January 21, 2011

Is it Folic Acid or Folate?

You say potayto and I say potattoe.

You say tomayto and I say tomattoe.

You say folic acid and I say folate.

Okay, George and Ira Gershwin didn’t write the last line but folic acid and folate are more than just a game of semantics.

Folate is a naturally occurring water soluble B-Vitamin and folic acid is the synthetic version that is added to fortified foods and supplements.

This all important B-vitamin has many functions in our diets. It helps produce and maintain new cells. This is especially important in the making of red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen throughout the body and without folate these cells just don’t function correctly. This worker bee-vitamin also helps maintain healthy blood circulation by preventing the build up of homocysteine. Higher levels of homocysteine have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

According to research published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry folate deficiency has been associated with a tripling of dementia risk in the elderly. Researchers suspect that elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood may also increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Folate is also needed when the body makes DNA especially during pregnancy. If you’re a woman planning a pregnancy make sure you’re getting your folate. This important vitamin helps prevent some birth defects like spina bifida.

Where can you get a great hit of folate on your plate? Cooked spinach and asparagus top the list in the green veggies department with broccoli and romaine lettuce being on the great for you list as well. Remember your mom telling you to eat your greens? Folate is the reason. Lentils, chickpeas, pinto beans, black beans and red kidney beans are even better. Orange juice, peanuts, green peas, raspberries and strawberries are lower on the scale but are still good sources as are fortified cereals. Adding these fruits and veggies to your plate will protect your heart and your brain. A double whammy in every serving.

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