Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. Folate is the generic term for both naturally occurring food folate and folic acid, the fully oxidized monoglutamate form of the vitamin that is used in dietary supplements and fortified foods. Folate and folic acid are nutrients required for many critical functions in the body the most important being producing new healthy cells. One of the most important folate dependent reactions is the conversion of homocysteine to methionine in the synthesis of S-adenosyl-methionine, an important methyl donor. Another folate-dependent reaction, the methylation of deoxyuridylate to thymidylate in the formation of DNA, is required for proper cell division. An impairment of this reaction initiates a process that can lead to megaloblastic anemia, one of the hallmarks of folate deficiency.
Active folic acid is highly protective against Neural Tube Defects.This is why all national and international health organizations advocate for folic acid supplementation before and during early pregnancy.
Unfortunately, many who have a genetic MTHFR mutation are unable to metabolize folic acid well, and supplementing L-Methylfolate is the clear alternative while pregnant. L-Methylfolate (5-MTHF) has emerged as a popular alternative, and has been used as a complementary medicine in several recent clinical trials. Supplementing with L-methylfolate bypasses the entire folic acid metabolism cycle, which is good news if you have an MTHFR mutation. Studies show that L-Methyfolate supplementation is equally (if not more) effective than folic acid for increasing circulating folate in those with an MTHFR mutation. It is also highly effective at reducing homocysteine levels in healthy people.
Folate is found naturally in a wide variety of foods, including vegetables (especially dark green leafy vegetables), fruits and fruit juices, nuts, beans, peas, dairy products, poultry and meat, eggs, seafood, and grains. Spinach, liver, yeast, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts are among the foods with the highest levels of folate.