Foods High in Folic Acid: Top 15 Folic Acid Benefits
Vitamin B9 or Folic acid benefits various body functions from cells development and thus, to DNA synthesis; cardiovascular functioning including the heart and red blood cells, the carrier of nutrients to the rest of the body; mental health and cognitive functioning; to even physical appearances like premature aging and glowing skin. While it is important to maintain a balanced level of the nutrient, an excessive dosage can also be dangerous. Either way, the symptoms of a folic acid deficiency are comprised of peptic and mouth ulcer, poor growth, loss of appetite, tongue inflammation, anemia, diarrhea, irritability, and fatigue or tiredness. The good news is you can fight this off. And you can do so either by taking necessary and doctor prescribed food supplement or by going natural and consuming easily available foods high in folic acids discussed briefly below. Mostly, roughly 400 micrograms of folic acid or folate are needed by an adult. That tends to increase through to 500 for lactating mothers or 600 for pregnant women. Shortly afterward, we will discuss the various folic acid benefits you surely don’t want to miss.
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Foods High in Folic Acids
Before we begin our discussion on the various folic acid benefits, let us first discuss where you can get them. These are among the top foods high in folic acids:
Among the group of vegetables, with half a cup of serving size, are cooked edamame or young soybeans (106 to 225 micrograms), cooked spinach (120 to 140 mcg), okra (97 mcg), broccoli (89 mcg), and Romaine lettuce (65-80 mcg).
In fruits, with half of the whole fruit in serving size, are avocado (80 mcg), papaya (56 mcg), and orange juice (25-40 mcg).
For grain products: enriched egg noodle pasta (138 mcg), enriched white pasta (110 mcg), half a cup or both, and a slice of whole wheat bread (11 mcg).
We also have meat alternatives such as a ¾ cup of lentils (265 mcg); any kind of beans like cranberry, pinto, navy, kidney, and black (ranging from 150 to 260 mcg) for a ¾ cup; and a quarter cup of sunflower seeds (80 mcg).
Top 15 Folic Acid Benefits
We often hear free radicals all the time but what does it really mean? When oxygen acts together with certain molecules, uncharged molecules with an odd or unpaired number of electrons are formed. We call them free radicals. The danger lies with them reacting with essential components in the cell like the cell membrane or even the DNA itself, causing the cell to die or function inefficiently and leading to toxicity. Here come the antioxidants, which will safely terminate any reactions caused by free radical before any damage is made. Folic acid acts as an antioxidant, along with vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene. Aside from this, folic acid benefits also include binding with protein molecules called apoenzyme to catalyze a reaction vital for many processes in the body. This is called coenzyme activity.
By regulating DNA methylation, a vital process of gene expression and cell differentiation, folic acid aids in reducing the risk of cancer mutation resulting from abnormalities in this process. Folate also helps in preventing cancer cells from replicating. Thus, by taking necessary supplements and consuming foods high in folic acid, the risk of acquiring various forms of cancer like cervical, pancreatic, breast, colon, esophageal, and lung cancer can be significantly reduced.
Different heart diseases claimed nearly one-third of all deaths in the world; affecting more or less 92 million Americans. It is noteworthy to know then that a certain type of amino acid—called homocysteine—can cause various heart complications when its concentration in the blood is in excess. This condition may increase the risk of hardening of the arteries called atherosclerosis, other cardiovascular issues such as blood clotting and hypertension, and even stoke. Fortunately, one of the folic acid benefits includes lessening the level of homocysteine while regulating cholesterol in the process. Results in patients with coronary artery disease, for example, showed vascular functioning improvements.
Red Blood Cells and Anemia
Folic acid benefits the synthesis or production and replication of red blood cells, the carrier of nutrients to the rest of the body. This is of course along with other B-vitamins and other essential nutrients. When the body doesn’t have enough number of red blood cells or even hemoglobin in them, anemia can occur, resulting usually in looking pale and feeling sluggish. Taking a folate treatment and consuming foods high in folic acid can help reverse this condition.
Clinical Depression, which is different from experiencing sudden bouts of sadness, is generally associated with a low level of dopamine and serotonin, colloquially known as happy or ‘feel good’ hormones. A disproportion in these neurotransmitters can also increase the chance of developing other mental disorders like anxiety disorders. Interestingly, it’s been found out that depressed individuals have low folate levels. It makes sense now that as a natural anti-depressant, folic acid helps in the synthesis of the said neurotransmitter, along with stimulating serotonergic receptors that enhance the responsiveness of SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor).
