Having folic acid deficiency means that there are lower-than-normal amount of folic acid in your blood. Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9 or folate, is an essential water-soluable vitamin that can only be acquired through dietary or supplemental intake. This vitamin plays a vital part in every aspect of the body’s function. It’s needed for protein metabolism and synthesis, cellular growth and reproduction, and also for making and repairing DNA. Not having enough folic acid in your system can lead to a variety of consequences, such as abnormally large red blood cells, heart disease, memory loss and cancer. Here are some simple tips to help you prevent folic acid deficiency:
Folic acid is prevalent in almost every food group. Therefore, the most effective way to prevent folic acid deficiency is by keeping a healthy diet with foods from all categories of the food pyramid. For an average adult, the recommended daily dietary intake (DV) of folic acid is 400 micrograms and for women ages 14 to 50, a supplementary dosage of 400 micrograms of folic acid is suggested.
Folate is naturally abundant in a variety of foods. Dark leafy vegetables, citrus, beans and legumes, red meats, whole grains and sunflower seeds all contain tremendous amount of folate along with a variety of other nutrients. Some manufactures add nutrients to increase the quality of their product, therefore, lots of fortified cereals and juices also supply a generous amount of folate. Reading the nutritional content on your food labels is a good way to keep track of your folate intake.
Folic acid in raw foods is contained within the cell membranes of the product. Some light cooking can help release this vitamin and also make the food more digestible. However, folic acid is highly heat sensitive and will denature and lose all function if subjected to excessive heating and cooking.
Limit Your Alcohol and Cigarette Use
Folate is absorbed in your small intestines. Excessive alcohol consumption greatly impairs your ability to digest food and transport folic acid across your intestinal walls for proper absorption. Alcohol has also been cited for inhibiting your tissues’ ability to utilize folate and raise the rate of folate excretion. Cigarette smoke leaves a high amount of toxin in your tissue that can denature folic acid and destroy its functions.
Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant may need to take extra doses of folic acid through vitamin supplements. Sufficient folate supply is crucial to proper fetal development. The neural tube of the fetus starts to develop long before pregnancy becomes apparent and inadequate folic acid intake during pregnancy can lead to severe neurological defects in newborns. Women who breastfeed also need extra doses of folic acid. Folic acid passes through breast milk, and nursing mothers need the extra folate to meet the demand for rapid infant growth.
The elderly and people with diseases like the celiac disease will also require additional supplementary intake to prevent folic acid deficiency.