Vitamin B9 (folate/folic acid) is most widely known for its essential role in the normal growth and development of nerve tissue within a fetus. For this reason, supplemental B9 is often given to women who are trying to become pregnant or are already pregnant. B9 is vital for helping to make and maintain DNA, as well as preventing birth defects.
Folate may also help to prevent dementias, including Alzheimer's disease [I]. B9 is known as one of the "feel good" vitamins used for symptoms such as irritability, mental fatigue, forgetfulness or confusion, depression, insomnia, and muscular fatigue. Folate is crucial for both brain and body development and maintenance.
Folate deficiency is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies, which is why processed foods are fortified with the synthetic form of this nutrient (folic acid). Folate deficiency can cause slowed growth, low birth weight and neural tube defects in a fetus, as well as digestive disorders, cardiovascular issues and various diseases in grown adults.
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
Men, 400 mcg/day (IU)
Women, 400 mcg/day (IU)
Pregnant women, 600 mcg/day (IU)
Breastfeeding women, 500 mcg/day (IU)
Upper Level (UL ), 1000 mcg/day (IU)
Food Sources of B9
Animal sources: Liver, turkey giblets, and eggs.
3.5 ounces of chicken livers— 70 mcg
1 duck liver— 325 mcg
2 large eggs— 49.6
Plant sources: Legumes are the all-stars here, especially lentils, cowpeas, and pinto beans. Dark leafy greens, whole grains, and brewer's yeast also contain folate.
1 cup cooked cowpeas (blackeyes)— 358 mcg
1 cup cooked lentils— 358 mcg
1 cup cooked pinto beans— 294 mcg
1 cup cooked yardlong beans— 250 mcg
1 cup cooked split peas— 127 mcg
1 cup sunflower seeds— 319 mcg
1 cup uncooked quinoa— 313 mcg
1 cup wild rice— 152 mcg
1 cup uncooked amaranth— 158 mcg
1 cup chopped turnip greens— 107 mcg
1 cup mustard greens— 105 mcg
1 cup raw spinach— 58.2 mcg
3.5 oz dried shitake mushrooms— 163 mcg
2 tablespoons brewers yeast roughly— 200 mcg
If you are a woman who is considering getting pregnant in the near future, start to become aware of your folate intake. It is absolutely essential that you fortify your body with this vitamin on a daily basis, even as much as six months before trying to conceive. Eat a diet rich in legumes (soaked before hand!) and talk to you healthcare provider about potentially taking a high quality pre-natal supplement to fully prepare your body for the life that it will be working very hard to build!
[I] Mischoulon D, Raab MF. "The role of folate in depression and dementia". J Clin Psychiatry. 2007;68 Suppl 10:28-33. Web. June. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17900207>.