High folate levels

High folate levels are vital for every woman of child-bearing age since a deficiency causes serious birth defects; and the damage is already done before even knowing she is pregnant.

Folic-acid is the synthetic form; it is used to enrich and fortify many foods and is processed in vitamin supplements. Whilst it certainly has reduced the prevalence of birth defects it has also caused many other problems.

We strongly advise the dictum of Hippocrates; let your food be your medicine. Then you have all the benefits of folate with none of the side-effects of the synthetic form.

A divine salad starts with a bed of lettuce for more folate.

Are you still watching black and white television and enjoying mainly meat and potatoes for food? You are at risk. It's time to step-up to colour.

Because of folate's central place in the prevention of frailty-syndrome none of us should take this lightly; a deficiency means having to rely on crutches and a wheelchair long before our time. This is a vitamin that is essential at every stage of life.

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 4th January, 2024.

Benefits of folate

Also known as vitamin-B9, it is essential for many functions in the body.

  • In the formation of a healthy spinal-cord in the developing foetus.
  • Producing normal red blood-cells, the carriers of oxygen in the body.
  • In preventing the build-up of toxic homocysteine which is one of the underlying causes of heart conditions and Alzheimer's disease.
  • It is strongly correlated with high academic-achievement in school.
  • It is essential in all rapidly-dividing cells such as DNA, sperm and ova formation; and in the development of the brain of every child.
  • It is one of the four important vitamins that help prevent frailty-syndrome.

The benefits of folate are well-researched.

High folate levels

High folate levels are vital for children; it is strongly correlated with academic-achievement.

“More recently concerns have been raised that folic-acid may not behave exactly the same as natural forms of B9 in the body; and that consuming too much from supplements could potentially have some negative effects on wellness.[1]"

- Professor Joel Mason, MD

Strawberry nutrition facts will tell all about the amazing properties of this wonderful fruit; it is even allowed on the ketogenic diets[2].

The benefits of strawberries include high folate levels.

Another good source is from our citrus fruit list. High folate levels is a subject for all women of child-bearing age to take seriously.

It is boringly repetitive but those eating a wide range of coloured foods need have no anxiety of these strange diseases caused by deficiencies of vitamins and important phytonutrients.

Aim for at least half a dozen coloured foods per day; even a snippet of parsley in your salad counts for one. Try to avoid being overly-anxious and feeling the need to count and weigh each item; just enjoy more of them. To the best of your ability follow the basics; you cannot do better than returning to the meals that your great grandmother once put on the table.

Aim for ten or more coloured foods every day if there is a lot of malignant disease in your family; do your level best to enjoy fruits and salads rich in anti-oxidants.

What is folate?

Folate is one of the B-complex vitamins, so important for many functions in the body and especially the nervous system; hence the particular fascination for the DC.

First look to green leafy-vegetables for food high in folate.

B9 is one of the water-soluble vitamins which is thus not stored for long periods in the body.

Foods high in folate should be consumed on a daily basis by everyone but especially pregnant women, those breast-feeding and children; in short, where cells are rapidly proliferating. A deficiency is one of the causes of infertility. 

Folate is one of the vitamins along with pyridoxine and B12 that the body requires to minimise the levels of toxic homocysteine. A large amount of this protein in the blood is associated with heart conditions, stroke and premature senility.

All ages thus should be consuming foods high in folate. What can be worse than losing your marbles? A deficiency is also one of the many causes of metastatic tumours.


DNA is where the body's genetic material is stored. It is rapidly being synthesised in the cells; this can only happen with high folate levels.

Couples who are infertile should amongst other things be examining the amount of food high in folate that they are consuming. Those on a meat and potatoes diet are at risk.

It's all about colour.

Causes of infertility

Cling-wrap plastics, the chemicals that are added to our food and those that we smear and spray on our bodies are known causes of infertility; so too are smoking, obesity, and an absence of high folate levels. That is a B9 deficiency.

So too is a shortage of choline in the diet; it is an essential part of methylating toxic homocysteine which is one of the normal breakdown products of protein-metabolism.

Irksome and neurotic

Trying to ensure that one has adequate levels of all these mystifying compounds in our diet becomes extremely irksome and would make us neurotic. The first step is making certain that you have at least eight to ten different coloured-foods on your plate every day. That might sound intimidating but actually if you ignore the quantity recommended it becomes very simple.

It makes little difference if you have a third or half a cup of spinach; do not fuss is my recommendation. Just make sure you are having more dark-green leafy vegetables regularly.

If you are having difficulty falling pregnant, is it really that problematic to have some berries for breakfast and a lettuce salad for lunch? Fresh broccoli and butternut for dinner are simple to prepare. Sprinkle parsley on your scrambled eggs and enjoy a glass of just-squeezed orange juice; you are home and dry.