Cognitive Functions and Mental Disorders
Folic acid benefits cover the mental health. Aside from the above-stated depression and anxiety, folate is also effective in enhancing memory and preventing age-related memory loss. More important to this is folate’s link to cognitive decline and impairment in dementia. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, for example, is reduced. The neurodevelopmental autism spectrum disorder is also lessened during fetal development—discussed shortly in the next item—along with language delay and social issues among children, and even schizophrenia, a serious mental illness.
Female Fertility and Pregnancy
As stated earlier, pregnant women tend to increase their daily need for folate. We also learned that folic acid benefits cell development and that includes cell division. And since fertilization is basically about a single cell that keeps on dividing to eventually form a baby, it follows then how vital folate is for pregnancy. Aside from fetal development, other folic acid benefits include eliminating the risk of having birth defects such as neural tube defect, congenital heart defects, and a reduced risk of preterm birth and low-birth-weight babies.
A study that linked male sperm health with folate level showed that folic acid benefits male fertility one way or another. For one thing, it can help boost sperm count and motility, which is the ability of the sperms to move around. While folate isn’t scientifically proven to be a cure for infertility, another study revealed that folate, when combined with other essential nutrients like zinc, can increase normal total sperm count.
Muscle and Bone Support
Other folic acid benefits seem relevant for bodybuilding, but as a whole, it’s really for the overall muscular and skeletal well-being, protecting them from the potential damage of wear and tear brought by your daily activities. By helping convert arginine into nitric oxide, folic acid increases the strength and size of the muscles and preserves bone density, preventing bone loss in the process. We have also discussed above in item no. 3 the role folic acid plays in the detoxification of homocysteine — which is linked with inflammation in the body and increased risk for bone fracture — thus promoting bone metabolism and better skeletal health.
Several studies have associated a reduced level of folic acid to different digestive disorders. By working with another B-vitamin —B12 — and vitamin C, the body is able to efficiently digest and use proteins. Folate in itself is also easily absorbed and utilized by our body when it is metabolized in the small intestines.
Immune System and Other Body Functions
Folic acid benefits include the following: 1) it helps prevent gum diseases with its anti-inflammatory properties, protecting them from dental plaque and anaerobic bacteria that leads to tooth decay, etc.; 2) folate together with enalapril, a blood pressure medication, can slow down kidney complications; 3) it counteracts the effect of alcohol on the liver by maintaining glutathione and methionine which are both vital for detoxifying liver; 4) it helps lower the arsenic levels in blood, thus decreasing the risk for serious diseases; and 5) overall, it helps to promote an optimum immune system.
The antioxidant properties of folic acid that we have already established in previous items are effective in fighting off oxidative stress, keeping the cells — in this case, the skin cells — healthy and delaying the signs of premature aging such as having wrinkles. Consuming folate also helps in preventing the synthesis of stress hormones, aside from the fact that it supports efficient nutrient absorption and helps boost the body’s metabolism overall.
Hair and Skin Care
Speaking of skin, folic acid overall works with other essential nutrients to keep the skin’s firmness and give it a natural and moisturized glow. Folic acid benefits also those suffering from annoying acne breakouts since its antioxidant properties help eliminate toxins in the body. It should be kept in mind though that an overdose of folate can instead cause more acne, in addition to a dry and patchy skin. When it comes to hair growth, folic acid, along with biotin, are considered hair foods as they help prevent premature graying and hair loss.
Hearing and Vision
A lot of evidence has been provided that established the importance of folate in preventing hearing loss, which often goes along with tinnitus particularly among the elderly. Homocysteine, again, plays a role, making folic acid all the more vital. The risk of certain eye diseases can also be warded off with folic acids such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma. While more research is needed for this, the scientific community agrees that an optimal folate intake will more likely improve your hearing and vision.
Though more intensive studies are needed to cement folic acid’s reputation of reducing the risk of diabetes, recent research had shown a positive correlation between the two. In addition to this, folic acid can also lessen the fat content in our blood, helping us manage obesity and cut the risk of getting type-2 diabetes. Getting all these aforesaid benefits can be naturally done by consuming foods high in folic acid and perhaps taking folate supplements when deemed necessary. It is never too late to start incorporating this essential vitamin into your dietary program. So better start now and make the most out of these amazing folic acid benefits.