Welcome back to the Raising Health Families series, join us each week as we take a look at different ways to keep your family healthy and vibrant in a not-so-healthy world.
Yesterday I shared what I’ve learned about the dangers of synthetic folic acid. “Folate” and “folic acid” are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing and they do not have the same effects on the body. Folate is God-made, folic acid is man-made. In my opinion, God had a much better idea of what we need, so I stick with His version.
Today, I want to talk about the benefits of folate and give you some good natural sources and alternatives to synthetic folic acid supplements.
Benefits of Folate
Why is it so important to get enough folate? Well, this little water-soluble vitamin, also known as B9, is needed for the proper functioning of many systems in our bodies. Here is a quick overview of some of the benefits, but I encourage you to do some of your own research to learn more!
- Reproductive System: Folate is important for cellular division, especially to prevent birth defects during early pregnancy.
- Circulatory System: Folate is needed for the healthy production of red blood cells.
- Nervous System: Folate is needed for proper serotonin levels and low folate seems to be common in Alzheimer’s patients.
- Skeletal System: There may be a correlation between low folate intake and low bone density, though there are not any conclusive studies that I’ve found.
Getting Folate From REAL Foods
I want to start by saying that I love real food! If you aren’t familiar with the term “real food”, check out my post about it here. I strive to eat nutrient-dense real foods to meet as many of my nutritional needs as possible. For folate, here’s a list of foods that are excellent sources! Unless otherwise listed, it’s a 1-cup serving. The percentage is based on a daily recommendation of 400mcg, but a pregnant (or hoping to be) mama should get 600mcgs.
- Calf liver 4 ounces 93.8%
- Lentils 89.5%
- Pinto Beans 73.5%
- Garbanzo Beans 70.5%
- Spinach 65.7%
- Black Beans 64%
- Navy Beans 63.7%
- Kidney Beans 57.5%
- Collard Greens 44.1%
- Turnip Greens 42.4%
- Lima Beans 39%
- Beets 37%
- Romaine lettuce 2c 31.9%
- Avocado 29.5%
- Peanuts ¼ cup 21.9%
- Sunflower seeds ¼ cup 19.8%
- Asparagus 1c 17.9%
- Broccoli 14.3%
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives you some ideas, right? So, what would it look like in reality to eat a folate-rich dieat? Could a soon-to-be-pregnant mama actually eat enough folate-rich foods to get 600mcgs? Let’s see…
A Real-Life Example:
Breakfast: Eggs with a sliced avocado (120)= 120 mcg
Snack: Apple (5.5) with 1/4 cup sunflower seed butter (79.2)= 84.7 mcg
Lunch: Spinach salad (263) with beets (148) and goat cheese= 411 mcgs
Snack: One cup bell peppers (42) with 1/2 cup hummus (100)= 142 mcgs
Dinner: Meat of your choice, baked beans using navy beans (255) and asparagus (71)= 326 mcgs
Total for the day: 1,083.7 mcgs of real folate!!! That’s well above the 600 mcg recommendation. Clearly, it can be done if we are eating real, unprocessed foods.
Getting Folate From Supplements
Now, if you are like many women (including myself) and you can hardly keep anything down in early pregnancy, you might not be able to eat a folate-rich diet. There are a lot of natural remedies for morning sickness, but until you’re feeling better there is an alternative to popping that folic acid pill. Believe it or not, you can buy supplements that are actually folate!
Folic acid is much, much cheaper to produce, so most companies prefer it. High-quality folate supplements are available and, having researched them, I wouldn’t hesitate to use them if I was unable to get enough dietary folate early in pregnancy.
When looking for a folate supplement, make certain that “folic acid” isn’t mentioned anywhere on the bottle. I’ll list a few brands here that contain real folate at the time that I am writing this post. (*I am not in any way affiliated with any of these companies and do not receive any money from them.*)
- Solgar has a folate supplement.
- Garden of Life has a raw prenatal with folate that is very popular.
- New Chapter has a prenatal with a whole-food folate.
- MegaFood has a whole-food prenatal with folate.
These are just a few options for high-quality folate supplements that can get you through until you’re feeling better and can eat more nutrient-dense foods.
I hope that this post has helped you to see folate in a new way and has encouraged you as you see how easy it can be to ditch the folic acid and get real folate!
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