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Healthy Foods that Contain Folate (Folic Acid)
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Jan 05, 2005
Folate is found in whole foods and in your body, while folic acid is found in most vitamin supplements. Folic acid needs vitamin C, niacin, and vitamin B12 in order to be converted to its biologically active form.
What Does Folate Do in Your Body?
- Reduces homocysteine levels, which lowers your risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's disease, and many degenerative diseases.
- Regulates growth, maintenance, and reproduction of all of your cells, including your red blood cells
- Helps to produce neurotransmitters that regulate your appetite, mood, and quality of sleep
- Prevents problems with neurological development of infants during the first few weeks of pregnancy
Here are some healthy, whole food sources of folate:
|Whole Food Sources||Serving||Folate (mcg)|
|Lentils, cooked||1/2 cup||179|
|Garbanzo beans, cooked||1/2 cup||141|
|Asparagus, cooked||1/2 cup||134|
|Spinach, cooked||1/2 cup||131|
|Beef Liver, cooked||3 ounces||123|
|Broccoli, cooked||1/2 cup||84|
|Lima beans, cooked||1/2 cup||78|
|Beets, cooked||1/2 cup||66|
|Romaine Lettuce||1/2 cup||49|
|Navel Orange||1 large||48|
An excellent whole food supplement source of folate is our super green food formula.
Signs of Deficiency
- Chronic fatigue - macrocytic / megaloblastic anemia
- Poor appetite
- Anxiety and irritability
- Digestive problems like stomach pains, diarrhea, and impaired nutrient absorption
Interestingly, folic acid found in most vitamin supplements is more efficiently absorbed into your blood than folate. Because of this, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine created a unit called the Dietary Folate Equivalent (DFE).
- 1 microgram (mcg) of folate found in food provides 1 mcg of DFE
- 1 mcg of folic acid taken with meals or within a fortified food provides 1.7 mcg of DFE
- 1 mcg of folic acid (supplement) taken on an empty stomach provides 2 mcg of DFE
Please keep in mind that although folic acid is absorbed into your blood more efficiently than folate found in whole foods, folic acid requires the presence of vitamin C, niacin, and vitamin B12 in order to be converted to its biologically active form.
On a practical level, all of this means that if you are eating a nutrient-dense, whole food, minimally processed diet, then taking a folic acid supplement can help you meet your daily needs, as you are likely to have sufficient availability of vitamin C, niacin, and vitamin B12. This is particularly relevant to a pregnant and/or nursing mom, as the rapidly dividing cells of a growing baby increases a mom's requirement for folate.
|Recommended Dietary Allowance for Folate in Dietary Folate Equivalents (DFE) - 1998|
|Life Stage||Age||Males (mcg/day)||Females (mcg/day)|
|Adults||19-years and older||400||400|
Because folate is a water-soluble vitamin that does not get stored in your fat tissues, there is little chance that you can consume toxic levels of folate or folic acid. However, if you are suffering from chronic fatigue and want to rule out anemia, you should check for both folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies. Both can cause megaloblastic anemia. Supplementing with high levels of folic acid can help you recover from megaloblastic anemia, but can also keep you unaware of a vitamin B12 deficiency. A chronic vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to irreversible neurological damage.
Diagnostic Test for Folate
RBC (red blood cell) folate
Go To Nutrient Index
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