Anyone who’s ever been pregnant has probably been given the ABCs as to why folate is vital in preventing birth defects and ensuring a healthy pregnancy.
But the truth of the matter is that everyone, not just moms-to-be, requires this all-important B vitamin if they want to stay healthy. And with generous amounts being in so many foods, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get.
It shouldn’t be hard, but it turns out that it is! And to understand why, you need to take a thorough look through your medicine cabinet.
Because certain drugs may “fix” the problem you’re taking them for, but, as HSI panel member Dr. Allan Spreen put it, they can also become a “nutritional stress on the body.”
Getting your folate’s worth
Folate (also known as vitamin B9) is like the Swiss Army knife of vitamins!
Its resume is a long one that includes such benefits as helping your brain and heart (especially by keeping a lid on homocysteine, high levels of which are known to be an indicator of heart disease). Your body requires this vital nutrient to make red blood cells, and by having more folate in your diet, you’re going to be ahead of the game in steering clear of cancer.
But despite your best efforts to eat a balanced diet with lots of veggies, if you’re taking certain drugs, you may just be spinning your wheels in trying to keep up.
Some of these (and there are a lot of them!) include:
- NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen (Aleve) and Rx ones such as diclofenac (Voltaren),
- numerous antibiotics, including amoxicillin, penicillin, doxycycline, and a long list of those in the “quinolone” class, such as levofloxacin and Cipro,
- “potassium-sparing” diuretics (water pills), and
- metformin, to lower blood sugar.
That’s why you could load up on certain foods that are richer in folate than others and still not be able to get your body’s levels up to par.
It’s always best to get vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from food sources, and you can find the most folate in:
#1 Lentils: One cup of these tasty legumes will give you over 300 micrograms (mcg) of folate. And since lentils go best in a hearty soup, fall may be a good time to pull out your crock pot.
#2 Asparagus: A generous serving of this veggie can bring up your folate levels by offering over 200 mcg.
#3 Spinach: Popeye (and your mom) were right on target about this one. One cup of spinach also contains over 200 mcg of folate.
Other high-folate foods include turnip greens, broccoli, beets, papayas, peas, and beans — including pinto, garbanzo, black, and navy varieties.
But getting enough isn’t as easy as it used to be. In fact, our grandparents and great grandparents were getting a lot more nutritional bang for their buck than we are now!
And you can thank the overuse of pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides as well as synthetic fertilizers for that. All those chemicals have depleted the soil — which is why it’s especially important to buy and consume foods that have been organically grown.
Even if you only eat organic, though, you’ll still want to supplement with this vital nutrient to make sure you’re getting enough.
While you’ve probably seen folate and folic acid used interchangeably — there is a difference.
Folate is the nutrient in its natural form, the “superior” kind preferred by Dr. Spreen, versus the synthetic version added to processed foods such as cereals and flour, called folic acid.
So, when shopping for a supplement, be sure to look for “folate.” The usual dose you’ll find is around 400 to 800 mcg. The “absolute minimum” amount, however, recommended by Dr. Spreen is 800 mcg a day.
But for any woman who’s hoping to get pregnant, he advises 5,000 mcg a day for at least a full month before trying to conceive.
And if you’re always the one who comes down with something like a cold or the flu, feels exhausted all the time, has been told you’re anemic, or gets canker sores in your mouth, those are some pretty clear signs you’re deficient in folate.
“Are your medicines depriving you of folate?” Terry Graedon, October 16, 2017, The People’s Pharmacy, peoplespharmacy.com