March 30, 2016

Are You Getting These Nutrients? - Part 3

The nutrient for this discussion is folate (vitamin B9), which is found in whole foods. Folic acid is found in supplements and fortified foods. Folic acid is more bioavailable to be used by the body, so the recommended amounts are a little complicated, but basically the recommended daily allowance is 400 mcg (also called DFE) for adults.

Folate is best known for preventing a type of birth defect called a neural tube defect. It is used in many chemical reactions in the body, and its functions include cell formation, especially red blood cells.

Low-Carb Sources of Folate
Basically liver and anything green will give you lots of folate.
Chicken Livers - 3.5 oz. - 578 mcg folate - 1 gram carbohydrate
Asparagus - 6 spears - 134 mcg folate
Spinach - 1/2 cup cooked - 131 mcg folate
Brussels sprouts, 1/2 cup cooked - 78 mcg folate
Avocado - 1/2 cup sliced - 59 mcg folate
Romaine Lettuce - 1 cup - 64 mcg - half a gram net carb
Broccoli - 1/2 cup chopped - 52 mcg folate
Also: salmon, crab, lamb, and most green vegetables

Vitamin B9, also called folate or folic acid, is one of 8 B vitamins. All B vitamins help the body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which is used to produce energy. These B vitamins, often referred to as B-complex vitamins, also help the body use fats and protein. B-complex vitamins are needed for a healthy liver, and healthy skin, hair, and eyes. They also help the nervous system function properly. Folic acid is the synthetic form of B9, found in supplements and fortified foods, while folate occurs naturally in foods.

All the B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning the body does not store them.

Folic acid is crucial for proper brain function and plays an important role in mental and emotional health. It aids in the production of DNA and RNA, the body's genetic material, and is especially important when cells and tissues are growing rapidly, such as in infancy, adolescence, and pregnancy. Folic acid also works closely with vitamin B12 to help make red blood cells and help iron work properly in the body.

Vitamin B9 works with vitamins B6 and B12 and other nutrients to control blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine are associated with heart disease, however researchers are not sure whether homocysteine is a cause of heart disease or just a marker that indicates someone may have heart disease.

It is fairly common to have low levels of folic acid. Alcoholism, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and celiac disease can cause folic acid deficiency. Also, certain medications may lower levels of folic acid in the body. Folic acid deficiency can cause - poor growth, tongue inflammation, gingivitis, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, diarrhea, irritability, forgetfulness, and mental sluggishness.

Daily recommendations for dietary folic acid are:
  • Men and women, 19 years and older: 400 mcg (RDA)
  • Pregnant women: 600 mcg (RDA)
  • Breastfeeding women: 500 mcg (RDA)
Most people (except pregnant women) should be able to get enough folic acid from their diets. Check with a knowledgeable doctor before taking folic acid supplements or giving them to children.

Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, you should take dietary supplements only under the supervision of a knowledgeable doctor.

Folic acid comes in tablets. It usually is taken once a day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take folic acid exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

If you are taking folic acid to treat a deficiency, you probably will feel better quickly, often within 24 hours. However, do not stop taking this drug until your doctor tells you to do so.

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