Folates derive their names from the Latin word “folium”, which means “leaf”. Folates occur naturally in many foods. Dark green vegetables like broccoli and spinach and dried legumes such as chickpeas, beans and lentils are naturally good sources of folate. In Canada, folic acid is added to all white flour, enriched pasta and cornmeal products.
Folate (or Folic Acid, or Vitamin B9)
Folate is essential for numerous bodily functions including red blood cell formation, for healthy cell growth and function, and for producing energy. The body is unable to produce folic acid on its own. If there is a deficiency in folic acid, people may experience depression and fatigue which may produce higher levels of stress.
Folates cannot be synthesized de novo or stored in the body. Therefore, folic acid has to be supplied through the diet on regular basis to meet the daily requirements.
Folic acid is naturally present in a wide variety of foods, especially dark green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and peas. However, seafood, eggs, dairy products, meat, poultry, and grains are also have decent amount of vitamin B9.
Importance of folic acid for synthesis of the “happy hormones”
Each B vitamin is either a cofactor for key metabolic processes or is a precursor needed to make one. A cofactor is a non-protein chemical compound that is required for various biological reactions. Cofactors are “helper molecules” that assist in the synthesis of almost every enzyme in the body. Some of the cofactors also require their own synthesis.
Deficiency in any required amino acid or cofactor can impair the synthesis of “happy hormones” – dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphin.
Foods rich in folates
Many vegetables and fruit contain folic acid (or vitamin B9, or folate) that is of vital importance in the “happy hormones” production. The list can be very long, just to mention a few:
- Artichokes, cooked – 79-106mcg of folates per 125ml
- Asparagus, cooked – 80-88mcg in 4 spears
- Avocados – 81mcg in ½ fruit
- Baby soybeans cooked – a 125-milliliter (ml) serving (1/2 cup) contains 106-255 micrograms (mcg) of folates
- Beets, cooked – 72mcg of folates per 125ml
- Black beans – 157-218mcg of folates per 175ml (3/4 cup)
- Broccoli, cooked – 89mcg of folates per 125ml
- Lentils – 265mcg of folates per 175ml (3/4 cup)
- Lettuce – 65-80mcg of folates per 250ml
- Papaya – 58mcg in ½ fruit
- Potato, with skin, cooked – 48-66mcg in 1 medium potato
- Spinach, cooked – 121-139mcg of folates per 125ml
- Spinach, raw – 61mcg of folates per 250ml
- Red beets deserve your special attention. They contain “betaine” which has been suggested to regulate levels of neurotransmitters that improve your mood. Beets also contain tyrosine, so they are a double whammy of raising dopamine.
A lack of dietary folates can lead to folate deficiency, which can result in many health problems, and mental confusion, forgetfulness, mental depression, irritability, and behavioral disorders are among them.