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The 10 Main Sources of Folic Acid

The 10 Main Sources of Folic Acid

These are the best food sources of folic acid, a vitamin that belongs to the B group and which plays an important role in our organism

What is folic acid?

Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, folacin or folate, is an outstanding component from the B vitamin complex. Therefore, it is a water soluble substance. Like other vitamins, folic acid performs several tasks in the body, some of them vital because they involve basic metabolic processes.

Folic acid capsule

Properties of folic acid

Synthesis of Blood Cells
In fact, it is involved in the production of red blood cells as an irreplaceable piece of some enzymes. More specifically, it is essential for the formation of the heme group (main constituent of the hemoglobin that transports iron). In order to perform this task, it works together with vitamin B12.

Synthesis of DNA

The synthesis of DNA is one of those biochemical processes that we could not carry out without folic acid. As we all know, the DNA is the molecule that holds all the genetic information of human beings. Moreover, folic acid is equally important for the RNA synthesis, which is closely connected to the latter and essential for proteins. From this, we can conclude that folic acid heavily conditions cell division in the body.

Red blood cells

Health of the Bacterial Flora
Even though it is necessary to supply folic acid through the diet to meet our requirements, the bacterial intestinal flora is capable of synthesizing it. After that, it is mainly absorbed in the jejunum (central segment of the small intestine). In addition, the liver works as a reserve organ that attends the needs of the tissues.

What are the functions of folic acid?

  • Being involved in the carbon transfer reactions, which are common to most synthesis processes. For this, it works as a coenzyme that catalyzes the reactions.
  • Synthesizing puric bases (adenine, thymine and uracil) and pyrimidine bases (cytosine and guanine), structural constituents of DNA and RNA.
  • Preventing the onset of serious congenital malformations such as spina bifida and anencephaly (defects in the closure of some parts of the encephalon).
  • Protecting the fetus against said malformations. That is one of the main tasks of folic acid and the reason why pregnant women should take it before and after the pregnancy.
  • Reducing the onset of cardiovascular problems by hindering the synthesis of homocysteine. This is a variant of the amino acid cysteine which is a predisposing factor for obstructing the arteries.
  • Seemingly preventing cancer (mainly colon cancer) due to the fact that it contributes to the formation of free radicals at a cell level.
  • Stimulating the release of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, avoiding bad digestions.
  • Improving the quantity and quality of the sperm, which is why it may improve the fertility.

Functions of folic acid

Folic acid and the nervous system

Finally, we will talk about its connection to the nervous system. Some studies point to the possibility that it could enhance the effect of psychiatric drugs to treat depression. Others link an extra folacin supplementation to mental acuity and memory from the age of 50 onward. In fact, Alzheimer patients usually have lower blood folic acid levels, which speaks of the importance of this vitamin for its prevention.

Symptoms of a folic acid deficiency

Once we have described the functions of folic acid, it would be interesting to know what would be the symptoms of a lack or deficiency:

  • Weakness, lack of appetite and, consequently, weight loss
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Nausea
  • Spontaneous diarrhea
  • Depression and irritability simultaneously
  • A certain degree of amnesia
  • Arrhythmia and other heart problems
  • Pale mucosa due to the so called megaloblastic anemia
As we have previously explained, folic acid is involved in the red cell synthesis. If there is not enough, this synthesis is slowed down, which alters the development of these cells and triggers their destruction. Consequently, the blood cell levels drop and their size is very big, which can compromise the oxygen transport.

How much folic acid do we need?

To prevent any of this from happening, it is advisable to take a daily dose of 300-400mg for adults (600mg for pregnant women). However, we need to be careful because there are substances like alcohol, smoke, barbiturates and antacids that can hinder its use.

Folic acid for pregnancy

Therefore, we need to check our diet to ensure a proper supply of this micronutrient. Fortunately, there is a wide range of foods rich in folic acid. Let’s review the best ten sources of folic acid.

Foods rich in folic acid

  • Brewer’s Yeast

    Brewer's yeast and folic acid

    How much Folic Acid does it provide?

    Brewer's yeast has become really popular due to its extraordinary number of properties for our health. One of the main ones is the fact that it is the best source of folic acid with a supply of 1000 micrograms (a milligram) every 100 grams.

    Properties and Benefits

    But its overall composition has other remarkable elements like other b complex vitamins. That is why brewer’s yeast is an excellent supplement for the functioning of the nervous system. This property is connected to its ability to regulate the nutrition of nerve fibers.

