Why you should care about this B vitamin – Folate

by Ann Gilligan

When many people think of folate aka folic acid they may think, “Oh that’s just a prenatal vitamin for pregnant women.” Well, that is only partially true. Folic acid is required for the formation of red blood cells, synthesis and repair of DNA, and cell differentiation. For these reasons it is essential in preventing neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida. Folic acid is so important in fact that in 1998 the FDA required that it be added to enriched grain products (such as bread, pasta, rice, and cereal). Every female age 14 and older needs 400 mcg of folic acid per day, unless they are pregnant or breastfeeding, in which case they require a higher amount (500- 600 mcg). This is because females need adequate intake at least one month BEFORE getting pregnant to prevent neural tube disorders. It is not enough to just start consuming it once pregnant, because by the time you find out you are pregnant, vital parts of the fetus’ neural tube have already begun to form. Folic acid is found in legumes such as beans and peas and in a variety of fruit and vegetables especially dark, leafy greens and oranges. And of course, it is in fortified grains and cereals. So what if you are following a very low carbohydrate diet? Such as one in which you cut out bread, rice, grains, legumes, and fruit. Then you may have just eliminated some of your diet’s main sources of folic acid. One thing people often overlook with fad diets is the nutrients that can be lost by excluding entire food groups from your diet. Finally, folic acid isn’t just important for women. Iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12 deficiencies can present with very similar symptoms and lab values and can even mask each other. So if you are experiencing consistent fatigue and tiredness that you suspect is related to insufficient iron in your diet, make sure your folic acid intake is adequate too. Your doctor can test for folate and vitamin B12 serum levels as well if you have a blood panel done.  

 

Ref: National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements – Folate, 2020

Eatright.org, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Healthy Eating for Women, 2020

 

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Ann Gilligan
Hi all! I joined RRRC as a Running Consultant in November 2019 after moving to Las Vegas. I previously
worked in Washington, DC for six years as a government contractor but have since changed careers. I
am currently pursuing a M.S. in Nutrition Sciences – Coordinated Program in Dietetics to become a
Registered Dietitian. I competed in high school track and cross country and ran with a club team in
college. I also have experience with weightlifting as I been doing Crossfit in addition to running for six
years. I am passionate about sports nutrition and fueling our bodies properly to prevent injury and
maximize performance on the road, trails, or in the gym!