We often hear that folate, or folic acid, is good for us, but why? And why the two names? Let’s explore folate, why kids need it and where to find it in foods.
If you wonder how your kid can scarf down cheeseburgers, pizza and milkshakes and still be a string bean, you can thank the lima bean.
Or the asparagus or the cauliflower. What these veggies and many others have in common is one nutrient – folate. Consider it an essential vitamin with a capital B.
You might have seen folate and folic acid being used interchangeably. This is because folic acid is the man-made version. It is added to supplements and foods like cereal and pasta that do not have natural folates.
Regardless of how it is delivered, a shortage of the nutrient can cause unhappy moments. Children who suffer from vitamin B deficiency can have bellyaches, sores or rough skin and burning eyes or eye fatigue. If your kiddo show symptoms of a vitamin B shortage, you should make an appointment with the doctor.
But even if not, it’s a good idea to work more natural sources of folate into meals. We got a list of them, but before that, let’s explore why this nutrient is so important for kids.
It’s in our DNA: Folate helps make DNA, which guides the formation and function of our cells. And a kid’s body makes lots of cells. For example, the body replaces all the cells in the small intestine about every five days. That shakes out to roughly 17 billion new cells, six times a month!
It helps cells tower: You can’t have a red blood cell without folate, because it’s needed to make ’em. Kids especially need red blood cells because they produce energy to run, play sports and pull all the pots out of the cabinet. Good thing the body makes new blood cells every day.
It’s head-and-heart food: Folate is necessary for brain development and function, so think on that. Evidence also suggests it can reduce the risk of heart disease. Lastly, it is needed for healthy nervous, digestive and immune systems – a nutritional trifecta.
It makes healthy babies: High-folate foods play a major role in the development of an unborn baby’s brain and spinal cord. Further, research shows that future children whose moms take folic acid supplements around conception will likely have better language skills. Lesson: Expecting moms should chow down on the Bs.
Where’s the B?
Good news! Folate lives in lots of natural foods, including fruits, peanuts, chicken and veggies. Following are some of the best veggies for a B9 boost. You can find more here.
- Lima beans
- Spinach/leafy greens
- Green peas
- Brussels sprouts
- Winter squash (more than summer squash))
- Tomatoes (especially tomato juice)
If your kid likes any of these foods, you’ve got a sure thing on the folate front. But it is advisable to eat more than one or two. The different colors in veggies represent different nutritional profiles, so go for a rainbow.
However, if your kid resists, mix finely cut veggies in eggs or mac and cheese. Or blend them into a smoothie with a banana. Dips and toppers also work well, but it’s best to choose all-natural brands that do not compromise veggie nutrition.
Because, after all, your kid is going to eat that ice cream.