Did you know there are 13 vitamins that are essential to your survival? Among them is the lineup of B vitamins such as thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), and niacin (vitamin B3). Another essential vitamin is folate.
Folate is commonly known for its critical role in the proper development of the baby’s nervous system. However, this vitamin is incredibly important for our health no matter our stage of life.
Folate is the body’s main nutrient for methyl groups, which consist of one carbon atom and three hydrogens (CH3). These aren’t chemically complicated substances but are essential for everything from making our DNA to producing key brain neurotransmitters.
Folate is also necessary for recycling homocysteine, which is a potentially lethal toxin naturally made in the body. Folate is removed from the body by alcohol, smoking, and various medications.
The body needs folate but can’t make it from scratch; it must get folate from foods or dietary supplements. The folate vitamin is most active when converted into methylfolate (MeF).
Methylfolate (technically methyltetrahydrofolate) is the pre-activated and most readily utilized form of the folate vitamin. The body has enzymes that rely on MeF specifically for its methyl groups, which are crucial for a broad range of brain functions.
The methyl chemical groups that come from folate are fundamental to practically all our life processes. It is essential for all our cells, tissues, and organs to survive, grow, function, and maintain their structural integrity.
The brain needs folate to sustain mood, memory and other cognition, behavior, and overall brain and body health. MeF also supports the entire array of functions in the bone marrow, liver, and all the other organs.
All our cells need methylfolate to make their DNA, package it into genes, repair it when damage occurs, and regulate their overall gene activity (epigenetics). The brain’s nerve cells also need it to make their electrical insulation (myelin), to make the serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters, and even to make the sleep hormone melatonin. MeF also works with vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 in the detoxication of homocysteine.
Folate vs Folic Acid
In comparing folate with folic acid, it’s important to know that folate is the vitamin we need, whereas folic acid is a man-made chemical that isn’t useful until it goes through a 3-step enzyme conversion to methylfolate. MeF is better absorbed and utilized than folic acid or food folates.
Most multiples provide folate as folic acid. But folic acid is so chemically different from natural folates it can be converted only on a limited basis and “gunks up” our folate enzymes to impair our utilization of the natural folates from foods. Studies indicate that growing numbers of Americans have high levels of unconverted folic acid in their blood that has no useful function and is likely detrimental to their health.
To make matters worse, a high proportion of individuals have gene mutations that impair their utilization of folic acid. As many as 1 in 4 people have the C677T mutation in the enzyme MTHFR, and this makes it hard for them to convert folic acid to methylfolate.
Kids and Folate
Due to the standard American diet (SAD), many Americans aren’t getting sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals they need on a daily basis. This also applies to children.
Sadly, many children’s supplements don’t provide adequate amounts of vitamins, including the B vitamins. B vitamins are important to the nervous system, and vitamin B6 and B12 play a role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters. One study on children showed a statistically significant association with cobalamin (vitamin B12) and folate supplementation and improved cognitive performance.
In addition to taking a multivitamin with folate or a stand-alone methylfolate supplement, it’s important for you and your kids to get folate from your diet. Here are some nutritious and delicious foods high in folate…
5 Folate-rich Foods to Boost Mood & Memory in Adults and Kids
1. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are rich in folate. They also contain sulforaphane, which our friendly gut bacteria can convert into substances that help the body detoxify various potential toxins. They’re also high in carotenoids which are powerful antioxidants and assist with our vision as well as our brain functions.
This incredibly underrated fruit is full of healthy fats that help to sustain brain blood flow and maintain blood pressure already within a normal range. Avocados are rich in many vitamins, including folate.
This nutrient-dense vegetable is a good source of fiber and is rich in magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A and K. Spinach also contains a high level of folate, which may help relieve mood issues. In fact, researchers at Harvard Medical School found that boosting the folate levels of depressed patients helped improve their mood.
Asparagus generates energy for your brain and body and is an incredible source of fiber and folate. It’s also an excellent source of vitamins A, E, and K. Asparagus is loaded with polyphenols and provides generous amounts of phosphorus, iron, and chromium.
5. Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables have tremendous health benefits. They provide an enormous array of vitamins, essential minerals, carotenoids, and free-radical blocking antioxidants to help protect the brain and body against toxins. One of the vitamins abundant in these nutrient-dense vegetables is folate.
Certain processed foods are “fortified” with synthetic folic acid. Rather than eating these nutrient-depleted foods, it’s much better for your family’s health to obtain folate, and many other nutrients, from these 5 foods. Make sure you and your kids are getting enough usable vitamins, including natural folate, in your diet every day.
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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