Folic Acid Awareness Week
When it comes to maintaining a healthy body, vitamin C, antioxidants and beta carotene are usually the first nutrients that come to mind. But did you know that the lesser known vitamin called folic acid is just as important to helping your body stay strong and healthy?
January 8 through 14th marks Folic Acid Awareness Week. This water soluble B-complex vitamin helps the body generate more DNA and healthy blood cells which works to prevent certain diseases like anemia, ulcerative colitis, liver disease, kidney disease as well as mental conditions such as depression. Newer research also suggests that folic acid can help prevent cervical cancer and help the human papillomavirus (the leading cause for cervical dysplasia) go dormant.
It plays an even major role in pregnant womenâ€”folic acid helps reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects which affect a baby’s brain and spine by a whopping 70%. Folic acid is especially needed among Latina women. Hispanic women are two times more likely to have a baby born with neural tube defects, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While taking a daily multivitamin will most likely give the recommended 400 micrograms (mcg) folic acid the body needs, health experts recommend absorbing natural folic acid (folate) through food instead since there are tons of fruits, vegetables, and carbohydrates that are fortified with the vitamin already. And since an overdose can result in neurological issues, you don’t want to risk taking a vitamin supplement of the recommended amount and then consuming more folic acid via food throughout the dayâ€”excess folic acid will just remain in your blood stream.
[box type=”important”]Not to mention that a proper amount of vitamins B6 and B12 are needed to help folic acid actually do its job, so if you take too much folic acid but donâ€™t balance it out with enough B6 and B12, your efforts will be lost.[/box]
That said, to learn some great natural sources of folate as well as foods fortified with folic acid continue reading below.
Natural Sources of Folate:
- White Rice: By U.S. Law and Regulation, enriched white rice has to be fortified with folic acid. While the amounts of folic acid will vary depending on whether the rice is parboiled or instant, one cup of rice should supply at least 80 mcg of folic acid.
- Whole Grain Products: Fortified whole grain oatmeal, breads, crackers, pastas and breakfast cereals can also provide a good supply of folic acid. As an added bonus whole grain promotes a healthy heart.
- Beef Liver: Cooking raw fruits and veggies that naturally contain folate may deplete most of this important nutrient, but studies have shown that liver seems to maintain most of its folate after it’s cooked. Three ounces of fried beef liver contains about 187 mcg of folate.
- Dark Leafy Greens. Kale, collards, spinach and romaine lettuce contain most of its folate in their raw form, but cooking these greens from their fresh state still contain a decent dose of folate. For example, Â½ cup of fresh steamed broccoli contains 39 mcg; one cup of raw spinach 263 mcg.
- Citrus Fruits and Berries: Berries such as raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and citrus fruits like grapefruit, oranges, and fruit juices can serves as great snacks or breakfast foods and can help you meet your daily folic acid intake. One orange contains about 50 mcg of folate, whereas a cup of orange juice as much as 109 mcg of folate.
- Legumes. Lastly, beans (legumes) of all varieties, including pinto beans, black beans, and garbanzo can give you a boost of folate when cooked fresh from their dry state. Canned legumes provide some folate, but since they are often over processed, it’s not good to depend on them too much. For reference, Â½ cup of pinto beans cooked from their dry state contains 147 mcg of folate.