Nutrient Profile: Folic Acid

Folic Acid / Folate / Vitamin B9

Nuts, seeds, legumes are good sources of folate

Whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes are good sources of folate.

Most of us are likely to associate folic acid* with pregnancy, specifically the closing of neural tube. We know we ought to supplement with it if we are trying to conceive, and remain supplementing with it at least during the first trimester.

*Folic acid is the form of this B group vitamin used in supplements and fortified foods and folate is the form found naturally occurring in foods and active forms within the body.

Chances are that most of us don’t really know why?

Well I’m here to tell yer!

Functions of folate:

Nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) synthesis requires folate as a co-factor: thus normal, healthy cell division and periods of rapid growth call on folate ~ hello, rapidly cell dividing neural tube?!

Note: a cofactor is a substance that assists enzymes to carry out reactions.

I made a double strand of DNA out of lentils, eating such foods will help your body do the same!

I made a double strand of DNA out of lentils, eating such foods will help your body do the same!

Methylation reactions and amino acid metabolism also require folate co-factors: the conversion of homocysteine into methionine is folate dependant.

(An enzyme called methionine synthase removes a methyl group and adds it to homocysteine, converting it to methionine.)

A deficiency of folate will lead to a build up of homocysteine and a reduced synthesis of methionine. This is important because increased homocysteine is a marker for cardiovascular disease.

Methylation reactions within the liver as part of its detoxification processes require folate.

Haemoglobin synthesis requires folate; a form of anaemia can arise as a result of folate deficiency.

Risks for deficiency of folate:

  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Malabsorption diseases.
  • Alcoholism, poor absorption and poor dietary intake.
  • Cancers as they turn over cells rapidly.
50 grams of almonds will provide 17mcg of folate

50 grams of almonds will provide 17mcg of folate.

1/2 cup of cooked brown rice will provide 4mcg of folate, not much but it's there!

1/2 cup of cooked brown rice will provide 4mcg of folate, not much but it’s there!

Sunflower seeds are the goods when it comes to folate, 1 tablespoon provides 64mcg of folate

Sunflower seeds are the goods when it comes to folate, 1 tablespoon provides 64mcg of folate.

Food sources of folate:

  • Peas, beans, legumes.
  • Brewer’s yeast.
  • Whole grains: brown rice, wheat, barley, oats, corn.
  • Nuts and seeds ~ particularly sunflower seeds.
  • Leafy green vegetables, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, avocado.
  • Dried figs, dates.
  • Liver meats, beef.

I did a little thinking about how one might go about getting folate into their diet if they were to rely on plant foods:

  • ½ cup of oats for breakfast: 25mcg
  • 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds on the oats: 64mcg
  • 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds on the oats: 17mcg
  • 50g of almonds as a snack: 17mcg
  • Wholemeal bread sandwich for lunch: 28mcg
  • ½ cup of brown rice for dinner: 4mcg
  • ½ cup black-eyed beans with the rice (have Mexican!): 150mcg

Total: 305mcg of folate. Add to this leafy greens and steamed veg as well as some dried fruit into a nut/seed mixture and unless you’re pregnant or breastfeeding then you’re up at the 400mcg daily requirement for adults!

Here's some green leafy folate.

Here’s some green leafy folate.

Wrap it up:

  • Folate acts as a cofactor for very important chemical reactions including synthesis of DNA and RNA and conversion of homocysteine to methionine.
  • It is indicated for reproduction (rapid cell turnover), red blood cell production, liver detoxification and is cardio-protective.
  • It is found widely distributed in foods but highly concentrated in organ meats, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.
  • If you’re trying to conceive or are breastfeeding, supplementation is important and I recommend you pop into a health food store to chat with the qualified natural therapists on staff who know their supplements well and can tailor your choice to your needs and your budget.
  • If you’re anaemic or suspect you are, I also recommend a: a visit to the GP to confirm so through blood tests and b: as per above as folic acid will be married with specific synergistic nutrients for the synthesis of red blood cells and a qualified natural therapist will be able to steer you in the right direction.
  • If you have a family history of heart disease or know of specific personal risk for developing it, do include these foods in your diet as not only will they contribute folate, but they are also by nature, high in fibre and will assist in the elimination of cholesterol deposits and purging of toxic build up in the digestive system.

~Yours at the health food store stocking up on bird food! K180, x



Higdon J, An Evidence-Based Approach to Vitamins and Minerals. Thieme, New York, 2003.

Hoffer A, Prousky J. Naturopathic Nutrition. CCNM Press, Toronto, 2006.




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