- Maddy Belaustegui
WHY WOMEN SHOULD CARE ABOUT FOLATE
And other nutrients they may lose on fad diets...
When people hear "folate" (aka folic acid or vitamin B9) they likely think of it as a vitamin only for pregnant women. Well, that's only partially true. Folate is required for the formation of red blood cells, the synthesis and repair of DNA, and cell differentiation. For these reasons, adequate intake is essential to prevent neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida. Thus it is often cited as an important prenatal vitamin. In fact, it's so important that in 1998 the FDA required folate be added to enriched grain products (such as bread, pasta, rice, and cereal). This was done because females need adequate intake at least one month BEFORE they become pregnant to prevent neural tube disorders. Many women do not discover they are pregnant for several weeks. The FDA recognized it was important that women had enough folate in their diets already before realizing they may need to take prenatal vitamins.
Females age 14 and older need 400 mcg of folate per day. Pregnant and breastfeeding women require a higher amount (500- 600 mcg). Folate is naturally found in legumes such as beans and peas and in a variety of fruit and vegetables including asparagus and Brussel sprouts. It is especially high in dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale. And of course, it is found in fortified grains and cereals.
So what if you follow a very low carbohydrate diet? Such as one in which you eliminate bread, rice, grains, legumes, and fruit (items that all contain healthy carbohydrates). You have just eliminated some of your diet’s main sources of folate. One thing people often overlook with fad diets is the nutrients that are lost by the exclusion of entire food groups. Finally, folate isn’t just important for women. It plays other roles in the body too including as a precursor for metabolism. The RDA for adult men is the same as females. Folate, along with vitamin B12 and iron deficiencies contribute to various types of anemias. They work together in the body to perform similar functions and often times a deficiency of one can affect the others. Just another reason a balanced diet involving all the nutritious food groups is so important.
Try these great recipes that are high in folate:
National Institutes of Health | Office of Dietary Supplements - Folate
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics | Healthy Eating for Women