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Folate
Folacin
Folic Acid

What's "a good food source" of folate or folic acid?

A good food source of folate contains a substantial amount of folate in relation to its calorie content & contributes at least 10% of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for folate in a selected serving size.

The U.S. RDA for folate is 400 micrograms per day. The U.S. RDA given is for adults (except pregnant or lactating women) & children over 4 years of age.

The U.S. RDA for folate is the amount of the vitamin used as a standard in nutrition labeling of foods. This allowance is based on the 1968 RDA for 24 sex & age categories set by the Food & Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences.

The 1989 RDA for folate has been set at 180 micrograms per day for women 19 to 50 years of age & 200 micrograms for men 19 to 50 years of age.

Women & Folic Acid
 

Nutritional All-Star: Folic Acid


This B vitamin is a pregnant woman's best friend, since it reduces spinal-cord birth defects by up to 50%.

 

In addition, it lowers the body's level of an amino acid that may contribute to heart disease & possibly helps reduce the risk of colon cancer.

 

What women need:

  • 400 micrograms (mcg) daily for all ages
  • 600 mcg if you're pregnant
  • 500 mcg if you're breast-feeding

What women get:

  • Women ages 20 to 59 years old average 237 mcg per day
  • women 60 & older average 272 mcg

 

Add to your diet:

  • Fortified cereal (100 to 400 mcg)

  • cup garbanzo beans (140 mcg)

  • cup kidney beans (115 mcg)

  • 6 ozs. orange juice

  • 1 cup dark green leafy lettuce (100mcg)

  • 1 cup cooked pasta (100 mcg)

  • cup wheat germ (80 mcg)

  • cup asparagus (70 mcg)

  • cup cooked white rice (60 mcg)

  • 1 cup grapefruit juice (50 mcg)

Where do we get folate?

In 1990, more than 1/3 of the folate in the American diet was provided by fruits & vegetables. Grain products contributed a little more than 1/5 & legumes, nuts & seeds contributed a little less than 1/5.

 

Foods that contain small amounts of folate but aren't considered good sources can contribute significant amounts of folate to an individual's diet if these foods are eaten often or in large amounts.

Good Sources of Folate

Food

Serving Size

Percentage of
U.S. RDA1

Breads, Cereals, & Other Grain Products

English muffin, whole wheat

1

+

Pita bread, whole wheat

1 small

+

Ready-to-eat cereals, fortified2

1 oz

++

Wheat germ, plain

2 Tablespoons

+

 

Fruits

Grapefruit & orange juice, frozen, reconstituted

3/4 cup

+

Orange juice:

Fresh

3/4 cup

+

Frozen, reconstituted

3/4 cup

+

Vegetables

Artichoke, globe (French), cooked

1 medium

+

Asparagus, cooked

1/2 cup

+

Beets, cooked

1/2 cup

+

Broccoli, cooked

1/2 cup

+

Brussels sprouts, cooked

1/2 cup

+

Cauliflower, cooked

1/2 cup

+

Chinese cabbage, cooked

1/2 cup

+

Corn, cream style, cooked

1/2 cup

+

Endive, chicory, romaine, or escarole, raw

1 cup

+

Mustard greens, cooked

1/2 cup

+

Okra, cooked

1/2 cup

+

Parsnips, cooked

1/2 cup

+

Peas, green, cooked

1/2 cup

+

Spinach:

cooked

1/2 cup

++

raw

1 cup

+

Turnip greens, cooked

1/2 cup

+

 

Meat, Poultry, Fish & Alternates

Liver, braised:

 

 

Beef or calf

3 ozs

+++

Pork

3 ozs

++

Chicken or turkey

1/2 cup diced

+++

 

Fish & Seafood

Crabmeat, steamed

3 ozs

+

 

Dry Beans, Peas & Lentils

Beans, cooked:

Bayou, black, brown, calico, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lima, Mexican, pinto, or white

1/2 cup

+

Black-eyed peas (cowpeas)

1/2 cup

+++

Red kidney

1/2 cup

++

Lentils, cooked

1/2 cup

+++

Peas, split, green or yellow, cooked

1/2 cup

+

1 A selected serving size contains:

+ 10-24% of the US RDA for adults & children over 4 years of age

++ 25-39% of the US RDA for adults & children over 4 years of age

+++ 40% or more of the US RDA for adults & children over 4 years of age

2 See section on fortified foods.

 

 

Why do we need folate?

