Best Foods for Folate? - Food for the Brain

Best Foods for Folate?

Do you eat a well balanced diet?

Most people will say ‘kind of, yes’…’I try to’…’most days’. Most fail to achieve even the low margins of the ‘recommended daily amounts’ set to prevent ‘overt’ deficiency (obvious or overt malnutrition is diagnosed from characteristic clinical signs). Very few of these have even considered what the brain needs for optimal health. For example, you will have seen that the levels of folate that we recommend for those with high homocysteine is 800mcg, for those with low risk is 400mcg and those with optimal levels is 200mcg, which is the generally the ‘recommended’ level unless you’re pregnant, in which case it goes up to 400mcg.

Folate, also called folic acid, is a B vitamin that comes primarily from fresh fruit and vegetables with greens and beans being particularly high. Think ‘foliage’. It’s quite unstable in food. (Most supplements give a stable form called folic acid, but there’s a few people whom, due to a genetic variation, are less efficient at converting this into the ‘active’ form in the body called MTH Folate. Some supplements designed to lower homocysteine use this more expensive form because it lowers homocysteine more effectively.)

Folate is a vitamin that we should aim to get the bulk of from our diet by eating lots of vegetables and fruit, as well as beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Take a look at the list below for the best sources:

Good Foods for Folate (in mcg)

Lentils, cooked (1/2 cup) 179
Millet flakes (1 cup) 170
Sunflower seeds (1/2 cup) 164
Chickpeas, cooked (1/2 cup) 141
Kidney beans (1/2 cup) 115
Orange juice, fresh (1 glass) 109
Peanuts, (1/2 cup) 106
Spinach (1/2 cup) 102
Globe artichoke (1 medium) 94
Miso soup (1 cup) 91
Oats (1 cup) 87
Asparagus (1/2 cup) 80
Hazelnuts (1/2 cup) 76
Romaine lettuce (1/2 cup) 68
Broccoli /tender-stem (1/2 cup) 65
Avocados (half) 62
Brussels sprouts (1/2 cup) 60
Beetroot (1/2 cup) 63
Papaya (half) 58
Parsnips (1/2 cup) 45
Oranges (one) 40
Melon (half small) 38
Leeks (1/2 cup) 32
Peas, frozen (1/2 cup) 30

Now ask yourself this question about yesterday. Did you eat something like, or equivalent to any one of these sources?

How confident are you that you did? Each one contains roughly 400mcg of folate. Well done if you did. If you aren’t that confident you’ll start to realize you really do have to make quite a large portion of your diet vegetable-based, literally half your plate for main meals (which counts for 4 portions) plus 3 other portions of fruit or veg – perhaps berries with your breakfast, an apple for a snack with some seeds, some raw veg, eg a carrot or tender stem heads, dipped in some hummus. To be in the right zone for folate. That’s a total of 7 servings of fruit and veg a day.

This kind of intake significantly reduces your risk of cognitive decline later in life. A study in Finland of 385 people in mid-life compared those with a healthy versus unhealthy diet for future risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia 14 years later. Those who ate the healthiest diet had an 88% decreased risk of developing dementia and a 92% decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.