    It is used to increase the production of red cells due to its folic acid content. Consequently, it can help to prevent or treat cases of anemia. Brewer’s yeast also supplies great amounts of another of the members of the B complex, biotin. Therefore, it also supports the regeneration of tissues like the skin, nails or hair. On the other hand, its vitamin B2 content is determinant in many oxidoreduction reactions, helping to control some eye, skin and mucous disorders.

    Suggestion
    One of its most common uses is during the teenage years. Basically, it helps to buffer the changes on the skin caused by the hormone changes, specially acne, due to its high zinc content.

  • Agar-agar

    Agar agar and folic acid

    How much Folic Acid does it provide?

    It occupies an outstanding second position in this ranking due to its 580 micrograms of folic acid every 100 grams. But, at the same time, it could also rank high in terms of magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron and calcium.

    Properties and Benefits

    Apart from the effects of its mineral supply, agar can also improve the insulin metabolism. Consequently, diabetic people will be able to obtain many nutrients from this food while ensuring a glucose balance.

    Back to the vitamins, its its richness in pantothenic acid is very interesting to get rid of cholesterol.

    Obviously, we need to mention its practically soluble fiber content which increases the alimentary bolus in the stomach. Therefore, it produces a prompt feeling of satiety. This is the reason why many dietitians tend to recommend dry agar for weight loss diets.

  • Wheat Germ

    Wheat germ and folic acid

    How much Folic Acid does it provide?

    425 micrograms of folic acid every 100 grams is an excellent supply of this vitamin.

    Properties and Benefits

    Apart from this feature, it is also rich in different complex B vitamins, specially thiamine and niacin. Therefore, wheat germ can reinforce the cell metabolism, since these substance are crucial for a proper utilization of carbohydrates and fats as energy.

    If we had to pick a unique feature in the chemical composition of wheat germ, it would be octacosanol. It is an oily substance (fatty alcohol) that is capable of inhibiting the production of cholesterol. Consequently, it can prevent heart diseases (hypertension, ischemia, arteriosclerosis…) as well as strokes.

    However, these are not the only therapeutic properties of wheat germ. In fact, it also provides vitamin C and omega 3 fatty acids, apart from producing a prophylactic effect on some types of cancer.

    Suggestion

    Finally, we will just add two things: First of all, its low glycemic index is perfectly tolerated and even advised for diabetic people. Secondly, its richness in potassium can help us balance our pH and blood pressure.

  • White Kidney Bean

    White kidney beans and folic acid

    How much Folic Acid does it provide?

    It has 388 micrograms of folic acid every 100 grams (beans have a little bit more, 394). Moreover, white kidney bean is one of the best sources of magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, three basic macrominerals for a proper functioning of our body.

    Properties and Benefits

    Let’s not forget another one of its minerals: iron, which is specially useful to avoid anemia when combined with folic acid.

    It is ideal for weight loss diets in spite of providing a lot of energy due to its great carbohydrate supply. This is due to its fiber content that produces a satiating effect and retains fats and cholesterol in the intestinal tract. In fact, those who have a high LDL rate are usually told to eat this legume regularly.

    Suggestion

    All in all, it is a low glycemic index carbohydrate, which is why is fundamental for diabetic people.

  • Chicken Liver

    Chicken liver and folic acid

    How much Folic Acid does it provide?

    We should also take this source into account due to its 380 micrograms of folacin every 100 grams.

    Properties and Benefits
    Moreover, specially in the case of ecological chicken, its vitamin B2 content is quite high. Let’s not forget that this vitamin mainly contributes to repairing epidermic tissues, like the skin and mucosa. Therefore, eating chicken liver increases the resistance to skin rashes and peeling

    Speaking of chicken liver, it also has a great supply of pantothenic acid. Said element is a structural component of coenzyme A, which is vital for the energy production, the synthesis of hemoglobin and steroidal hormones.

    Taking this food improves the efficacy of blood coagulation due to its high vitamin K content.

  • Whole Rice Flakes

    Whole rice and folic acid

    How much Folic Acid does it provide?

    Before jumping to their nutritional properties, we want to say that whole cereals are those that have the three layers that make up the grain. That is, they have the bran, endosperm and germ, which means all its nutrients are available. In the case of rice, one of the most outstanding elements is folic acid, 333.4 micrograms every 100 grams of product.

