Folate and Your Diet

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Welcome back as we look into folate and our diet! It has been a good minute since our last newsletter. The birds are starting to come back and spring is right on the doorstep. I can’t wait for it to arrive! We are already starting to plan out what our gardens will look like this year. One thing we know we want to have in our garden is a good deal of dark leafy green vegetables. Specifically, spinach, lettuce, broccoli and even asparagus. All of these are great sources of our nutrient for this month, folate!

What is folate and why do you need it?

Folate is the natural version of vitamin B9. It is needed in a number of processes in the body.  These include the creation of red blood cells, metabolism of protein, and the creation of DNA and RNA (1). Folate has also been shown to play an important role in our happiness.  It indirectly helps with the synthesis of three neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, all of which are involved in mood regulation and other important functions (2). So on our journey of increasing our happiness, folate is an important vitamin that needs to be monitored to make sure that we get our recommended daily intake.

What can a deficiency in folate lead to?

There are a number of studies that have shown that a deficiency of vitamin B9 can lead to issues such as an increased risk of heart disease (3), stroke (4), cancer (5). Pregnant women should also increase their folate intake to reduce neural tube defects (6). There are also connections being made between folate and depression (7).

Difference between folate and folic acid.

While folate is the natural form of vitamin B9, folic acid is the synthetic version. There are differences in the molecular form and how they are absorbed into the body. When you eat food that contains folate it is converted in your gut into levomefolic acid or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) (8). Folic acid on the other hand, is absorbed in the liver or other tissues first. This process is not only slower but also less efficient than how the body processes folate (9, 10, 11). Because of this, it is best to try and receive as much of your daily intake of B9 through folate.   

How much folate do you need?

The amount of folate that you need in your diet depends on your age. Over the age of 14, it is suggested that we consume a minimum of 400 mcg of folate per day. Women who are pregnant should get a greater amount of folate as well to help with possible birth defects of the neural tube (12).

  • 0 to 6 months: 65 mcg
  • 7 to 12 months: 80 mcg
  • 1 to 3 years: 150 mcg
  • 4 to 8 years: 200 mcg
  • 9 to 13 years: 300 mcg
  • over 14 years: 400 mcg
  • during pregnancy: 600 mcg
  • during lactation: 500 mcg

Toxicity is rare and would require approximately 1,000 mcg or more per day (13).

If you are not able to get your daily intake of B9 through your diet, the next best place is through a supplement of folic acid. As previously mentioned however, it takes much longer for the body to absorb folic acid compared to folate.  

Foods that are high in folate.

There are a number of good sources for folate. The king of folate is beef liver coming in at a whopping 215 mcg in 3 ounces. Dark leafy greens are also a great place to get your daily vitamin B9. A half cup of boiled spinach will give you a healthy 131 mcg and 4 spears of asparagus can provide a total of 89 mcg. My favorite is a half cup of avocado that provides 59 mcg of B9. Below is the full top 10 list of foods (14).

  1. 3 ounces of Beef liver, braised,  215 mcg
  2. ½ cup of Spinach, boiled, 131 mcg
  3. ½ cup of Black-eyed peas (cowpeas), boiled, 105 mcg
  4. 4 spears of Asparagus, boiled, 89 mcg
  5. ½ cup of Brussels sprouts, frozen, boiled, 78 mcg
  6. 1 cup of Lettuce, romaine, shredded, 64 mcg
  7. ½ cup of Avocado, raw, sliced, 59 mcg
  8. 1 cup of Spinach, raw, 58 mcg
  9. ½ cup of Broccoli, chopped, frozen, cooked, 52 mcg
  10. ½ cup of Mustard greens, chopped, frozen, boiled, 52 mcg

What is your favorite food full of folate in this top 10?

As we continue on our happiness reset challenge, we want to make sure that we try to incorporate all of the things that we have learned so far. It is still important that we get our daily intake of both vitamin D and magnesium as well. Also, try to practice some of the other physical, mental and spiritual activities to continue to increase our happiness.

Recipes to get you started:




Join Our Community: Find out more about our Challenge and participate by joining our private Facebook group, SPHappinessreset.

THIS WEEKS CHALLENGE: Include your suggested daily intake of folate in your diet each day. Share pictures of your high in folate meals to our Facebook group. You can also send them to #happinessresetchallenge. 


Ben Anderson

Ben Anderson

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