Don't Forget Folate

A yummy way to get some memory-jogging folate.


Enlarge Image Find folate in some of your favorite veggies.

It's a no-brainer. Get enough of the B vitamin folate and you may prevent some of the forgetfulness that occurs with aging. Folate and its manmade version, folic acid, play a key role in brain function.

Forget where you put your cell phone again? Better scarf down a handful of folate-rich peanuts. Actually it's not as simple as all that, but keeping folate levels high is extremely important to memory.

Where can you find folate? Try asparagus. In just 1/2 cup of cooked asparagus you can get 131 micrograms of folate.

Asparagus Finger Salad

Folate and other B vitamins also assist the body in lowering levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that increases the risk of heart disease. In fact, this finding appears to be closely related to claims of a poor memory.

In a report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, there was a link found between poor recall and high homocysteine in the body. Further digging provided evidence that high levels of folate seemed to offer some protection against memory loss.

Black beans and other dried beans and peas are full of folate. So are deep-green leafy vegetables, asparagus, strawberries, artichokes, and citrus fruits. Enriched grain products, including bread, flour, rice, breakfast cereal, and pasta, have been fortified with folic acid since 1998. That requirement -- set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- came about when it was determined that adequate folate taken by women in their child-bearing years reduced the risk of certain birth defects affecting the brain and spinal chord.

The recommended daily intake of folate is 400 mcg. Most people get adequate folate in their diets, but pregnant women may be advised to take a vitamin supplement with folic acid.

A serving of most breakfast cereals, for instance, provides about 25 percent of the daily folate requirement for the average person in the country. Check the nutrition label on the package to find the exact amount of folate.

The latest folate buzz also has researchers looking at the nutrient's impact on Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

Trials will be launched by the National Institute on Aging this year to see if a regiment of folate and other B vitamins slows the rate of progression for people with Alzheimer's disease. Studies on mice have shown that group that got less folic acid had higher levels of homocysteine in their bodies and were more susceptible to Parkinson's-like abnormalities.

Folate also reduces your risk of colon cancer. Several studies have shown that high levels of folate in the body lower the risk of colon cancer. Folic acid commonly found in vitamin supplements appears to offer the same protection.


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