Folate: Pregnancy and Beyond
You may have heard nearly anyone you talk to about pregnancy and nutrition mention folic acid or folate. It's because this is a very important nutrient in the development of a fetus.
Lets go over what it is, how its used and where to get it. And most importantly why you should be taking a bunch of folic acid to replace it.
What is it and why is it important?
Folate is a naturally occurring Vitamin in the famous B-vitamin family called B9. Folate is one of the vitamins needed to make red and white blood cells in the bone marrow, produce RNA and DNA and it also aids in the conversion of carbohydrate to energy.
More B9 is needed in times of rapid growth: infancy, adolescence and pregnancy. During pregnancy and Lactation the recommended daily dose hover at about 500-600 mcg.
Folic Acid Or Folate?
Although often used interchangeably and molecularly similar, folic acid and folate are not the same thing.
Folate is naturally occurring food. It comes from leafy green vegetable, egg yolks and chicken, beef and calf liver. Natural folate is metabolised in the small intestine, where most of the metabolism of vitamins occur. It is tetrahydrofolate which is the main molecule used for the folate processes.
Unlike folate, folic acid goes through a reduction and methylation (change of DNA) in the liver. But the liver simply does not have the chemical needed to make this change in abundance (dihydrofolate) leading to a by-product of a lot of unmetabolized folic acid in the bloodstream.
Unfortunately, there new science is discovering some issues with all that excess folic acid. Several studies suggest that excess folic acid in the blood might promote colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers by keeping folate out of cells.
So ideally only get what you need and get it from natural sources. If you need to take a supplement, then skip the folic acid. This means avoiding a lot of you favorite fortified grains: cereals, pasta, rice and milk are culprits. Check the labels to be safe. But warning: you may have to cut out more than you bargained for.
Great sources of folate are in you green vegetable. Getting 600 mcg is pretty easy of you eat primarily meat and vegetables. Green leafy vegetables are the best source. Other great sources of folate and a TON of other vitamins are chicken and beef liver. Eating it in a pate is delicious! You can also try adding nutritional yeast to your food and cooking.
If you do need a supplement check out 5-MTHF. This is the most usable folate synthetic and it is often derived from natural sources.
Remember that folate and B vitamins are indeed essential for health and shouldn’t be avoided. Just make sure you are getting the right sources and the healthy dose.
For more information:
USDA National Nutrient Database, www.nal.usda.gov
Food servings with 100 micrograms of naturally occurring folate
Food: Serving size
Brussels sprouts, cooked: 1 cup
Collard greens or mustard greens, cooked: 1 cup
Broccoli, frozen, cooked: 1 cup
Asparagus, cooked: 5 spears
Spinach, cooked: ½ cup
Artichokes, cooked: 1 cup
Dried beans, cooked: ½ cup
Lentils :¼ cup
Sunflower seed kernels: ⅓ cup
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database, www.nal.usda.gov