Brush up on Folate: A Foundational Nutrient

Folate is a general term used to refer to both natural folates found in food, and synthetic folic acid used primarily in vitamins. While often used interchangeably, folate and folic acid differ in the body’s ability to utilize them. In general, its best to get folate from food so I’ve created this Folate Recipe Roundup to inspire you to get more folate into your diet. Be sure to download these easy and delicious ways to boost your folate intake.

Folate Recipe Resource



Folate is necessary to make the building blocks for our cells DNA, is involved in energy production, maintenance of moods, and may deter some cancers. One of the most important actions of folate is the transfer of single carbon molecules to another molecule. This process is known as methylation. Methylation is used by the body for many aspects of metabolism. It is also used to detoxify substances and remove them from the body.

Some people have mutations of certain genes that regulate an enzyme needed to activate folate. That can make it  important to get adequate folate and to focus more on natural sources of folate rather than synthetic folic acid. While synthetic folic acid is thought to be better absorbed, activation of folic acid requires some transformation in the liver and kidneys which may delay its utilization. You can find supplements with the active form of folate, but it is best to work with a knowledgable practitioner to determine which one is right for you.

During pregnancy, adequate folate intake has been shown to prevent neural tube defects and congenital heart anomalies. Foods high in folate and prenatal vitamins are important tools in prevention. Low folate status has also been linked to colorectal cancer, cognitive dysfunction, and maintaining healthy homocysteine levels. When elevated,  homocysteine can contribute to heart disease. 

Most people can get all the folate they need from food with a well planned diet. Smoking, some medications, and inflammatory bowel diseases can limit folate absorption. In these cases a folate supplement can be of benefit. Folate supplements are best taken in a formula that contains B12. These nutrients work together and taking folate alone can disguise a B12 deficiency. We prefer formulas that contain the active or methyl forms of these nutrients, and only taking a modest dose. Focusing on food will help you get many more nutrients than you can get from a pill.

Leafy green vegetables like broccoli and spinach are great sources of folate. Citrus fruits like oranges and tangerines, and legumes like lentils and garbanzo beans are also high in folate. Some cereals like Total, breads, and baked goods have been fortified with folic acid. Fortification of foods with certain nutrients is the result of a government requirement to replace natural folate and other B vitamins that are lost during the processing of whole grains.

To help you the folate you need, be sure to download this Folate Recipe Resource. Each of these recipes will provide at least 150 mcg of folate which is over 1/3 of your daily needs for folate. So did you ace the quiz? If you answered ‘true’ to every statement, you scored 100%! 

Folate Recipe Resource