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Nutrition Talks: Folate

Why is Folate important for the body:
Folate is involved in making DNA and RNA, which are the building blocks of cells. Folate is a key component in cell division, especially during infancy and pregnancy. Folate also helps in preventing any changes in our cell DNA that can lead to cancer.  Folate is found naturally in food while folic acid is the synthetic form of folate (found in supplements and fortified foods).

Daily Recommend Allowance: 400mg per day for adults / 600mg per day during pregnancy


What is the highest amount you can have before starting to show signs of toxicity (tolerable upper limit)? 1000mg. The risk of toxicity from folic acid in supplements is low. Since folate is a water soluble vitamin, any excess is lost in urine.

Foods with the most Folate:
  • Brewers’ Yeast
  • SoyBeans
  • Spinach
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Whole Wheat Products
Symptoms of deficiency: Decreased appetite, decreased growth, alopecia, dermatitis, muscle weakness, inflammation of the GI tract, anemia, depression and paralysis. Folate deficiency can occur during pregnancy and lactation (breastfeeding), alcohol abuse, malabsorption, in kidney failure (when on dialysis) and in liver disease.


Interesting Facts: Folate is essential for pregnant women because it’s involved in the development of the fetus. Folate helps to prevent neural tube defects, which result in malformations of the spine, skull and brain. In 1998, the U.S. government started the Folate Food Fortification program, which made it mandatory to add folate to all grain products. Since the implementation of this program, there has been a significant reduction of neural tube defects.

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