Folate is vitamin B9 and is important for healthy brain development, red and white blood cell production, DNA synthesis, various metabolic processes and for the conversion of carbohydrates into energy. Your body cannot produce folate itself which is why it is necessary to make sure you get enough from your diet. Certain folate-producing probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria, such as Bifid bacterium, have been shown to raise folate levels. The makeup of your gut microbiome can positively affect your folate levels.
What foods contain folate?
Folate is found in leafy green vegetables and some other foods as well. Some of these foods include boysenberries, plantains, mangoes, oranges, papayas, lemon juice, kiwi, asparagus, peas, turnip greens, beets and okra. Animal foods that contain folate include chicken liver, egg yolk, feta cheese, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, yogurt and whey. Also, nutritional yeast is an excellent source.
Folate is a form of B9 that the body directly utilises making it the preferred form, especially if you have health problems with your liver. The other form is synthetic and mostly found in supplements is Folic acid. This form is not biologically active in itself, however, if you have a healthy liver, it will convert the folic acid into the active form of B9.
The older we get the more risk we are of being deficient in folate. Folate helps lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. It does this by lowering your homocysteine level. If you are an athlete, by taking baker’s yeast, which contains folates, it can help to minimize post-exercise immunosuppression. Folic acid supplementation can also lower the risk of cardiovascular problems that are related to exertion. There has also been research that found that when there was a higher folic acid exposure in utero, there was improved cortical maturation in the child helping to reduce the risk for symptoms of psychosis.
There are many health benefits for folate. It can help prevent health problems such as depression, seizure disorders, brain atrophy and other neurological problems. Also to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering your homocysteine level. Stress contributes to poor health a lot more that you realise and can contribute to early death. This includes physical stress as well as emotional stress you’d normally associate with health. Studies have shown that demanding workouts can place stress on your body. Excessive physical stress from over training and lack of recovery can take a significant toll on your health. It does this by suppressing immune function.
Fitness and folate
If you do intense, prolonged exercise make sure to recover properly as you can become prone to get infections more easily after the training. You can take supplements like beta glucan to help recover and get back to training faster. This type of fibre is in baker’s yeast, brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast. These all contain B vitamins, including folate. You can also put your heart health at risk if you’re over training. Intense and prolonged training increases levels of homocysteine. Higher homocysteine increases risk for heart attack, stroke and neurodegenerative problems such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. The good news is that these B-vitamins can lower homocysteine levels.
During pregnancy, infancy and adolescence it is important to get the right amounts of folate because our body is growing rapidly. Optimal levels of vitamin B9 helps to deter the development of psychosis and autism in children. Folate may also mitigate the risk of pesticide-induced autism.
Folate Acid and kids
When it comes to children, they tend to have a healthy functioning liver, unlike many adults. This is why using folic acid is OK. However you need healthy liver function for folic acid to convert properly. Using folic acid for children is good as folic acid molecules are smaller than folate. Pills made from this are small and work the same like the larger folate-based pill. This makes it easier for children to swallow if they need it.
So, if your liver is healthy and functioning well, then folic acid supplements will help to keep your levels up, however, if your liver is not functioning at its best then eating folate rich foods will be the best way for your bodies levels to stay where they are needed. Make sure you consult your health care practitioner if you have any concerns about the folate levels in your body before you make any changes to your diet.