Folic acid is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world. In studies of depressed patients, 35% have been shown to be deficient in folic acid. Studies have also shown that elderly patients with depression, admitted to the psychiatric ward 35-92.6% of them are deficient. Depression is also the MOST COMMON symptom of folic acid deficiency.
Folic acid functions in concert with B-12 in the biochemical process. Together, they function as methyldonors and carry methyl molecules to important brain compounds. While B-12 deficiencies are less common than folic acid deficiencies, together, if you are deficient in both, the deficiency can pack one hell of a depression punch.
Without getting into all the chemical aspects of it, a folic acid deficiency can lead to forgetfulness, insomnia, apathy, irritability, depression, psychosis, delirium and dementia. A B-12 deficiency can cause psychotic states, depression, confusion, memory loss, hallucinations, delusions and paranoia.
Now I doubt most of us are deficient enough to be hallucinating, but the evidence is enough to convince me to take my one-a-day.
Folic acid or folate deficiencies on the lesser side can cause weakness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, headache, heart palpitations and shortness of breath. Deficiencies have also been associated with open sores on the tongue and inside the mouth and changes in the color of skin, hair and fingernails. (any of these symptoms sound like you?)
There are some key chemical reactions that our bodies rely on folic acid and B-12 for. One of these is synthesis of a key brain compound, called BH4 or tetrahydrobiopterin. BH4 is not available as a supplement, so there is nowhere to get it outside our bodies, however, BH4 synthesis is stimulated by the combination of vitamin B12, Folic acid and vitamin C, therefor, increasing these vitamins in the brain can stimulate the BH$ production and synthesis of serotonin. We already learned how important serotonin is in our mental health.
There are a number of reasons it’s important to get adequate amounts of folic acid. Perhaps most importantly are cellular growth and regeneration. A recent article from the New York Times fingered folic acid as one of the most, “luscious micronutrients” available and multiple studies, as we have already discovered, suggest a lack of folic acid may lead to mental conditions such as depression.
Folic acid allows the body to perform many essential functions including nucleotide biosynthesis in cells, DNA synthesis and repair, red blood cell creation, and prevention of anemia. Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, is well known for its application in the prevention of fetal deformities, Alzheimer’s disease, and several types of cancer. Fortunately, there are many foods that are naturally rich sources of folic acid.
With all that said, 800 mcg of B12 and 800 mcg of Folic acid should be sufficient to prevent deficiencies in most circumstances. We should always supplement them together so as not to cause a worsening depletion of one or the other. This recommendation comes from the encyclopedia of natural medicine. Please note this is much higher than the USDA and much higher than the doses I recommended earlier in the weak. If you are uncomfortable taking this much, consider at a minimum your prenatal vitamin and a B-complex supplement. I am currently taking both and getting 900 mcg Folic acid but only a little over 104 mcg of the B-12. I will likely search for a new multi or B complex to even those out a little.
Now, let’s take a closer look at what we can do to eat better and increase our B-12 and Folate consumption.
Meat generally doesn’t supply large amounts of dietary folate. The one exception to this rule is beef liver. A 3-oz. serving of live supplies 215 micrograms (mcg) of folate.
- Spinach — 1 cup = 263 mcg of folate (65% DV)
- Collard Greens — 1 cup = 177 mcg of folate (44% DV)
- Turnip Greens — 1 cup = 170 mcg of folate (42% DV)
- Mustard Greens — 1 cup = 103 mcg of folate (26% DV)
- Romaine Lettuce — 1 cup = 76 mcg of folate (19% DV)
Asparagus is perhaps one of the most nutrient dense foods with folic acid out of the entire vegetable kingdom. Eating just one cup of boiled asparagus will give you 262 mcg of folic acid. Not only is asparagus a delicious snack, but it’s also full of nutrients your body craves, including Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Manganese.
Many fruits contain folic acid, but citrus fruits rank the highest. Oranges are an especially rich source of folic acid. One orange holds about 50 mcg, and a large glass of juice may contain even more. Other folate-rich fruits include papaya, grapefruit, grapes, banana, cantaloupe and strawberries. Here is a short list of fruits high in folic acid.
- Papaya — One papaya = 115 mcg of folate (29% DV)
- Oranges — One orange = 40 mcg of folate (10% DV)
- Grapefruit — One grapefruit = 30 mcg of folate (8% DV)
- Strawberries — 1 cup = 25 mcg of folate (6.5% DV)
- Raspberries — 1 cup = 14 mcg of folate (4% DV)
Beans and peas especially high in folic acid include pinto beans, lima beans, green peas, black-eyed peas and kidney beans. A small bowl of any type of lentils will give you the majority of your recommended daily amounts of folate. Here is a short list of which beans have the most folic acid.
