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Folate Foods That Can Save Your Life

Folate Foods That Can Save Your Life
Dr. Lindsey Mcilvena, MD

In her day job, treating patients living with chronic disease, nutrition and lifestyle are not after-thoughts, they’re central to helping her patients get well. She’s also our go-to expert on plant-based diets.

Folate — we all need it, but what the heck is it? And where do we find it if we’re mostly plant-eating people?

Folate is an antioxidant that also goes under the alias vitamin B9. It’s essential to our bodies:

  • It helps our DNA replicate smoothly
  • It keeps our red blood cells strong
  • It protects the heart
  • It helps our brains

Low levels of folate in a pregnant mother can cause neurological problems in their infants. In children and adults, folate deficiency can result in heart problems and anemia. Recent research has shown folate to possibly help prevent depression, macular degeneration, age-related hearing loss, and even some types of cancers.

Folate Foods

Don’t normally eat meat, seafood, eggs, or dairy products? Never fear, you can easily get your recommended 400mcg per day through plant food sources. You don’t even need to buy processed foods that have been artificially enriched with folate. Here are my top  5 sources of folate.

  1. Lentils
    One cup of lentils has 344 of the needed 400mcg per day. WOW! If you’ve read any of my other articles, you won’t be shocked to see lentils topping the list here. They are one of the best foods period for people on plant based diets, for fiber, for protein, and a whole host of vitamins and minerals. Clearly folate is no exception. Lentils, you rule.
  2. Beans
    No surprises here either, beans are a winner when it comes to folate. Pinto, black, navy, cowpeas, kidneys—they’re all great. One cup of beans varies from 1/3 of your daily needs, to well over half the recommended amount. Just like lentils, they’re packed with other great stuff too.  Try to have beans or lentils every day, and you can’t go wrong.
  3. Broccoli
    One cup of broccoli, which isn’t much by the way, has over 100mcg of folate. That’s a quarter of what you need for the day. Impressed?
  4. Asparagus
    It will probably make your urine stink, but it’s worth it! Eight medium-length spears contain approximately half of your daily recommended value, about 200mcg.
  5. Fruit
    Yep, fruit has folate. Sure, the amounts are not nearly as monumental as those show-off legumes, but it’s in there. Bananas, berries, melons—the amounts vary, but if you’re getting the recommended 3-5 servings of fruit per day, rest assured you’re getting at least a fourth of your daily need.

There you have it! Enjoy your SuperFoods and get your folate, too. Oh, and don’t worry about getting too much folate from your food; what your body doesn’t need will pass right out through your kidneys during a regular trip to the bathroom.

Sources: NCBI 1, NCBI 2, University of Maryland Medical Center, USDA.gov

 

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