Folate is the bigger category, when it comes to this nutrient. There are then numerous types of Folate including Folic Acid, Folinic Acid (5-formyl-tetrahydrofolate), and Methylfolate (5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate).
Folic acid is NOT found in nature. It is in many supplements and fortified foods. The problem is that it is an incredibly complicated process for your body to convert folic acid into one of the active and useful forms of folate. This process is so intense and has so many places where things can go wrong, that folic acid rarely gets converted. This is only the beginning of the problem.
Active Folates need to be bound to a carrier protein to be absorbed into your cells for use. When folic acid isn’t converted into this active forms, is simply builds up in your blood stream. The problem is that, unfortunately, the binding proteins prefer to bind to folic acid over choosing the active folates. This fills up all of the carrier proteins so none are available to carry the active folates.
Now, the one population who is most concerned with folate intake is pregnant women. If they are taking folic acid, this again binds up all of the carrier proteins so that the amount of active folate is severely decreased in breast milk and, obviously, not getting to the baby.
So, it’s pretty simple. You just need to take one of the active folates! Read the labels on your supplements and get your folinic acid or methylfolate!