Folate is one of the B vitamins, which can be naturally sourced from green leafy vegetables, pulses, berries, citrus fruits and whole grains, but can also be obtained from foods fortified with folic acid such as bread and breakfast cereals. This B vitamin plays an important role in cell division, which is why an adequate folate intake is essential to produce healthy red blood cells and to help the development of a growing fetus. However, it isn’t just pregnant women who should be mindful of their folate intake. Evidence that sufficient folate may help to protect against a range of chronic health problems means we all may benefit from upping our folate intake.
Reduce your risk of stroke
One of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke is a raised blood level of homocysteine, which may contribute to narrowing of the arteries. A number of B vitamins, including folate, are known to lower levels of homocysteine. While a review of the available evidence in 2012 indicated that despite lowering homocysteine levels B vitamins had no impact on the risk of heart disease, they did appear to be protective against strokes. This finding is relevant, as close to 800,000 people in the US alone experience a stroke each year and around one in six strokes are fatal. If you already have other risk factors for stroke, you may wish to turn your attention to foods rich in folate.
Protect your cognitive function
Research has indicated that raised homocyestine is also linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Further studies have shown that low levels of folate are linked to reduced cognitive function and an increased dementia risk. However, the results of work to determine whether a link exists between supplementation with folic acid, cognitive function and dementia have been mixed. As some research does indicate an improvement in cognition with folic acid, you may interested in increasing your intake of folate-rich foods if you believe you may be at risk of dementia.
Improve your mental well-being
A poor intake of folate is associated with an increased risk of depression and the reduced effectiveness of antidepressants. These findings suggest that increasing your intake of folate may be useful alongside antidepressants to help manage depressive symptoms. The reason for the link between folate and mood remains unclear. However, while further research is required to investigate this association further, you may wish to eat more foods high in folate if you suffer from low mood.