Folate (or folic acid) is a water-soluble B vitamin that is indispensable for a cellular process called methylation. Methylation is needed for cell growth & development as well as for DNA synthesis & repair. Yes, you guessed, methylation is one of the body’s most essential functions on which everything else depends, it involves the entire genome and its stability. Consequently, folate is immediately identified as a nutrient that affects cancer risk, birth defect risk and neurological disorders.
To give you an idea of its widespread use in the body, these are some disorders that folic acid can prevent and treat: folate deficiency anaemia as well as its complications, including “tired blood”, nutrient absorption problems, ulcerative colitis, liver disease, alcoholism, and kidney dialysis. Women who are pregnant or might become pregnant take folic acid to preventmiscarriage and “neural tube defects,” birth defects such as spina bifida that occur when the fetus’s spine and back do not close during development.
Some people use folic acid to prevent colon cancer or cervical cancer. It is also used to prevent heart disease and stroke, as well as to reduce blood levels of a harmful chemical called homocysteine that is a marker for inflammation in the body and is directly linked with a higher risk for heart disease.
Folic acid is used for memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, age-related hearing loss, preventing the age-related macular degeneration (AMD), reducing signs of aging, weak bones (osteoporosis), jumpy legs (restless leg syndrome), sleep problems, depression, nerve pain, muscle pain, AIDS, a skin disease called vitiligo, and an inherited disease called Fragile-X syndrome. It is also used for reducing harmful side effects of treatment with the medications lometrexol and methotrexate.
Who Is at Risk of Folate Deficiency?
Research has shown that the amount of folate circulating in the blood can differ between individuals even when the same amount of folate is consumed. Some people do not utilise dietary folate as efficiently as others and are consequently at a greater risk of folate deficiency.
Studies have shown that an individual’s ability to process dietary folate efficiently depends on a gene called MTHFR. The MTHFR gene produces methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), which is a vital enzyme for folate usage in the body. MTHFR converts folate obtained from the diet to an active form of the nutrient that can be used by the body at the cellular level. A common variant in the MTHFR gene produces an enzyme with impaired activity. As a result, individuals with the TT genotype have lower circulating levels of folate and higher circulating levels of homocysteine.
Researchers have shown that when subjects are put on a low folate diet (135 mcg/day dietary folate equivalents [DFE]), those with the TT and CT genotypes have lower serum folate than those with the CC genotype. During repletion with 400 mcg/day DFE, serum folate improved in all groups, but less so for those with the TT genotype. Plasma total homocysteine levels remained higher among those with the TT genotype throughout repletion, although levels were within the desirable range.
While the authors of this study concluded that the current RDA of 400 mcg/day DFE is sufficient to achieve normal blood levels of dietary folate and desirable levels of plasma total homocysteine in subjects with the TT and CT genotype, it is more critical for these individuals to reach these levels on a regular basis as they are more likely to have lower folate levels and higher homocysteine levels when folate intake is low.
The results of this clinical trial were published in the Journal of Nutrition (2003;133:1272-1280) and you can access it here.
The Nutrigenomix test kit will tell you which of the MTHFR gene variants you possess: CC, CT or TT. If you are the CT or TT genotype and therefore susceptible to folate deficiency, this information will enable your nutritionist to provide you with specific recommendations on folate intake in order to prevent deficient blood levels and thus minimise your risk for the folate-deficiency diseases we’ve covered above.
DID YOU KNOW that if you cook food, you destroy folate?
Best Food Sources of Folate
- Dark Leafy Greens such as spinach, collard greens, kale, turnip greens and romaine lettuce.
- Spinach — 1 cup = 263 mcg of folate (65% DV)
- Collard Greens — 1 cup = 177 mcg of folate (44% DV)
- Turnip Greens — 1 cup = 170 mcg of folate (42% DV)
- Mustard Greens — 1 cup = 103 mcg of folate (26% DV)
- Romaine Lettuce — 1 cup = 76 mcg of folate (19% DV)
- Beans, Peas and Lentils: Beans and peas especially high in folic acid include pinto beans, lima beans, green peas, black-eyed peas and kidney beans. A small bowl of any type of lentils will give you the majority of your recommended daily amounts of folate.
- Lentils — 1 cup = 358 mcg of folate (90% DV)
- Pinto Beans — 1 cup = 294 mcg of folate (74% DV)
- Garbanzo Beans — 1 cup = 282 mcg of folate (71% DV)
- Black Beans — 1 cup = 256 mcg of folate (64% DV)
- Navy Beans — 1 cup = 254 mcg of folate (64% DV)
- Kidney Beans — 1 cup = 229 mcg of folate (57% DV)
- Lima Beans — 1 cup = 156 mcg of folate (39% DV)
- Split Peas — 1 cup = 127 mcg of folate (32% DV)
- Green Peas — 1 cup = 101 mcg of folate (25% DV)
- Green Beans — 1 cup = 42 mcg of folate (10% DV)
The most beloved vegetable of Mexican fare, the butter pear, or avocado, holds up to 90mcg of folate per cup, which accounts for appoximately 22% of your daily needs. Not only are avocados one of the best foods with folic acid, but it’s also an excellent source of fatty acids, vitamin K and dietary fiber. Adding them to sandwiches or salads will make for an extra-healthy treat.
- Seeds and NutsIt doesn’t matter if it’s pumpkin, sesame, sunflower or flax seeds, eating them raw, sprouted, or sprinkled onto a salad will add a healthy serving of folic acid. Sunflower seeds, flax seeds and peanuts are especially high in folate, with one cup offering up to 300 mcg. Nuts are also very high in folic acid, with both peanuts and almonds ranking especially high. Below is a short list of the best seeds and nuts for folic acid.
- BeetsBeets are a great source for antioxidants and they also provide detox support, making them one of the best liver cleanse foods on the planet. While that’s a great reason to add them to your diet, beets are also known as one of the best foods with folic acid. Eating one cup of boiled beets will provide you with approximately 136 mcg of folate, accounting for 34% of your daily needs.
This woody treat is perhaps one of the most nutrient dense foods with folic acid out of the entire vegetable kingdom. Eating just one cup of steamed asparagus will give you 262 mcg of folic acid, which accounts for approximately 65% of your daily needs. Not only is asparagus a delicious snack, but it’s also full of nutrients your body craves, including Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Manganese.
- BroccoliNot only is broccoli one of the best detox foods you can eat, it’s also a great source for folic acid. Just one cup of broccoli will provide you with approximately 24% of your daily folic acid needs, not to mention a whole host of other important nutrients. We recommend eating organic broccoli raw or lightly steamed.
If you want to know more about the health benefits of folate, I recommend you read this article by Dr. Edward Group