Also known as Folic acid, folate is the name given to it, in it’s natural form. It’s probably best known for it’s importance in the development of a foetus’ neural tube to protect against spina bifida, yet vitamin B9 is also of great importance for all of us, not just pregnant ladies. It’s needed for cardiovascular health, the formation of healthy red blood cells, cell division, which if it’s impaired can affect growth and the normal structure of the nervous system.
Vitamin B9 like B12 helps with maintaining good levels of homocysteine (an amino acid), which we need to keep in balance in order to prevent heart problems. Deficiency can also lead to anemia, which makes you feel tired and lethargic. Other symptoms may include depression, forgetfulness and insomnia. People suffering from depression tend to have low levels of vitamin B9 and don’t respond well to antidepressants, yet when given B9 appear to respond better.
Where can we find it?
Found mostly in plant based foods, it’s particularly well sourced in ‘beans and greens’! Foods such as asparagus, green leafy vegetables, for example spinach, broccoli and sprouts also beans and sweet potatoes, chickpeas and liver, are all good sources. Raw foods are the best sources however as vitamin B9 can be lost in cooking as they are easily damaged when heated.
Are supplements a good idea?
It’s always best to eat real foods to boost your body’s nutritional needs rather than take supplements, but if you think you are still not getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals, it is advisable to see a qualified nutritionist to advise you if you are deficient. This may involve a simple blood test, from these results they can suggest which supplements to take. There are many to choose from and they’re not all of equal quality and some are better absorbed by the body than others, or may need to be taken as a combination to work effectively.
Listen to your body, look out for the signs and make sure you’re eating what your body needs to function effectively.