Here is why it is important to consume a folate-rich diet
Folic acid plays a key part in the formation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all other cells in the body
Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9 or folate, is a critical nutrient that plays a significant role in our overall health. It is especially essential during pregnancy, as it is crucial for foetal development and maintaining the well-being of the mother. Folate, the natural form of this vitamin, is found in various foods, while folic acid is the synthetic version often found in supplements and fortified foods. It comes in two primary forms: folate and synthetic folic acid. Folate is naturally occurring in foods, while synthetic folic acid is often used in supplements and fortified foods. Both forms are crucial for the body, but there are important distinctions to be aware of.
Folic acid plays a key part in the formation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all other cells in the body. A deficiency in folic acid can lead to anemia, characterised by symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and poor concentration. For expectant mothers, folic acid is essential for preventing neural tube defects in the developing foetus. These defects can result in serious health issues for the baby, making it crucial for pregnant women to ensure they have an adequate intake of folic acid. Additionally, folic acid aids in the formation of DNA and RNA, making it pivotal for normal cell division and growth during pregnancy. Without sufficient folic acid, the foetus may face developmental challenges.
Folate, the natural form of vitamin B9, can be found in a variety of foods and a few excellent dietary sources of folate include spinach, avocados, green peas, organ meats, black-eyed peas, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, broccoli, mustard greens, kidney beans, tomatoes, oranges, peanuts, grapefruit, papaya, and organic bananas. Eggs, particularly the yolks, are another source of folate. It’s worth noting that choosing organic versions of these foods can be beneficial, as they may contain higher nutrient levels without the presence of pesticides. A balanced diet, rich in these foods, can help individuals meet their folic acid needs
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While synthetic folic acid is commonly added to foods and supplements, it may not always be absorbed effectively by the human body. This can lead to continued deficiencies in individuals who rely solely on synthetic forms of the nutrient. One factor to consider is the MTHFR gene, which can affect an individual’s ability to convert folic acid into its active, methylated form. In such cases, a methylated form of folic acid may be necessary to ensure proper absorption
A deficiency in folic acid can result in various health issues. As mentioned earlier, it can lead to anemia, characterised by symptoms like hair loss, fatigue, poor nails, and weakness. Additionally, cognitive functions may decline, leading to issues like poor concentration, brain fog, headaches, and irritability. Folic acid deficiency can also impact cardiovascular health. High levels of homocysteine, a compound associated with heart disease, can be corrected by ensuring adequate intake of folic acid and vitamin B12. This correction can occur within a few months. Moreover, deficiency in folic acid can manifest as canker sores or ulcers in the mouth and on the tongue. These painful lesions can significantly impact one’s quality of life.
Several lifestyle and health factors can deplete folic acid levels in the body including excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, shisha, and vaping. Individuals with conditions such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may also be at risk of folate deficiency. By incorporating folate-rich foods into our diets and addressing potential absorption challenges, we can ensure that our bodies receive the necessary folic acid for optimal health and well-being. Additionally, being aware of factors that reduce folic acid levels can help individuals make informed choices to maintain their nutritional balance and prevent deficiencies that can have serious consequences.
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