By: Leah Golden, MS, RD
It’s National Folic Acid Awareness Week; Jan 6-12, 2019, so read along to learn why this nutrient is being highlighted. If you’re pregnant or looking to become pregnant, your ears may have perked up already. Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin present in whole foods. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate found in fortified foods and supplements. The names folate/folic acid are frequently used interchangeably. Although folic acid/folate is important for women during childbearing years, it is also vital for every man, woman and child. Folate helps to produce and maintain cells, plays an important role in healthy cell division and the proper formation of DNA.
Let’s break it down. What does this mean for health outcomes?
- Prevention of neural tube defects during pregnancy
- Folate helps to keep the brain, spine and/spinal cord healthy as the fetus develops early on in pregnancy.
- Prevent anemia
- Folate deficiency can cause a specific type of anemia (megaloblastic), that causes the red blood cells to become enlarged. Symptoms may not show up for quite some time. When they do appear, they may manifest as shortness of breath, paleness, fatigue, dizziness and fast/or irregular heartbeat. These symptoms vary from person to person and may include other symptoms than listed.
- Will help keep the heart healthy
- Folate, along with vitamin B6 and B12 help to regulate the accumulation of homocysteine in the body. Elevated homocysteine levels may increase your risk for cardiovascular disease.
- 14-70 + years old: 400 micrograms (mcg)/day
- Pregnancy: 600 mcg/day
- Lactating: 500 mcg/day
- 14- 70 + years old: 400 mcg/day
What foods contain folate?
Folate occurs naturally in whole foods and has an absorption rate of about 50%, while the synthetic and fortified folic acid in foods has an absorption rate of about 85%. Keep this in mind when choosing folate rich foods.
- Vegetables- Dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, romaine lettuce, brussels sprouts, mustard greens, tomato juice, beets
- Fruits- avocado, orange, papaya, banana, cantaloupe
- Legumes/Beans- black eyed peas, kidney beans, lentils,
- Meat/Seafood- beef liver, crab, halibut, ground beef
- Seeds/Nuts- walnuts, flaxseeds
- Fortified cereals
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