Folate and folic acid are often used interchangeably because people assume they’re the same thing, but they’re actually not – there are important differences between the two.
Let’s begin with folate. Also known as vitamin B9, it’s a naturally occurring, water-soluble vitamin that has many crucial functions in the body. Folate is essential to make DNA, to form red blood cells, and to grow and repair cells and tissues. It’s especially important during pregnancy as the foetus needs folate to grow and develop the neural tube – a layer of cells that eventually becomes the baby’s brain and spinal cord.
Folic acid on the other hand, as reported by Healthline, is the synthetic form of folate – it’s used in supplements and to fortify foods like flour and cereals.
So while one is naturally occurring and the other is man-made, the other difference between the two is their absorption by the body. ‘Unlike folate, not all of the folic acid you consume is converted into the active form of vitamin B9 — 5-MTHF — in your digestive system. Instead, it needs to be converted in your liver or other tissues.’ The problem is that for some people this conversion process takes too long, and you can be left with a build-up of unmetabolised folic acid, which has been associated with several health problems.
As is the case with most things then, it’s far better to turn to nature and to find your source of essential nutrients in whole foods – so, how much folate do you need and what foods should you ideally turn to?
According to Health Direct, the quantities needed are:
- 1-3 years – 150µg per day
- 4-8 years – 200µg per day
- 9-13 years – 300µg per day
- 14-17 years – 400µg per day
- 18 years and older (men; non-pregnant women) – 400µg per day
- Breastfeeding women – 500µg per day
- Pregnant women – 600µg per day
And some of the best sources are:
- green vegetables (e.g. spinach, 131µg per half cup)
- legumes (e.g. black-eyed peas, 105µg per half cup)
- rice (90µg per half cup)
- avocado (59µg per half cup)
- fruit (e.g. a small orange contains 29µg).
- beef liver, braised (215µg per 85g)
So there you have it, rustling up a delicious meal involving beef – N1 has the best quality Halaal meat South Africa has to offer – salad greens and avocado would have you sorted in just one sitting. As they say, a healthy outside starts with a healthy inside, so be sure to make healthy choices and choose suppliers who excel at delivering exceptional quality at all times!