Folate or folacin is commonly known as Folic acid which is an important B-complex vitamin popular for its importance in pregnancy and prevention of pregnancy defects. Folic acid is one of the most chemically complicated vitamins having a three part structure that works on the special demands on the body’s metabolism.
The three components of folic acid are called glutamic acid, pteridine and PABA. Folic acid or Vitamin B9 is one of the 8 B vitamins and most of the B vitamins help the body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose) which is used to produce energy. They also help the body use fats and proteins.
B complex vitamins are required for healthy skin, eyes, liver and hair. Folic acid is the synthetic form of B9 which is found in supplements and fortified foods. They also help the nervous system function properly. All B vitamins are water-soluble which means that the body does not store them.
Folic acid is very vital for proper brain function and plays an important role in mental and emotional health. It mainly aids in the production of DNA and RNA. It works closely with vitamin B12 which helps make RBCs and help iron work properly in the body.
Pregnant women need more folic acid to lower the risk of neural tube birth defects, including cleft palate, spina bifida, and brain damage. Most people get an adequate amount of folic acid from the foods they eat. Women of child bearing age (approximately fifteen to forty-five years) are recommended to include 400 micrograms of folic acid in their diets, particularly important before and during pregnancy to prevent birth defects.
Function of Folic Acid: One of the key function as a vitamin is to allow for complete development of RBCs as these cells help carry oxygen around the body. Normally when folic acid is deficient, the RBCs cannot form properly and continue to grow without dividing. This condition is called macrocytic anemia, which is one of the most common causes is folic acid deficiency. Increased intake of folic acid, particularly by men, has repeatedly been suggested as a simply way to lower risk of cardiovascular disease by preventing build-up of homocysteine in the blood.
Deficiency symptoms of Folic Acid: Folic acid deficiency can be associated with irritability, mental fatigue, confusion, insomnia, depression or forgetfulness because of its link with the nervous system. The connections between folate, circulation, and red blood cell status make folate deficiency a possible cause of general or muscular fatigue.
How can high-folate foods help you: It help prevent homocysteine build up in your blood, supports cell production especially in your skin, help prevent osteoporosis related bone fracture, dementias including Alzheimer’s disease etc.
Foods rich in Folic Acid: Rich dietary sources of folate include romaine lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, lentils, dark green leafy vegetables, whole wheat bread, poultry, lightly cooked beans and peas, nuts and seeds, sprouts, papaya, strawberries, cabbage, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, fennel, tomatoes etc.
It is really important to eat raw foods or lightly cooked vegetables as they retain their nutrient value when cooked in minimal water through boiling, steaming, microwaving or stir-frying. As folic acid is very important during pregnancy, some pregnant women take a multivitamin or supplement with folic acid. I hope reading this article would have inspired you in increasing and filling your plate with folate.
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