Is Your Diet Folate Deficient?

Woman Buying Leafy Greens

It’s no secret that the average American’s diet is seriously lacking in critical vitamins and nutrients. One result of our love affair with carbohydrates and processed foods is that we are eating fewer leafy green vegetables, which are a great source of folate. Folate, also called folic acid, is a B-vitamin that is vital for important body functions like cell development, but studies show that most people don’t get enough of it. It’s a particularly important vitamin for pregnant women, as it’s been show to help prevent spina bifida in developing babies. Low intakes of folate can have devastating effects, ranging from birth defects to blood diseases and possibly even cancers.

Sources of Natural Folate

Although supplements are available, in the form of man-made folic acid, the best way to obtain folate is through a healthy diet consisting of natural unprocessed foods. Leafy green vegetables, like spinach, kale and lettuce, are some of the richest sources of folate. Other good sources include dried beans and peas, eggplant, citrus juice and fruits, tomatoes, squash, cantaloupe, nuts and seeds and pseudograins like quinoa. Additionally, many breads, cereals, flours, pastas and rice are fortified with extra folate. You should aim to consume at least 400 mcg of folate daily for an average 2,000 calorie diet.

Signs of Folate Deficiency

Unfortunately, folate is water soluble and is removed from the body daily via urine. Thus, it’s vital that you consume folate daily to replace the stores that are lost through the urination process. While a long-term folate deficiency can cause devastating health issues, there are many less serious problems that can alert you to a deficiency. Symptoms of a folate deficiency include continuing diarrhea, development of gray hair, ulcers in the mouth, a peptic ulcer, slowed growth, anemia and even a swollen tongue.


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