Why are we encouraged to eat lots of leafy green vegetables when following a low carb diet? I asked myself this question when I first delved into the world of low carb. The name folate is derived from the word ‘foliage’ and is present in foods such as green leafy vegetables and also liver. Also known as vitamin B9 it plays a crucial role in copying and synthesising DNA, producing new cells and supporting nerve and immune functions it also reduces levels of homocysteine in the blood. Folate is water soluble, easily absorbed and metabolised in the small intestines.
There are two versions of B9, natural and synthetic and this is where some confusion happens especially when it comes to fortified processed food such as cereals and breads. Due to the processing of these grains, the natural B9 is lost and so a synthetic version is added called folic acid.
Folate, an essential micronutrient, is a critical cofactor in one-carbon metabolism. Mammals cannot synthesize folate and depend on supplementation to maintain normal levels. Low folate status may be caused by low dietary intake, poor absorption of ingested folate and alteration of folate metabolism due to genetic defects or drug interactions. Folate deficiency has been linked with an increased risk of neural tube defects, cardiovascular disease, cancer and cognitive dysfunction. Most countries have established recommended intakes of folate through folic acid supplements or fortified foods.