It is no secret that a diet rich in nutritious foods is important to your heart health, but it can be tricky to figure out which vitamins are most beneficial. As you consider which superfoods to add to your plate, be sure you have a daily dose of folate or folic acid. This powerhouse nutrient can help reduce your risk of heart disease in addition to supporting your overall health and wellness.
What Is Folate and Folic Acid?
Folate is a B vitamin, which is needed to grow new red blood cells and is critical during times of rapid growth within the body. It is naturally found in foods such as fruits and vegetables. Another form of folate is known as folic acid, which is found in dietary supplements, such as a multivitamin. Folic acid is also part of fortified foods, or foods with nutrients added to them.
Folate and folic acid can benefit your heart health, such as a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, especially if you are living with high blood pressure.1 These nutrients, along with other B vitamins, may lower your levels of homocysteine, an amino acid produced in the body. Too much homocysteine can damage the lining of the arteries, make your blood clot and lead to a heart attack. Help prevent high levels of homocysteine with your daily dose of folate or folic acid.
How Much Do I Need?
The amount of folate needed varies based on your age and life stage. For adults over the age of 19, the National Institutes of Health recommends 400 micrograms of dietary folate equivalent. More is recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.2
It is also important to note that your body absorbs folate and folic acid differently, so you may need less if you are primarily consuming folic acid from fortified foods and supplements. Or, if you do not eat many fortified foods, such as consuming a gluten-free diet, then you may need more folate.
Where Can I Find It?
A wide variety of foods naturally contain folate. Aim to add more of the following to your plate:
- Dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts)
- Beef liver
- Fruits and fruit juices (oranges and orange juice)
- Nuts, beans, and peas
Food manufacturers add folic acid to many commonly eaten foods to help boost their nutritional value. Check the labels on the foods you already eat to find out if it has folic acid and how much. Foods that are typically fortified include:
- Breakfast cereals
Supplements can be an option if you find it difficult to get the recommended amount. Speak with your healthcare team about how much folate or folic acid you need and any nutritional changes that can benefit your heart health.