- Lentils — 1 cup = 358 mcg of folate (90% DV)
- Pinto Beans — 1 cup = 294 mcg of folate (74% DV)
- Garbanzo Beans — 1 cup = 282 mcg of folate (71% DV)
- Black Beans — 1 cup = 256 mcg of folate (64% DV)
- Navy Beans — 1 cup = 254 mcg of folate (64% DV)
- Kidney Beans — 1 cup = 229 mcg of folate (57% DV)
- Lima Beans — 1 cup = 156 mcg of folate (39% DV)
- Split Peas — 1 cup = 127 mcg of folate (32% DV)
- Green Peas — 1 cup = 101 mcg of folate (25% DV)
- Green Beans — 1 cup = 42 mcg of folate (10% DV)
The best cooking methods to preserve the nutrition are boiling or steaming. Be patient when you cook. Some beans, like black beans and kidney beans, can take more than two hours to cook unless you have a pressure cooker.
The most beloved vegetable of Mexican fare, the butter pear, or avocado, holds up to 90mcg of folate per cup, which accounts for appoximately 22% of your daily needs. Not only are avocados one of the best foods with folic acid, but it’s also an excellent source of fatty acids, vitamin K and dietary fiber. Adding them to sandwiches or salads will make for an extra-healthy treat.
The world’s slimiest veggie is also one of the most nutrient rich. Okra has the distinct ability to simultaneously offer vitamins and minerals while cleansing the entire digestive tract from toxic build-up. When it comes to folate, Okra is a great source. Just one cup of cooked okra will give you approximately 37 mcg of folic acid. Personally, I will go with some of the other choices, you will not find me eating this slime. Luckily, there are plenty more options to choose from.
Brussel Sprouts are one of the best foods for folic acid. Eating one cup of boiled brussels sprouts will give you approximately 25% of your daily recommended amount of folic acid. They are also high in vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese and potassium.
It doesn’t matter if it’s pumpkin, sesame, sunflower or flax seeds, eating them raw, sprouted, or sprinkled onto a salad will add a healthy serving of folic acid. Sunflower seeds, flax seeds and peanuts are especially high in folate, with one cup offering up to 300 mcg. Nuts are also very high in folic acid, with both peanuts and almonds ranking especially high. Below is a short list of the best seeds and nuts for folic acid.
- Sunflower Seeds — ¼ cup = 82 mcg of folate (21% DV)
- Peanuts — ¼ cup = 88 mcg of folate (22%)
- Flax Seeds — 2 tbs = 54 mcg of folate (14% DV)
- Almonds — 1 cup = 46 mcg pf fp;ate (12% DV)
Cauliflower is typically regarded as one of the best vitamin C foods, but it’s also a great source of folic acid. Eating just one cup of cauliflower will give you approximately 55 mcg of folate, accounting for 14% of your recommended daily value.
Beets are also known as one of the best foods with folic acid. Eating one cup of boiled beets will provide you with approximately 136 mcg of folate, accounting for 34% of your daily needs.
Corn is another vegetable that contains plenty of folate. Just one cup of cooked corn will give you approximately 76 mcg of folic acid, accounting for almost 20% of your daily needs. Fresh and frozen varieties are always preferred over cans, but honestly, get what you can get.
Celery is another way to add folate to your diet. Just one cup of raw celery will give you approximately 34 mcg of folate, accounting for 8% of your daily needs.
Carrots are another extremely popular vegetable that is probably in your home right now. Just one cup of raw carrots will give you almost 5% of your daily recommended needs for folic acid. Eat baby carrots as a snack or add them to your salads for a folate boost!
Squash isn’t one of the most popular veggies around, but summer or winter, it can boost your folic acid intake.
- Winter squash — 1 cup = 57 mcg of folate (14% DV)
- Summer Squash — 1 cup = 36 mcg of folate (9% DV)
Next time you make spaghetti, try substituting half your pasta with spaghetti squash for an instant folate boost.
With all these sources of folate, why are so many of us deficient. Sadly, folate doesn’t come in a pre-packaged meal. Read the nutritional panel on your breakfast cereal and your bread. Food producers often enhance the nutritional value of their product with proteins, vitamins and other nutrients. Some add as much as 100% of your recommended daily intake of folic acid per serving of cereal. But, don’t rely on these fortifications alone.
Now that you have heard all the evidence, are you ready to add some leafy green veggies to your diet? The more research I do, the more I realize, we really need to eat more natural food, less processed food. We are causing this ugly disease ourselves…