    Properties and Benefits
    This type of cereals are mainly eaten for breakfast. They are one of the best sources of fiber, selenium and iron. In fact, whole rice has enough iron to prevent and ferropenic anemia.

    Moreover, they have two other substances that are worth mentioning. First of all, vitamin D, necessary to protect the skin, while strengthening the bones and the immune system. And a lack of purins, which means that this cereals are good for those who suffer an excess of uric acid.

  • Soy

    Soy and folic acid

    How much Folic Acid does it provide?

    100 grams of soy provide 240 micrograms of folic aid to the body. This is a very interesting fact for those diets designed to increase the levels of this vitamin.

    Properties and Benefits

    Although it is not as consumed as chickpeas, beans, peas or lentils, it has more protein than all of them (around a 35%). This could be an unimportant fact, but if we analyze the quality of soy protein, we will realize that: they have a high amino acid lysine content and, in general, of the nine essential amino acids. However, it barely has methionine, which can be fixed by combining it with other foods like eggs, milk, rice or wheat.

    Regarding its mineral supply, it is rich in potassium and zinc. Consequently, it strengthens the immune system, while improving the electrolyte balance and blood pressure.

    Moreover, it has a high soy lecithin content, a phospholipid that emulsifies fats, stimulating their metabolism. Consequently, it prevents the formation of atheroma plaques in the arterial walls.

    But its most unique feature is the isoflavone supply. These substances work like female sex hormones, buffering the alterations of menopause related to the body temperature.

  • Beef liver

    Beef liver and folic acid

    How much Folic Acid does it provide?

    It supplies 240.2 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams of product. However, this food stands out due to the fact that it is one of the best natural sources of iron (a 7% of its composition), vitamin A, vitamin B12, copper and zinc (even more than oysters).

    Properties and Benefits

    At the same time, it is a good source of vitamin K. Regarding vitamin A, it is interesting to mention its chemical form in beef liver. That is, vitamin A is a retinoid, which is more efficient than the beta-carotene from vegetables, since they do not have to be metabolized.

    When it comes to its protein supply, liver is very similar to lean meat. It has a 20% of protein, although it does not have as much collagen as meat.

  • Dark Green Leaf Vegetables

    Green leaf vegetables and folic acid

    How much Folic Acid does it provide?

    This is a group that gathers vegetables like chard, spinach, escarole, kale and germinated alfalfa, among others. We can say that all of them provide good supplies of folic acid (escarole provides 267 ug per 100 grams, kale 187, chard and spinach 140). But they also provide calcium, magnesium, beta-carotene and vitamin C.

    Properties and Benefits

    Due to this interesting nutrient profile, the role of these vegetables in nutrition is quite diverse. They improve the healing of wounds, strengthen the immune system, the skeleton and teeth, regulate the heartbeat, the nerve impulses, the muscle contraction and blood coagulation.

    Apart from this, they also contain chlorophyll whose properties are extremely valuable: it has detox properties, as well as the ability to regenerate the cells and stimulate the production of red cell.

    Due to the instability of some of its components, specially vitamin C, these vegetables have to be eaten as fresh as possible. Avoid boiling them, instead, make salads, smoothie or use steam cooking.

  • Green Asparagus

    Green asparagus and folic acid

    How much Folic Acid does it provide?
    This food is very interesting for many reasons. First of all, it provides 108 micrograms of folacin per 100 grams.

    Properties and Benefits

    One of its most interesting features is its rich glutathione, a nitrogen compound which produces a great antioxidant effect, protecting the cells against the free radicals. This function is performed in synergy with vitamin C.

    Asparagus is regarded as the main source of vitamin K which is why it is interesting for those who suffer osteoporosis or osteoarthritis. This vitamin participates in the synthesis of osteocalcin, a necessary property to crystallize calcium on the bone.

    With a 3% of dietary fiber of an excellent quality, it is an effective gastrointestinal cleanser. In fact, it helps to excrete the excess of cholesterol and triglycerides and it blocks its transfer to the bloodstream.

    Finally, it also has a certain inhibitory effect on the onset of leukemia.

Sources of Folic Acid Review

Content per 100g - 100%

Benefits for Pregnancy - 100%

Health Overall - 100%

Prevent Deficiency - 100%

100%

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