Folate is rich in vitamin B-9 and is absolutely crucial to healthy red blood cell formation. Folate promotes healthy cell growth and function and maintains DNA and RNA. Without enough folate, many people experience unexplained fatigue, anemia, trouble concentrating, and muscle weakness. This makes sense because folate is essential to your body’s genetic material such as DNA which contains biological instructions. Enough Folate in your body helps prevent various conditions such as stroke, neural tube defects, macular degeneration, cancer, depression, and memory issues. The average amount of folate that adults need in their diet is 400 micrograms, though pregnant women are advised to have up to 1,000 micrograms of folate a day as folate is essential to neural tube development for a baby throughout pregnancy.
Supplementing Folate to Your Diet
Luckily, folate can be found naturally in foods such as leafy greens, beans or legumes, melons, strawberries, oranges, lemons, and bananas. Although folate in food is usually not enough to fully satisfy how much your body needs in a day, it is the easiest and simplest way for your body to get the nutrients it needs naturally in a way that it doesn’t have to work extra hard to convert because it’s already in the form your body can digest and break down. We’ll get more into the details about formats of folate that your body can most easily work with later in this article, but for now let’s focus on the easiest way for your body to get the folate it needs: your diet. Folate is naturally present in a wide variety of foods from anything including nuts, seafood, beans, eggs, grains, dairy, meat, beans, fruits, vegetables, poultry, and peas. Research indicates that the best sources of folate to add to your diet are as follows:
- Beef liver: 215 mcg per 3-ounce serving
- Spinach (cooked): 131 mcg per 1/2-cup serving
- Black-eyed peas: 101 mcg per 1/2-cup serving
- Breakfast cereals (fortified): 100 mcg per 1-cup serving
- Asparagus: 89 mcg per 4 spears
- Brussel sprouts: 78 mcg per 1/2-cup serving
- Romaine lettuce (shredded): 64 mcg per 1-cup serving
- Avocado: 59 mcg per 1/2-cup serving
- White rice (cooked): 54 mcg per 1/2-cup serving
- Broccoli: 52 mcg per 1/2-cup serving
- Mustard greens (cooked): 52 mcg per 1/2 cup serving
Folate is crucial to include in your everyday diet and multivitamin supplement. Diet is an important topic to bring up here as it is essential in understanding the distinct differences between folate and folic acid, and how your body utilizes each format.
The Distinct Differences between Folate and Folic Acid
Folate is a B vitamin that is key to red blood cell formation and DNA methylation. In its truest active form, it is known as 5-MTHF, which is a form that your body can directly digest without needing to convert. This is similar to the folate found naturally in our diet and food. Alternatively, Folic acid is not naturally found in nature or in the body. Folic acid is the synthetically manufactured form of folate. In order for the body to use it properly, it actually has to convert it to the 5-MTHF format that Folate naturally is. In this conversion process often a good percentage of the nutrients derived from folate get lost. Your body actually has to work harder to convert Folic acid to 5-MTHF. This wouldn’t be a huge issue, except for the fact that one-third of adults have a genetic variation that prevents their bodies from making the proper conversion. That’s why the folate vs folic acid debate can be quickly put to rest. Much like our food, 5-MTHF as the active form of Folate is what we should be looking for when looking for supplementation. Folate bypasses the tricky folic acid to folate conversion process. So why is it that the five best-selling prenatal multivitamins use the synthetic form of folate? Folic acid seems to be a more popular household name that you may be actually more familiar with than the name folate itself. It’s been popular since it hit shelves in 1998, and it’s more cost-effective than Folate. Many brands stick with the household names women are taught to look for, but due to recent research, you should be opting for a multivitamin brand that actually has 5-MTHF or Folate in the ingredients. We know better than we did back then. Ultimately, Folate is a B vitamin that we all need more of in our lives.