Folic acid is the synthetic form of one of the B vitamins, which is also known as folate or vitamin B9.
This is a vital nutrient that is often neglected in one’s diet.
It is vitally important for pregnant women to consume proper amount of folate and folic acid rich foods in order to protect their babies from possible birth defects.
Folate vs Folic Acid
Folic acid is a synthetic and more stable form of vitamin B9 and does not occur naturally on foods. This form is mostly found in fortified foods or supplements. Folates on the other hand, are naturally occurring and are found in the body’s metabolically active forms and in foods. The terms folic acid and folate are mostly used interchangeably. “Folates” are used in referring to the forms found in the body or food while “folic acid” is the form found in fortified foods or supplements.
Folic Acid Role
Folic acid plays a significant role in emotional and mental health and is vital for proper functioning of the brain. It also aids in the production of the body’s genetic material, DNA and RNA, and is crucial on rapid cell and tissue development, such as during infancy, pregnancy, and adolescence.
This water-soluble vitamin works closely with vitamin B12 in making red blood cells and aids in allowing correct iron mineral function. Folic acid functions with vitamins B6 and B12, as well to other nutrients, in controlling the blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. Recent studies have shown that having high levels of homocysteine can be associated with heart disease or can indicate that someone can possibly have heart disease.
Folic Acid Rich Foods
Since folic acid does not occur naturally in foods and is mostly found in supplements, here are some folate rich foods that can provide the same function as folic acid; also be on the lookout for foods that have been fortified folic acid rich foods such as cereals and other grain products:
- Broccoli. This is known to be one of the most versatile vegetables as it can be used in salads, pasta, soups, or as side dish. It is highly rich in vitamin B9, calcium, manganese, and other trace minerals as well.
- Asparagus. Half a cup of this nutritious vegetable can provide 134 µg of folate, as this is a great addition to any dish. Asparagus actually contains the highest amount of folate among any vegetable. Aside from that, it doesn’t contain any cholesterol and fat and has low sodium content, which makes it a perfect source of nutrition for those who want to lose weight.
- Spinach. This green leafy vegetable is highly rich in iron and folate. This is the reason why it is included in almost any dish including salads. One half cup of cooked spinach provides 132 µg of folate.
- Lentils. One half cup of cooked lentils can already provide 179 µg of folate. Aside from giving great flavor to one’s dish, lentils are considered as one of the best sources of folate.
- Enriched grains and pasta. It is essential to opt for whole grains in order to get the most essential nutrients such as antioxidants and fiber to help the body fight against free radicals. Enriched pasta on the other hand can provide at least 60 micrograms of folic acid per cup.
- Avocado. This fruit is packed with folate which is why it is often included in the diet of almost every pregnant woman. It is packed with omega-oils and can provide various great tasting and healthy snacks.
Aside from the above mentioned foods that are highly rich in folic acid, here are some of the foods that will complete the list of good sources of vitamin B9 / folate: chickpeas, turnip greens, papaya, millet, fenugreek, potatoes, cabbage, orange juice, raisins, strawberry, kale, oysters, clams, lentils, grapes, almonds, finger, dates, corn, sunflower seeds, liver, fig, black-eyed peas, pineapple juice, okra, collard greens, fish, and poultry. Full list of Folic acid rich foods.