By Chené Vorster, RD(SA)
Folate, also known as folic acid or vitamin B9, is part of the B-vitamins and is responsible for many of the essential processes in our bodies. Folate is not only important in pregnancy, but also necessary in day-to-day functioning. Folate assists in DNA synthesis and thus assists in new cell formation. When we neglect our folate intake, our gut cells struggle to make new cells (as gut cells are among the most rapidly replaced cells in our body) – so when we are unable to make new cells, our gut deteriorates, resulting in loss of folate and many other nutrients. A folate deficiency can also result in anaemia, as without folate, the replacement of red blood cells falters.
Folate is also the most vulnerable to drug interactions. Excessive alcohol intake and drugs such as aspirin and antacids can reduce the availability of folate and result in GI deterioration and anaemia. If you only use these occasionally, you need not worry. People who do rely on these drugs should be more aware of the nutritional implications that they can have.
The average adult requires about 400ug of folate per day and pregnant and lactating females need up to 600ug per day. The safe upper limit is 1000ug per day – although no serious side effects have been reported at these levels, it can mask a B12 deficiency.
Folate can be found in various food sources and is abundant in our legumes, fruits and (especially dark green and leafy) vegetables. Some grain products are also being fortified with folate. It is important to note that heat and oxidation during cooking and storage can destroy up to half of the folate content in foods. Have a look at these cooked foods and how much folate they contain:
- ½ cup lentils: +- 175 ug
- ½ cup pinto beans: +-150 ug
- ½ cup asparagus: +- 130 ug
- ½ cup spinach: +- 130 ug
- ½ cup broccoli: +- 85 ug
It’s time to start adding those legumes and leafy greens to your everyday meals! Add them into soups, stews, salads or even on the side.
- Whitney, E. and Rolfes, S., 2016. Understanding nutrition. 14th ed. Stamford: Cengage Learning, pp.315-320.