Folate is one of those nutrients that gets a lot of attention on blogs (especially those to do with pregnancy), and pretty much everyone seems to have an opinion on it. But what is folate? Why do you need it? And where can you get it?
Folate is a chemical found in a wide variety of foods, mainly vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruit as well as our Vitamin B supplement – Brilliant B Plus. Most people in Western countries don’t get enough folate because they don’t eat enough whole plant food – the primary sources of folate in the diet. The lion’s share of calories in the typical diet comes from meat, dairy, refined oils, refined sugars and refined cereals, all of which are poor sources of folate.
Folate is essential during pregnancy and infancy (since a lack of folate can lead to birth defects), but it’s also something that you need throughout life, no matter what stage you’re at. Research in the nutrition science literature shows that folate can exert many profound benefits on your body. Let’s take a look at each in turn.
Here are 6 Folate Benefits
Fertility in the Western world is currently falling, thanks to modern diets and lifestyle. But high levels of folate – something that is distinctly lacking in today – can enhance the fertility of both men and women. Folate helps to improve the viability of sperm and improve the release of eggs from the ovaries in women.
For men, the combination of 400 mcg of folate with dietary or supplemented zinc can increase the amount of sperm found in every milliliter by more than 70 percent. High levels of folate also reduce the risks of abnormalities in the shape of sperm.
Improve Heart Health
In the US, heart disease is still the number one killer of men and women. Caudwell Esseylstein – an esteemed cardiac doctor and author – has called heart disease “ a paper tiger” – a condition that never needs exist if only people changed what they eat.
Folate may be part of the solution. High levels of folate in the bloodstream helps to reduce a harmful compound called homocysteine. Homocysteine promotes the buildup of arterial plaques. The higher the level of homocysteine in the blood cells, the higher the risk of plaques building up, becoming unstable, breaking off and blocking a blood vessel. Folate, in combination with other B vitamins, like B-12, helps to stave off homocysteine, preventing damage to the sensitive inner lining of the blood vessels, keeping them healthier for longer.
Promotes A Healthy Brain
Although it is commonly known that infants need folate for the developing brain in the womb, it is, in fact, something that we need in abundance throughout our lives. Our brains appear to thrive in high-folate environments. People who eat the most folate through diet or supplementation experience less depression, neural tube defects, anxiety, cognitive decline as they age, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and epilepsy. There’s also evidence that folate may enhance the learning process, making it easier for our brains to make new connections while at the same time improving memory.
Reduce Your Risk Of Cancer
Studies show that folate may help cut cancer risk. For instance, several research articles have shown that women who have low levels of folate in their blood are more likely to go on to develop breast cancer.
Epidemiological studies – or studies which look at entire populations of people – have found that those who have low folate status are more likely to develop a range of cancers, including cervical, ovarian and pancreatic – one of the cancers with the lowest survival rates.
Better Skin, Hair And Nail Health
Folate doesn’t just health benefits on the inside; it can also work wonders for how you look on the outside too. Folate is an essential component in the construction of the proteins that ultimately make up the cells in your skin, nails and hair. When folate is lacking, it is harder for your body to create the components it needs to churn out high-quality, healthy cells and your appearance can suffer as a result.
Good folate status signals to your body that it should behave as if it were younger. Folate, and the foods that are high in folate, like beans and greens and fortified foods, put your cells into “housekeeping mode,” clearing out all the waste junk that they don’t need so that they can operate healthily and optimally. Having more folate in your diet can reduce skin loss, skin dryness and improve the shine on your nails making your hair, skin and nails look and feel younger and more vibrant overall.
Slows The Ageing Process
Aging is a natural process that we inherited from evolutionary biology. The “disposable soma” theory states that death was built into our DNA because it allows us to mutate over time, better adapting to our environment. But what’s interesting about aging is that, even though it appears to be built into our genes, it’s not immutable: there are things that you can do to slow it down or speed it up.
Folate, you’ll be pleased to hear, is one of those things which has been shown to slow the aging process, helping you to feel and look younger for longer. No, it’s not a magic bullet, but there is evidence that when people eat high-folate diets, they experience fewer of the diseases we typically associate with aging, like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
How have researchers shown that folate reduces aging? Researchers fed roundworms – a common lab animal – folate supplements and saw that those who received the folate had a higher average lifespan than those that didn’t. Although roundworms are very different to people, experimenting on them is helpful for finding out which compounds could potentially extend our lives while we wait for more conclusive human data.
So there you have it: some of the benefits of folic acid supplementation and avoiding folate deficiency. Regularly taking folate supplements like our vitamin b – Brilliant B Plus or eating foods high in folate can promote the health of your body on both the outside and the inside.