If you have a folate deficiency, you likely feel overly tired and lack energy, and may experience symptoms such as muscle weakness, mouth ulcers, and problems with your vision. It’s super important to get the proper amount of folate and folic acid in your diet or through supplements. This becomes even more important if you’re planning to become pregnant. If you’re concerned that you’re not consuming enough folate, take a look at these foods high in folic acid to add to your diet!
What Is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate. Folate is a B vitamin (vitamin B9) that your body needs to work properly. It’s involved in many biological processes essential to your overall health. Your body needs folate to make new red blood cells and DNA, the genetic materials in your cells. It’s crucial for proper brain function, and plays an important role in mental and emotional health. Folate may also help protect the heart and reduce your risk of certain cancers.
It’s also essential during pregnancy as it plays an important role in forming a baby’s neural tube. Folate is naturally found in many of the foods you eat, including leafy greens, citrus fruits, nuts, beans, peas, seafood, eggs, dairy, meat, poultry, and grains. Folic acid is often added to fortified foods and used in dietary supplements.
Why Is Folic Acid Important?
Your body isn’t able to store large amounts of natural folate, however it can easily absorb folic acid. Because of this, it’s added to certain everyday foods. Grains like rice, bread, pastas, and some cereals are fortified with folic acid. There are also folic acid supplements available that can help fill the gaps as needed. Folate and folic acid are especially important for people who are pregnant, as folate helps in the growth and development of the fetus and can help prevent birth defects. It reduces the risk of a major birth defect in the brain or the spine.
How Much Folic Acid Do You Need?
The recommended daily amount of folate for adults is 400 micrograms (mcg). Adult women who are planning pregnancy or could become pregnant are usually advised to get 400 to 1,000 mcg of folate per day. If you’re planning to get pregnant, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about how much folate you should be getting each day.
9 Folate Deficiency Symptoms
- Extreme Fatigue
- Lack of energy
- Pins and needles
- Sore, red tongue
- Mouth ulcers
- Muscle weakness
- Problems with your vision
- Problems with memory, understanding or judgment
- Psychological problems, such as mild depression or anxiety
8 Foods High in Folic Acid (Folate)
Lentils are super rich in folate, as one cup of cooked lentils provides 358 mcg of folate, 90% of the recommended daily value. Lentils are also a great source of fibre, protein, and antioxidants, and contain micronutrients like potassium, magnesium, and iron. Lentils are often used as a meat-substitute in plant-based dishes as they’re packed with protein. Enjoy them in salads, pasta sauces, or curries.
2. Dark Leafy Green Vegetables (Spinach, Arugula, Kale)
Leafy greens are low in calories and contain a hefty dose of folate. For example, a half cup of cooked spinach contains 39% of the recommended daily value for folate. And one cup of cooked turnip greens contains 170 mcg of folate, almost half the daily value. Leafy greens are also high in fibre and contain vitamins A and K, which are linked to numerous health benefits, like slowing cognitive decline and reducing inflammation. To minimize folate loss during cooking, steam leafy greens until partway between tender and crisp.
Asparagus is packed with vitamins and nutrients, including folate. One half cup of cooked asparagus contains 134 mcg of folate, or 34% of the daily value. It’s also rich in antioxidants and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Plus, it’s an excellent source of fibre. Steaming your asparagus will help preserve its nutrients, although there are lots of ways to cook it from grilling, to broiling, to stir frying.
Beets are rich in many important nutrients, including folate. A single cup of raw beets contains 148 mcg of folate, or 37% of the recommended daily value. Beets also contain manganese, potassium, and vitamin C, and are high in nitrates, a type of plant compound associated with many health benefits, including lowering your blood pressure.
5. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are also super rich in folate. One cup of cooked broccoli contains 168 mcg of folate, or 47% of the daily value. While Brussels sprouts aren’t as high in folate, one cooked cup still contains 46.8 mcg. They’re also rich in antioxidants and other important micronutrients. Brussels sprouts can be roasted, sautéed, steamed, or air fried.
6. Beef Liver
Beef liver is highly nutritious and contains a hefty dose of folate. Three ounces provides 215 mcg of folate, or 52% of the daily value. It’a also an awesome source of protein, and is rich in vitamin A, vitamin B12, and copper. Keep in mind that while it’s highly nutritious, organ meats, especially liver, contain high levels of cholesterol. It should be consumed in moderation.
7. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast gives foods a cheesy, nutty flavour, and two tablespoons provides 208 mcg of folic acid (about half the recommended daily value). You can use nutritional yeast in pasta sauces, soups, salads, dips, stir fries, and more. Be sure to check the nutrition label for folic acid, as not all nutritional yeast products are fortified with vitamins and minerals.
8. Fortified Grains
Some grains such as pastas, cereals, and breads are fortified with folic acid. The amount of folic acid varies between products, but one cup of cooked spaghetti generally contains about 99 mcg of folic acid and ¾ cup of bran cereal can contain up to 194 mcg of folic acid. Folic acid is thought to be consumed by the body more easily than folate found naturally in foods. A well-balanced diet that’s rich in natural sources of folate and a moderate number of fortified foods is ideal.
If your diet is lacking folate, add these foods to your meals on the daily to reap the benefits.
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