Folate – Vitamin B9

Folate (or B9) is a key nutrient for many critical functions. Folate plays in many of our emotions. We sometimes feel angry, depressed, anxious or at times we have trouble concentrating or sleeping or feeling weak and tired. All this can be depend on folate.

Folate and Methylation

Folate supports a system known as methylation, a biochemical process that takes place within our body. By methylating certain genes, we can turn off your genetic tendency to many disease. This process of turning genes on and off is known as epigenetics

Methylation is crucial for more than 200 of our body’s functions!

  • Methylation makes our mind more flexible.
  • Methylation of histamine reduces the severity of skin allergies and allergy-like symptoms.
  • Methylation is needed to make creatine. Athletes take this as a supplement to support bigger and stronger muscles. But creatine also reduces depression, and it supports digestion, eyesight and skin health.
  • Methylation protects against fatty liver, supports the digestion of fats in our diet, helps contract your muscles, and supports sustained, focused attention.

These are all functions where folate is involved and required!

  • Folate also helps us calm down, stabilize our blood sugar, maintain healthy skin and strong bones, and get deep, restful sleep every night by conserving glycine.
  • Folate also prevents anemia, which keeps us feeling energized and keeps our brain in tip-top shape.

Folate deficiency is usually associated with anemia, where we have fewer red blood cells than you should, and where they are bigger than they should be. This can result in feeling tired, weak, or cause our heart to skip beats or beat irregularly.

How much folate do we need

A lot of other nutrients support folate so the amount can vary but the RDA is set to 400mcg for adults.

  • Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12 all help support folate in the methylation process.
  • So do iron, phosphorus, sulfur, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
  • Choline reduces folate needs
  • Consuming creatine in meat reduces the need for folate.

How do we get all the folate we need

Liver is the best sources for folate

Folate is most abundant in “the three L’s.” Liver, legumes, and leafy greens.

  • In general, you want three servings per day, where a serving is 100 g.
  • Liver is the best source. Any kind of liver will do, but should only be eaten once or twice a week.
  • Rest of the days look for greens. Actually it’s the “green” part that matters, not the leafy part. Look for leeks, spinach, and broccoli.
  • Good legume sources are chickpeas, or any of these beans: kidney, lima, black.

Important notes

  • Folate is stable in liver during cooking, but in plant foods some is destroyed by heat and some is lost in the cooking water.
  • Buy veggies as fresh as possible and use them within 3-5 days.
  • Avoid canned legumes since they have been pre-heated.
  • Folate is lost during the rinsing of veggies. It’s the cut surfaces that lose folate, so always rinse before you cut or dice, not after.
  • Sprouted legumes have 4-6 times more folate than raw legumes.
  • If you go on a keto lifestyle be aware that refined grains like white bread, are fortified with folic acid. So ensure you eat plenty of liver and fresh greens.
  • Alcohol and cigarette smoking affect folate absorption and utilization.
  • There are many genes involved in folate metabolism, such as SLC19A1 which hurts your ability to get folate into your cells and MTHFR, MTHFD1 which may increase the risk for anemia.

Supplementation

Folate has no known toxicity, however the upper limit for supplemental folate is set at 1 mg/d.

  • Folic acid is usual supplement, but try to avoid it not only as a supplement but in any source of food. It is a common additive in many proceessed foods. It is not found naturally in food.
  • Folinic acid is one of the forms of folate found in food. It may be better at supporting anemia.
  • Methylfolate is an active form of B9 which will also support from Methylation.

Key Takeaways

  • Folate support many critical body function, prevents anemia and supports mental, emotional, and physical health.
  • Best sources are liver, sprouted legumes, fresh leafy greens.

Further reading

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