Folic acid is required for proper cellular regeneration and growth. Moreover, folic acid helps in a number of essential functions in the body such as the biosynthesis of nucleotides in cells, repair and synthesis of DNA, the production of RBCs, and the prevention of anemia.
It also encourages the normal development of the fetus. Many studies have suggested a connection between insufficient amounts of folic acid and mental disorders such as depression. Folic acid is also called as folate or vitamin B9. Folic acid, iron, and calcium play very important roles in prenatal wellness. A deficiency in these vitamins during pregnancy can have negative consequences on the unborn child's brain development.
1. Healthy Heart
When folic acid pairs with vitamin B12, it helps in the metabolism of the amino acids homocysteine and methionine. Without folic acid, the blood will clot more easily than normal and may cause cardiovascular diseases and heart attack.
2. Natural Remedy for Depression
Folic acid supplements are also used to enhance antidepressants and help manage depression. It also plays an important part when it comes to mood regulation.
3. Alzheimer’s Disease
Studies have shown that folic acid helps ward off Alzheimer's disease. According to research studies, people who consume the daily recommended amount of folic acid have a lower risk of developing the disease. It is believed that folic acid plays an important role in preventing memory loss, which is associated with old age.
4. Prevention of Diabetes
Triglycerides are a type of fat that is found in the blood. Folic acid helps in the breakdown of triglycerides. High levels of triglycerides in the blood have been linked to type 2 diabetes.
Low folic acid levels have been associated with the occurrence of colorectal cancer and other types of cancer. In a study, it was found that women who consumed more than 400 mcg of folic acid per day had fewer chances of developing colon cancer than the ones who took a lesser folic acid dose of 200 mcg.
Since folic acid helps in the making and repairing of DNA, it is believed that low levels of folic acid may cause changes in the chemical that affect DNA. The changes will affect the way the cells repair themselves or may affect the division of cells, which may lead to cancer.
Folic acid is very important and helpful during the preconception period as well as during pregnancy. It is used to prevent any birth defects and to enhance the development of the fetus, thereby increasing the chances of conceiving. Women who plan to conceive are advised to take folic acid supplements. Expectant mothers may begin taking the supplements during the pregnancy period. However, the dose should be taken according to the doctor's advice. Folic acid protects the baby against other problems such as:
What is the difference between folic acid and folate?
Although folate and folic acid are often marketed as the same, they have differences when it comes to their metabolic effects.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of vitamin B9, which is usually found in fortified food items and supplements. Folate, on the other hand, is the natural form of B9 that is found in a wide variety of animal and plant foods.
Foods High in Folate
There are many foods that are rich in folate. They include:
1. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Dark green leafy vegetables contain the highest folate content. Examples include:
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
- Romaine lettuce
One large plate of these vegetables will fulfill your daily folate need.
A medium-sized banana can provide around 23.6 mcg of folate, which accounts for nearly 6 percent of the daily recommended value of folic acid in our body. Bananas also help provide fiber, protein, and potassium in the body.
3. Tomato Juice
If tomato juice is incorporated into the daily diet, then it can meet the daily recommended need of folic acid. A serving of 6 ounces of tomato juice can provide almost 36 mcg of folate, which is nearly 9 percent of the daily value of folic acid in the body. A dash of pepper or Tabasco sauce can be added to spice up a tomato juice.
Asparagus is a nutrient-dense food rich in folate. One cup of boiled asparagus can provide 262 mcg of folate, which accounts for nearly 65 percent of our daily folic acid need. Asparagus is rich in vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, and manganese.
Broccoli is one of the best detox foods and a great source of folic acid. One cup of broccoli can provide 26 percent of folate, which can fulfill daily needs.
6. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits have been ranked with the highest level of folic acid among all fruits. They are one of the richest sources of folic acid. About 50 mcg of folate is present in one orange. Freshly squeezed orange juice may contain even more. Other fruits that are rich in folate are grapes, banana, cantaloupe, strawberries, and papaya.
7. Dried Spearmint
Spearmint is an herb that is commonly used as a flavoring. However, it can also provide essential minerals and vitamins to our body. One tablespoon of dried spearmint can provide nearly 10 mcg of folate, which accounts for 3 percent of our daily need. Spearmint can be added to lemonade, water, or tea.
8. Beans, Peas, and Lentils
Pinto beans, lima beans, green peas, black-eyed peas, and kidney beans are rich in folate. Most of the daily folate needs are met by a small bowl of any beans.
Avocado is also known as butter pear. A cup of avocado can provide 110 mcg of folate, which accounts for nearly 28 percent of our daily need. Avocado is an excellent source of folate and fatty acids, vitamin K, and fiber.
Papaya is loaded with nutrients. A small papaya can provide around 58 mcg of folate, which is approximately 14 percent of the daily required intake of folic acid. Papaya is also a good source of other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and phosphorus.
