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Folic Acid: The vitamin essential for good health





While you may have heard of folic acid (especially if you’ve ever been pregnant) you probably haven’t heard of folate being talked about in the same way.

I’m here to give you a quick rundown of what they are and why they’re important for everyone.

What is folic acid?

Folic acid is synthetic, water-soluble vitamin B-9 used in supplements and fortified foods such as flour, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals and bread.

And what is folate?

Folate is a naturally occurring vitamin B-9 vitamin, found in many foods such as asparagus, spinach, kale, broccoli, romaine lettuce, green peas, legumes, nuts and seeds, avocado, papaya, citrus fruits, eggs and beef liver.

It provides the same health benefits as folic acid, but one is man-made and the other is naturally occurring. The man-made version, folic acid, is nearly twice as easy for your body to absorb than naturally occurring folate.

What makes Vitamin B-9 (folic acid/ folate) so important?

Good vitamin B-9 intake can reduce the risk of heart disease, some cancers, megaloblastic anaemia and can even help protect against depression.

During pregnancy, folic acid supplementation is particularly important because it’s been shown to prevent neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are serious birth defects of the brain and spine. They develop very early in pregnancy when the neural tube, which becomes the brain and the spine, does not close properly.

In fact, folic acid has been shown to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects by between 40-100%, when folic acid is taken daily. (1)

How much Vitamin B-9 (folic acid/ folate) do you need each day?

The amount you need depends on your age.

Average daily recommended amounts are listed below in micrograms (mcg) of dietary folate equivalents (DFEs)(3).


Life Stage

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)

Teens 14–18 years

400 mcg DFE

Adults 19+ years

400 mcg DFE

Pregnant teens and women

600 mcg DFE

Breastfeeding teens and women

500 mcg DFE



Can you have too much folate?

Like most things in life, you can have too much of a good thing. You should not consume more than 1,000 mcg of folate per day in supplements or fortified foods and beverages unless recommended by a healthcare provider.

Also, be sure to tell your doctor, pharmacist and/or other healthcare providers about any dietary supplements and medicines you take. They can tell you if those dietary supplements might interact or interfere with your prescription, or other over-the-counter medicines.


Try a folate-rich Mediterranean salad

This Mediterranean salad is the perfect dish, as a side, or a vegetarian main dish. Packed with folate-rich lentils, fresh tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, olives and zesty feta, you will absolutely love the fresh flavours and texture of this folate-rich healthy salad.


Mediterranean salad

Yield: 4 serving

Prep Time: 10-15 min

Cook Time: 20 min

Total Time: 35 min


Salad

1 cup uncooked lentils or 2 1/2 cups cooked

1 cup diced English or Persian cucumbers

1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 Ripe avocado cubed (optional for an additional punch of folate)

1/4 cup diced red onion

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese


Dressing

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed between the palms of your hands

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

Cook lentils according to package directions until tender, but not mushy. Drain the lentils of any excess water and add them to a serving bowl, letting them cool while you prepare the remainder of the salad.

Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and set aside.

Add the remaining salad ingredients to the cooled lentils along with the dressing. Lightly stir everything together until combined. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Tips & Tricks

  1. When cooking lentils be sure to rinse and drain thoroughly before boiling.
  2. Kalamata olives can easily be replaced with canned black olives.
  3. For a vegan option, just omit the feta or use your favourite dairy-free feta.
  4. Don't have an English cucumber on hand? Simply scoop the seeds out of a regular cucumber with a spoon before chopping.


Nutrition Information:

Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 165 (225 Calories With Avocado) Total Fat: 8g (13.5g) Saturated Fat: 3g (3.8g) Trans Fat: 0gunsaturated Fat: 5g (9.35) Cholesterol: 11mgsodium: 503mg (506mg) (Carbohydrates: 17g (20g) Fiber: 5g (7.5) Sugar: 5g Protein: 7g (8g)



References

  1. Reference - Toriello, H., 2005. Folic acid and neural tube defects. Genetics in Medicine, 7(4), pp.283-284.
  2. Data and statistics on spina bifida. (2020, September 03). Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/spi...
  3. Institute of Medicine. 1998. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin and Choline. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/6015.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.