zucchini…

  • Is actually a fruit?
  • Was first cultivated in Central and South America over 5000 years ago?
  • Is good for your skin? Not only does it have plenty of folate and water, but it is high in vitamin C, which helps to prevent bruising.
  • Is also high in potassium, manganese, and beta caratine / vitamin A, making it good for your heart, your bones, proper functioning of thyroid and sex hormones, and regulating blood sugar?


Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Servings: 12 muffins
Folate per serving: 35 mcg (9% RDA)


  • Non-Stick Cooking Spray or Butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 small)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2/3 cups roasted walnuts


  1. Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Spray muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray or coat with butter. (You can also use muffin tin liners, instead.)
  3. In a large bowl, stir together eggs, applesauce, granulated sugar, and vanilla extract.
  4. In a separate bow, stir together flour, salt, backing soda, cinnamon, ginger, and  cloves,
  5. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture until barely blended (lumps are OK!).
  6. Gently stir in zucchini, raisins and walnuts.
  7. Divide batter evenly between muffin cups.
  8. Bake 20 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Remove muffin pan from oven and let muffins sit for 5 minutes.
  10. Remove muffins from pan and place them on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Enjoy at room temperature or warm with your favorite spread.

Going Folic in 2013 – An Easy New Year’s Resolution to Keep!

Going Folic! in 2013 Cereal or Vitamins, it's an easy New Year's resolution to keep!

How many New Year’s resolutions have you made over the years? How many of these resolutions have you kept?  According to USA.gov, the top 10 most popular resolutions are (not in any particular order): drink less alcohol, get a better education, get a better job, get fit, lose weight, manage debt, manage stress, quit smoking, recycle more, save money, take a trip, volunteer. With the exception of losing weight (read an alternative view here)

Go Folic! staff members like, and have made, many of the above resolutions over the years – volunteering, taking a trip, quitting smoking, recycling more. That said, we know that while New Year’s resolutions are easy to make, they can be less easy to maintain.

We have one resolution that can be easy to keep- Go Folic! for 2013!

Going folic means getting the recommended daily requirement for folic acid – 400 mcg.  Doing so is easy!  Just take a daily multi-vitamin with the recommended amount.  We recommend a multi-vitamin instead of a folic acid supplement because this B-vitamin needs other B-vitamins to do it’s work (visit our folic facts web page to learn why folic acid is so important).

where are the october multis??But vitamins can be expensive…

If you are a woman between the ages of 14 – 54, and live in San Francisco, you can get free Go Folic! multis that contain the recommended RDA for all vitamins, including vitamins K and D.  Visit our website to find out how.

What if I don’t like taking pills?

Cereals that contain 100% (400 mcg) of the RDA for folic acidIt’s still easy!  Eat a bowl of fortified cereal with the recommended amount everyday (cereal doesn’t have to be just a breakfast food). The graphic at right shows some of the cereals that contain 100% of the RDA for folic acid (click the image to enlarge it).  Click here to get a more complete list of cereals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Note: while we have included sugary cereals in our graphic, we recommend eating the whole grain variety!

Why not get all I need from folate-rich foods?

Which is better?  Foods or vitamins?At Go Folic! we are all about “turbo-charging” your diet with folate-rich foods.  However, the truth is that it’s difficult to get enough folic acid from food alone, even if your diet is healthful.  This is because your body only absorbs 50% of the folate (the form of folic acid found in food) you get from food, 85% of the folic acid in fortified grains and cereal, and 100% of the folic acid contained in a multi-vitamin.  Read this special health report from the Harvard Medical School on why it’s important to back up a healthy diet with a daily multi-vitamin.

Does my multi-vitamin or favorite cereal contain folic acid?

This is easy to determine, too.  Read the label – it should tell you exactly how much folic acid your multi-vitamin or favorite cereal contain.  Again, you want a multi-vitamin or cereal that contains at least 400 mcg of folate.

How to tell if your cereal or multivitamin contains the recommended amount of folic acid

We hope that we convinced you…

… to Go Folic! in 2013.  It’s one easy step you can take for a healthier, and more beautiful you!  Should you decide to start or expand your family, it is also one step towards a healthier tomorrow.

Beauty Box: Shampoos and Soaps with Vitamins – Hype or Truth?

Beauty Box w/ ShampooIt seems like almost every soap and shampoo made today has vitamins added to them.  But are they really going to give you the beautiful, healthy hair and skin that the ads promise?  They may help a little but not as much as you think!

Though it is true that your skin and hair absorb some of the ingredients in these products, it is also true that there is no way of knowing how much of the vitamins your body will actually get from them. There is also no way of knowing if the amounts they contain are going to help your hair and skin be healthier.

What we do know is that it takes more than shampoos and soaps to give your body enough of the vitamins your hair and skin need.  We also know that to have healthy skin and hair, your diet and multi-vitamins need to give you enough vitamin B 9 (folic acid) in combination with B5, B6, B12 and other B vitamins.  This helps your body to make enough new cells for skin and hair growth.

Without these vitamins and the others that come in a multivitamin, your hair can grow slowly, fall out and be weak. Your nails can also become weak and may break. You may get skin problems including acne.

All of this means that no matter what kind of product you use, you need to be healthy on the inside to look good on the outside! And that comes from what you put into your mouth, not on your skin and hair.

Barbara Kass, NP
Go Folic! Medical Consultant

First Healthy Veggie Bio – Corn


Summer started a few weeks ago.  We are still enjoying our splendid weather.  There is one activity that most of us will do this summer.  Barbecue!!!  One of the vegetables you will most likely bring… is guess what…. Corn!!

Today, our FIRST Veggie Bio is about corn.

When you think of corn, you might think of high fructose corn syrup, popcorn, or tortilla chips.  However, corn is not as bad as you think.  Corn is a good source of Vitamin B1 and folate.  Corn is a year round vegetable. But summer has the freshest and the sweetest corn.

Corn is believed to have originated in Mexico or Central America. It has been one of the staples in native civilizations for more than 7000 years.  Corn is a good source of nutrients.  Each cup of cooked corn contains:  

  • 24% of your daily requirement for Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
  • 19% of your daily folate
  • 17% of your daily Vitamin C
  • 17% of your daily phosphorus
  • 14% of your daily pantothenic acid 
Corn Nutrients

Source: World's Healthiest Foods

The nutrients in corn can give you better cardio, lung, and memory health. 

According to “World’s Healthiest Foods” by George Mateljan, beta-cryptoxanthin is found in highest amounts in corn, pumpkin, and papaya.  Research shows that consumption high in this phytochemical can lower the risk of lung cancer. 

Sweet corn is a good source of folate.  Folate can reduce the level of homocysteine in the body.  High levels of homocysteine can damage blood vessels and contribute to your risk for heart disease.  High folate consumption can also lower birth defect rates and risk of colon cancer.

The high amount of thiamine in sweet corn may help to protect against age-related memory loss because this B vitamin prevents cognitive decline. 

There are many more health benefits from eating fresh, sweet corn.  If you want to make a healthy dish with delicious corn, stay tuned for tomorrow’s Foodie Tuesday.

What other fruits/vegetables you are curious about?  Leave us a comment and let us know.