Folate the Cell Builder
Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin needed for building new cells and for cell maintenance. Folate is used to make DNA and RNA, cell building blocks, and folate helps prevent changes to DNA that may lead to cancer. Folate occurs naturally in food and folic acid is the synthetic form found in fortified foods and supplements. Folic acid is absorbed more easily; however, after absorption both folate and folic acid have the same function. You will find folate optionally listed on the Nutrition Facts label as folic acid or folate. Folate helps build cells:
- In the small intestine where cells are replaced every three days.
- In the blood supply, helping produce new red blood cells each day and prevent anemia.
- In pregnancy, participating in the amazing cell development of the growing baby.
Early research suggests that getting plenty of folate in the diet may reduce the risk of several serious diseases. It may help prevent heart disease and stroke by interfering with substances that clog the arteries. In addition, folate may prevent colon cancer by helping to protect cells in the colon.
Folate is thought to play a vital role in reducing the risks of neural tube defects in the fetus. A neural tube defect is a very serious birth defect of the brain or spinal cord. It occurs in the first few weeks of pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Therefore, it is recommended that every woman capable of becoming pregnant take the recommended folate intake daily. It is also important for pregnant women to take the recommended folate intake daily. Adequate folate intake may reduce the risk of having a baby affected by a neural tube defect.
Too much of a good thing can be harmful, however. Folate in doses above 1000 micrograms (800 micrograms for those 18 years old and younger) can conceal a deficiency of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause permanent nerve damage and paralysis.
HOW MUCH FOLATE DO YOU NEED DAILY?
Folate intake is measured in micrograms (΅g) of dietary folate equivalents (DFE). DFE was developed to help account for differences in absorption of naturally occurring dietary folate and the more bioavailable synthetic folic acid. 1 DFE = 1 ΅g food folate = 0.6 ΅g folic acid from supplements and fortified foods. See your label for values.
Daily recommended intakes:
Females and Males 14+ years ..400* ΅g DFE
Pregnancy 600** ΅g DFE
Lactation.. . .500 ΅g DFE
*In view of evidence linking folate intake with neural tube defects in the fetus, it is recommended that all women capable of becoming pregnant consume 400 ΅g synthetic folic acid from fortified foods and/or supplements in addition to intake of food folate from a varied diet.
**It is assumed that women will continue taking 400 ΅g folic acid until their pregnancy is confirmed and they enter prenatal care, which ordinarily occurs after the end of the periconceptional period - the critical time for formation of the neural tube.
HOW DO YOU FIND FOODS RICH IN FOLATE?
Folate gets its name from the Latin word "folium" meaning leaf - very appropriate, as leafy greens such as spinach and kale are good source of folate. Folate is also found in dry beans and peas, fortified cereals and grain products, and some vegetables and fruits.
As of January 1, 1998, the Food and Drug Administration requires the addition of folic acid to enriched breads, cereals, flours, corn meals, pastas, rice, and other grain products. This regulation was specifically targeted to reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects in newborns. Since the folic acid fortification program took effect, fortified foods have become a major source of folic acid in the American diet.
FOLATE AND FOLIC ACID SOURCES (THINK FOLIAGE!)
EXCELLENT SOURCES Breads and cereals Serving ΅g DFE Fortified breakfast cereal ½ - 1 cup 150-700 Macaroni, enriched, cooked 1 cup 140-160 Noodles, enriched, cooked 1 cup 150-221 Rice, white enriched, processed, cooked 1 cup 153 Vegetables Asparagus, frozen, cooked, drained, without salt 1 cup 243 Brussels sprouts, frozen, cooked, drained, without salt 1 cup 157 Collards, cooked, drained, without salt 1 cup 177 Lima beans, large, cooked without salt 1 cup 156 Mustard greens, cooked, drained, without salt 1 cup 102 Spinach, raw 3 cups 165 Spinach, cooked ½ cup 100 Turnip greens, cooked ,drained, without salt 1 cup 170 Legumes, cooked Beans black, kidney, navy, pinto ½ cup 115-145 Black-eyed peas, cooked ½ cup 105 Chickpeas, cooked ½ cup 140 Lentils, cooked ½ cup 163 GOOD SOURCES Breads and cereals Serving ΅g DFE Bagel, enriched 1 (3½ diameter) 160 Vegetables Beets, canned, drained, solids 1 cup 51 Bok choi, boiled, drained, without salt 1 cup 70 Broccoli, cooked ½ cup 50 Cauliflower, frozen, cooked, drained, without salt 1 cup 74 Corn, on the cob 1 large 55 Endive, raw 1 cup 71 Okra, cooked, drained, without salt 1 cup 74 Parsnips, cooked, drained, without salt 1 cup 90 Peas, frozen, cooked, drained, without salt 1 cup 94 Tomato juice 1 cup 50 MODERATE SOURCES Breads and cereals Serving ΅g DFE Crackers, saltines, melba, enriched 4 pieces 26-39 Enriched breads and bread products 1 slice 25-40 Fruits Orange juice, ready-to-drink 1 cup 45 Vegetables Corn on the cob 1 ear 35 Potato, Idaho, baked, flesh, skin 1 medium 25 Meat and substitutes Egg 1 large 25 Peanut butter 2 TBSP 25 Peanuts, dry roasted 1 ounce 40
U.S.D.A. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 19, 2002
Dietary Folate Equivalents: Interpretation and Application, C. W. Suitor, L. B. Bailey; Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100:1:88-92.
Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline (2000) Institute of Medicine.
Food & Nutrition Board, National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, Recommended Dietary Allowances, 1989.
Washington State Dairy Council, NutriPrints, 1996.
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 19, 2002
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