Folic Acid benefits
Folic acid goes by two other names - folate acid and vitamin B9. It’s a water soluble vitamin that we must get through diet or supplement form. Folate is the natural form found in foods and folic is the synthetic form found usually in supplements and fortified foods.
A deficiency in folate can be very bad for your health in many ways and you might find you have the following symptoms…fatigue, canker sores in your mouth, run down often and more susceptible to colds, pale skin, mental sluggishness, anemia, irritability and even slow hair growth and cause premature greying of your hair. (the good news is that if the greying of hair has been caused by a folate deficiency once you improve your levels of folate/folic acid the hair should return to it’s normal colour.)
Folic acid has many important health benefits which I will list below.
Healthy Pregnancy - Folic acid and its importance during pregnancy is the most well known benefit. If you are planning on becoming pregnant or currently pregnant taking a minimum of 400micrograms of folic acid a day is important to prevent neural tube defects which can effect the spine, brain and spinal cord. Getting started with a folic acid or prenatal supplement as soon as possible if you find out you’re pregnant as the neural tube forms in the first 12weeks. Folic acid can also be beneficial in preventing restless legs - a common symptom during pregnancy.
Heart health - Folic acid decreases the amount of homocysteine in your blood. Homocysteine is a type of amino acid that contributes to the formation of blood clots and can cause arteries too narrow and harden which can lead to heart disease and stroke. If you are suffering from high blood pressure talk to your doctor about the benefits of taking folic acid. Blood tests can show if your folate levels are high or low.
Helps keep our bones strong - As mentioned above folic acid decreases the amount of homocysteine in our blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine have been shown to impact the health of our bones making us more at risk of osteoporosis.
Improve cognitive function - Folic acid has been linked to improving cognitive function for those who are suffering from mild cognitive impairment. High levels of homocysteine have been linked to Alzheimers, dementia and cognitive decline, and as you have read above, folic acid can help reduce these levels.
If you are not pregnant, trying to conceive or have been told to increase folic acid levels I would recommend trying to get folic acid in its more natural form…Folate. This way you will also benefit from the other nutrients found in the foods alongside the folate. Foods that are high in folate are
- Beef Liver
- Spinach and other leafy greens
- Black-eyed peas
- Fortified rice
- Brussel sprouts
- Romaine lettuce
- Citrus fruits
- nuts and seeds