AUBURN, Ala.—Folate is a vitamin that does not get much attention from current health trends, but it is an essential nutrient for our bodies that provides many health benefits.
Folate, a water-soluble B vitamin, metabolizes amino acids and helps create red blood cells. The vitamin also helps synthesize DNA and RNA.
Folate has a great effect on neural development and brain function. “Folate is very important for brain health. It also plays a major role in mental and emotional health,” said Christina Levert, an Alabama Extension human nutrition, diet and health regional agent.
For pregnant women, an adequate folate intake can lower the chance of their baby developing a neural tube defect. Neural tube defects can lead to problems in the brain and spinal cord. Folate is also essential during pregnancy because it aids in creating red blood cells that are multiplying quickly.
Levert explains that a folate deficiency can cause your body to create large blood cells, a condition called megaloblastic anemia. This could lead to feeling weak, tired and out of breath. Additionally, some may experience other physical problems. “Mouth sores or lacerations and changes in skin, hair or nail pigmentation may also occur in folate deficiency,” said Levert.
To ensure you reap the health benefits of folate and avoid deficiency issues, follow the recommended daily allowance for folate. The RDA for males and females is 400 mcg. During pregnancy, the recommendation goes up to 600 mcg per day.
Sources of Folate
You can increase your folate intake by eating leafy vegetables, broccoli, citrus fruits, beans, nuts and chicken. If you want foods with the greatest amount of folate, add spinach, liver, asparagus and brussel sprouts to your diet.
Folate can be found in an oxidized form, folic acid. Added to grain products, such as cereal and bread, it increases the nutritional value. “Since folic acid has been added to many grain foods in the United States, neural tube defects have decreased dramatically,” said Donna Shanklin, an Alabama Extension human nutrition, diet and health regional agent.
Dietary supplements often include folic acid. These supplements are for individuals, such as pregnant women, who could suffer serious health consequences from a folate deficiency.
Folate is an important vitamin that helps regulate our cells and metabolism. Without folate, dangerous health problems can arise. Consider eating more foods with a high folate content to reap its many health benefits.
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