What Is Folate?
Folate is in the B Vitamin family of vitamins, and is necessary for many things. Most people are aware that folate is needed for the healthy development and growth of a baby while it is in the mother’s womb. The minimum amount of folate needed by a pregnant woman is about 400-800 mcg per day; though this number could be higher for some women (1). It is also important for brain and nervous system health, cardiovascular health, supports the production of healthy red blood cells and can help reduce the instances of cancer.
People can get folate from the foods they eat, if they eat a very clean and healthy diet. Foods that are high in folate include dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, beets, lentils, navy beans, chickpeas, strawberries, and papaya as well as meat products.
For people who are busy, or who are not ready to make healthier dietary choices, then a supplement may be necessary to get enough of this essential vitamin.
Folate Vs. Folic Acid
There is a difference, however between folate and folic acid. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and is the most commonly available form in multivitamins and prenatal multivitamins. But getting natural folate, or folinic acid is best. Folic acid can actually be toxic for some individuals.
Some people have a genetic mutation called the MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) gene mutation. This mutation makes it impossible for these individuals to absorb the synthetic form of folate called folic acid because they lack the necessary enzyme to properly digest it (2). These people especially need to be taking natural folate in order to digest it. And they may need much higher doses than the medical community previously thought. People who carry this gene mutation also need higher amounts of Vitamin B12 and Vitamin B6.
Some people may be concerned about taking a higher amount of folate, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin B6, but all of these vitamins are water soluble and will not create toxic levels in the body. Any excess is merely secreted from the body during urination.
Folic acid is the most commonly found type of folate used in most multivitamins and prenatal vitamins that are on the market today. But use caution before taking a vitamin that contains folic acid, since it is not well absorbed by many people.
It would be a worthwhile investment to have some genetic testing done to see what your MTHFR status is when deciding what supplements to take. These tests can be ordered independently from anywhere in the world. If testing is not in your budget at the moment then it is best to stick to a multivitamin that contains natural folate or folinic acid instead of folic acid.
There are many high-quality brands that are out there that contain natural folate, as well as other more absorbable forms of the other vitamins and minerals it contains. You get what you pay for with supplements; if you buy the cheapest bottle on the shelf you will get cheap ingredients that your body won’t know how to absorb. Invest in high-quality supplements and your body will thank you many times over!