All About Folate

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I can't stress enough the importance of consuming enough folate, especially if you are a woman capable of becoming pregnant. Adequate folate consumption is so important that in 1996 the Food and Drug Administration added folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) to the list of vitamins and minerals that must be included in enriched grain foods. Unfortunately, as I've previously stated, most refined gluten-free grain foods are not enriched. However, with careful planning, you can still get the folic acid you need.

Folate is a generic term for one of the B vitamins. It is found in food in both natural and synthetic forms. When it occurs naturally in food (such as orange juice), it is generally referred to as folate. When a synthetic (manufactured) form of folate has been added to food or supplements, it is generally referred to as folic acid. Grain foods that are enriched or fortified, such as flour, bread, pasta, and breakfast cereal, contain synthetic folic acid.

The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for folate for adults is 400 micrograms of dietary folate equivalents. However, to help prevent neural-tube defects in their children, women who can become pregnant should consume 400 micrograms of synthetic folic acid from supplements or enriched foods in addition to the naturally occurring folate they get from food. The upper limit (maximum amount that should be consumed) for folic acid is 1,000 micrograms. No upper limit has been set for food folate.

It is important to understand that the various forms of folate are not created equal, and this is why you may see folate values given as dietary folate equivalents (DFE). This measure takes into consideration the differences in absorption between folate and folic acid. Food folate is less easily absorbed than the synthetic folic acid that is added to enriched foods and supplements. One microgram of food folate equals 1 DFE. A little over half of a microgram of synthetic folic acid equals 1 DFE.

Folate is necessary for enabling the cells in our body to divide, grow, and develop properly. The body needs enough folate to make red blood cells and to metabolize protein. During pregnancy, folate also ensures proper growth and development of the fetus.

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