One cup of soybeans provides around 186-256 grams of folate. Mature soybean seeds contain 697 mcg of folate while the green ones contain 422 mcg. They are also known as excellent sources of protein. According to a few studies, it was found that soybean intake reduces the concentration of bad cholesterol and positively influences the bone and calcium balance in postmenopausal women.
One serving of arugula provides 1.9 mcg of folate. Arugula is known to be extremely low in cholesterol and saturated fat, but a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.
Cantaloupe is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate. Around 25 mcg of folate can be obtained from a quarter-sized cantaloupe.
14. Chili Powder
Surprisingly, chili powder is also one of the good sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and folate. A teaspoon of chili powder can provide 2 mcg of folate.
Okra is a green flowering plant, which is also known as "lady's finger". It offers vitamins as well as minerals that help clean the buildup of toxins in the entire digestive tract. Okra is also a great source of folate. A half cup of cooked okra can provide approximately 103 mcg of folate.
16. Yeast Extract Spread
Yeast extracts have been used as a spread on crackers, toast, and sandwiches. One teaspoon of this yeast spread provides 61 mcg of folic acid.
17. Fortified Cereals
Fortified cereals are becoming popular day by day. A single serving provides 80.1 mcg of folate. Studies have revealed that fortified cereals play an important role in managing nutrient deficiencies.
Peanuts are known to be rich in folate and other nutrients. Half a cup of peanuts provides 106 mcg of folic acid. They are also a great source of zinc, protein, magnesium, and copper.
Turkey and beef liver are one of the good sources of folate. Around 100 grams of turkey liver provides approximately 691 mcg of folic acid and a 3-oz. serving of beef liver will provide 215 mcg of folate. One serving of beef liver can also provide the daily value of folic acid in pregnant women.
20. Brussels Sprout
Brussels sprouts are one of the best foods that are rich in folate. One cup of boiled Brussels sprout provides 25 percent of the recommended daily value. They are also a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, and potassium.
21. Seeds and Nuts
Pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, or flaxseeds can be eaten raw, sprouted, or sprinkled onto a salad and provide a good amount of folic acid. Sunflower seeds and flaxseeds are rich in folate. One cup of these seeds provides 300 mcg of folate. Almonds and peanuts are also rich in folate.
This vegetable is one of the best vitamin C foods, which also happens to be a great source of folate. One cup of cauliflower will provide approximately 55 mcg of folate, which accounts for nearly 14 percent of the daily recommended need of an individual.
Beets are known to be one of the best liver-cleansing foods. They are a rich source of antioxidants that provide detox support. They are one of the best sources of folic acid as well. One cup of beets provides approximately 148 mcg of folate, which accounts for nearly 34 percent of our daily need.
Corn contains plenty of folate nutrients. One cup of cooked corn provides 34 mcg of folate, which accounts for 9 percent of our daily need.
Celery is considered as a great food to help those who have kidney stones. It is also a rich source of folate. One cup of raw celery provides 36 mcg of folate, which accounts for nearly 9 percent of our daily need.
Carrots are an extremely popular vegetable. One cup of raw carrot provides 5 percent of the daily folic acid need. Carrots can be eaten as a snack or added to salads.
Summer squash, as well as winter squash, will give a folic acid boost to your diet. Winter squash contains 41 mcg of folic acid, which is nearly 21 percent of our daily need while summer squash contains 33 mcg of folic acid, which accounts for approximately 8 percent of the daily folic acid requirement.
Eggs are rich in proteins and vitamins. Because of their versatile use, they are great for babies as well as adults. Few boiled eggs in your meals a few times a week can provide a dose of folic acid.
29. Enriched Pasta
Whole-wheat pasta is a healthier option. One cup of pasta contains 100 mcg of folic acid. It is also a good food choice for pregnant women.
Many foods contain folate, but some people might fall short of its ideal daily intake. In such cases, supplementation might need to be taken.
A deficiency of folic acid leads to anemia. Anemia occurs because folate is important in the production and maintenance of red blood cells (RBCs). If folic acid in the body is inadequate, then the overall number of red blood cells is also reduced. This condition is seen in people who need higher amounts of folate and in pregnant and lactating women.
Anemia due to folic acid deficiency is seen in people with various medical conditions such as sickle cell disease or kidney disease. Some medications used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and seizures may increase people's risk of having folic acid deficiency anemia. The signs and symptoms include:
- Feeling weak
- Easily irritated
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss due to eating less
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Mouth ulcers or sores around the mouth
Individuals who have a deficiency of folic acid are given a folic acid pill that should be daily taken. Once the levels of folic acid return back to normal, then the body is again able to produce enough red blood cells.
More Folate in Your Diet
When preparing your grocery list, focus more on getting nutrient-rich foods. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables and many other vegetables, citrus fruits, juices, berries, nuts, eggs, and seeds. Even bread and pasta made from enriched flour and ready-to-eat cereals contain folic acid.