Folate, a water-soluble vitamin, helps the body form red blood cells & aids in the formation of genetic material within every body cell.

How can we get enough folate?

Eating a variety of foods that contain folate is the best way to get an adequate amount. Healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet rarely need supplements.

 

The list of foods in the lefthand column will help you select those foods that are good sources of folate as you follow the Dietary Guidelines. The list of good sources was derived from the same nutritive value of foods table used to analyze information for recent food consumption surveys of the USDA.

How to Prepare Foods to Retain Folate

Folate can be lost from foods during preparation, cooking, or storage.

 

To retain folate:

  • Serve fruits & vegetables raw whenever possible.
  • Steam or simmer vegetables in a minimal amount of water.
  • Store vegetables in the refrigerator.
  • Don't boil or microwave foods as they lose their nutritional values with these cooking methods. 

What about fortified foods?

Most ready-to-eat cereals are fortified with folate. Fortified ready-to-eat cereals usually contain at least 25% of the U.S. RDA for folate.
 
Because cereals vary, check the label on the package for the percentage of the U.S. RDA for a specific cereal. Beginning January 1, 1998, flour began being fortified with folate as well.

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Heart association removes folic acid for prevention

By Clarisse Douaud
2/21/2007 - The American Heart Association (AHA) has removed folic acid from its recommendation for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in women & also dismissed antioxidant supplements for primary or secondary prevention.

The 2007 Guidelines for Preventing Cardiovascular Disease in Women, published today in a special women's health issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association, include recommendations for using aspirin, hormone therapy & dietary supplements in heart disease & stroke prevention in women.

There has been controversy in past on whether or not
folic acid plays a role in heart disease prevention & this AHA verdict represents a strike against a vitamin for which a significant number of studies have shown favorable results.

"The new guidelines reinforce that unregulated dietary supplements aren't a method proven to prevent heart disease," said Lori Mosca, director of preventive cardiology at New York–Presbyterian Hospital & chair of the American Heart Association expert panel that wrote the guidelines.
"For example, recent studies have shown that folic acid is ineffective to protect the heart despite widespread use by patients & physicians hoping for a heart benefit."

The
Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) disagrees with AHA's stance on folic acid & antioxidant supplements.

"It's a little odd that they would recommend to not use these supplements for primary or secondary prevention when really the jury is still out for primary prevention," Andrew Shao, CRN Vice President of Scientific & Regulatory Affairs, told NutraIngredients-USA.
"We disagree with the wording & feel it might cause people to stop taking their supplements."

Studies have linked increased blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It has been suggested that by lowering levels of homocysteine in the blood, people could cut the risk of cardiovascular disease.

A meta-analysis published in November's Journal of the American Medical Association, found folic acid had no effect on cardiovascular disease among people with existing vascular disease. Whereas in November, a review from the British Medical Journal determined evidence supporting folic acid's role in heart health was enough for the vitamin to be recommended.

"Since folic acid reduces homocysteine concentrations, to an extent dependent on background folate levels, it follows that increasing folic acid consumption will reduce the risk of heart attack & stroke by an amount related to the homocysteine reduction achieved," wrote lead author David Wald.

Folate is found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, chick peas & lentils & an overwhelming body of evidence links has linked folate deficiency in early pregnancy to increased risk of" neural tube defects (NTD) – most commonly spina bifida & anencephaly – in infants.

CRN also finds fault with AHA's claim that the dietary supplement industry isn't regulated.

"This is a mistake that is often made but a mistake nonetheless," said Shao.

A recent American Heart Association survey showed that women are confused about methods to prevent heart disease including the role of dietary supplements, aspirin & hormones.

"These recent findings emphasize the importance of using well-conducted clinical trial data to develop national recommendations to help patients & their doctors use best practices to prevent heart disease – practices based on data rather than myth or wishful thinking," says the report.

The meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association included data for 16,958 participants from studies that compared folic acid supplementation with either placebo for a period of at least 6 months & a maximum follow-up of 5 years. Clinical cardiovascular disease events were reported as an end point.

Reviewing the evidence, Wald & his colleagues from the Wolfson Institute for Preventive Medicine, Barts & the London, Queen Mary School of Medicine & Dentistry report that while such randomized trials are important, they're not the only source of evidence.

Indeed, reviewing cohort studies led them to state that a 3 micromole per litre decrease in serum homocysteine levels, said to be achievable with a daily folic acid intake with 0.8 milligrams, lowers the risk of heart attack & stroke by 15 & 24%.

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