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updated: 1/30/2013 10:07 AM

Nutrition Benefits of Folate and Folic Acid

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Melodi Peters, RD LDN

Folate, also known as water soluble vitamin B9, occurs naturally in foods. Folic acid is folate's synthetic form, found in supplements, and since 1998 in fortified grain and cereal products. The word folate sometimes refers to both the natural and synthetic form of the vitamin.

Certain foods very high in folate:

• Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, turnip greens and some Asian vegetables

• Legumes such as dried or fresh beans, peas and lentils

• Egg yolk

• Baker's yeast

• Fortified grain products (pasta, cereal, bread); some breakfast cereals (ready to eat and others) are fortified with 25% to 100% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for folic acid

• Nuts and sunflower seeds

• Liver and liver products

Plant sources of folate are more nutritious if consumed fresh or raw. Heating the food, especially cooking it in a large amount of water, destroys the natural folate.

Folate is essential for numerous bodily functions and is needed especially for women who are pregnant or who are planning to pregnant. It is suggested that women of childbearing age get 400-800 micrograms of folate daily. Most multivitamins, fortified cereals, and other fortified foods contain folic acid.

With many ways to get folate in our diet it should be an easy addition to make sure we are getting the proper nutrition we need.