One is also far less likely to succumb to tumours of the breast, suffer from constipation and have more energy each day. It really is not that difficult if you do want to live long in the land, and spend fewer hours consulting doctors and taking medicines.

Broad beans

Just one cup of broad beans (100g) contains the full daily requirement for folate; and half of your need for protein. It's best to grow them yourself; old and starchy they are perfectly horrid.

broad bean seedling

Peripheral neuropathy

A very trying condition in our clinics is a peripheral neuropathy. It frequently affects the legs causing numbness and tingling in the feet. In part nerves are dependent on high folate levels and the other B vitamins.


A shortage of red blood cells is not uncommon in women who are menstruating heavily; or folk who have developed a bleeding ulcer from taking anti-inflammatory drugs.

Just as common are the anemias due to inadequate iron, folate or B12, mostly due to dietary deficiencies; but there are other causes, such as a shortage of intrinsic-factor in the stomach and Crohn's disease.

Folate and B12 deficiencies are macrocyctic whereas a shortage of iron results in a different kind of anemia. The levels can be readily checked with a simple blood test.

These red blood-cell folate conditions are readily treated if the patient is prepared to change their diet to include green leafy vegetables and other foods high in B9.

Add an egg for vitamin B12 and you are home and dry.

Mental decline

Low B9 is strongly correlated with premature forgetfulness, senility and Alzheimer's disease; and even personality change. High folate levels are important in the young and old alike.

Beta-cryptoxanthin plays a similar important role in helping to prevent dementia; it is found mainly in citrus.


Homocysteine is the normal but toxic breakdown product of protein metabolism. The body rapidly converts it to other substances but this process requires B12 and folate. Without either, the level rises causing a severe decline in wellness. Choline too is necessary.

Foods high in folate are central to homocysteine and hip fracture.

Folic supplementation and dermatitis

There has been a suggestion that folate and B12 supplementation during pregnancy may be associated with an allergic-dermititis and asthma in the young child.

Two research articles in The Journal of Nutrition and Pediatrics deny any suggestion of an association between supplementation and childhood wheezing and asthma. However there is confirmation that severe contact dermatitis in young children is indeed connected with synthetic folate and B12 given during pregnancy.

Super-high folate levels from supplements during pregnancy is not desirable. It is impossible to overdose by getting the vitamin from your food.

As always get your essential nutrients from good eating habits, not out of a bottle. Use vitamin and mineral supplementation in moderation only, if at all.

Here is another example. Vitamin E is often thought to decrease the risk of prostate tumours. Indeed, one form known as gamma tocopherol does reduce the incidence of this mostcommon malignant disease.

But the most common vitamin E supplement contains only alpha-tocopherol, which competes with gamma, reducing the latter's absorption.

Alpha-tocopherol supplementation actually increases the risk of prostate disease.

"Let thy food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food."

Hippocrates (460 - 370 BC)


spinach dark green leafy

Interestingly just one cup of cooked-spinach contains over 60 percent of your daily folate requirements. And along with pole beans and radishes, it ranks in my three easiest and most profitable crops to grow.

The health benefits of spinach are simply huge.

It just goes on bearing the whole summer through and, in moderate climates through the winter too; high folate levels are not difficult to achieve unless you have an aversion to dark-green leafy vegetables.

Let your food be your medicine

Letting food be your medicine is a philosophy, a way of living, first proposed by Hippocrates.

He is still recognised as the Father of Medicine. Whilst knowing nothing about folate, he understood the overwhelming importance of a well-rounded platter for his patients.

Since the introduction of mandatory addition of the synthetic form known as folic acid to many foods, there has indeed been a very significant drop in the number of cases of diseases like cleft lip and spina-bifida.

On the other hand there are now serious concerns about overdosing if you are also taking supplements with the synthetic form. All are agreed, you cannot get too much folate from your food.

Of particular concern are three groups of people.

  1. The elderly.
  2. Vegans who may be vitamin B12-deficient.
  3. Those taking acid-suppressing medication for indigestion.

Taking large amounts of the synthetic form, folic acid, may mask a B12 deficiency which has very serious, even terminal neurological consequences.

“There is compelling data that people who habitually get too little folate from foods are at increased risk from colorectal tumours. However various studies suggest that this rise also occurs for people who get too much synthetic B9 as well; but this has yet to be proven conclusively.”

- Professor Joel Mason, MD

It is generally agreed that we cannot get too much natural folate from the food we eat; and that we should limit the amount of the synthetic form in supplements.

Finally the elderly, vegans and those on reflux suppressing medication, for example antacids and proton-pump inhibitors, should take it a step further and avoid foods enriched with the synthetic folic acid form. 

About 30 percent is lost in the cooking, so steam your greens lightly. Raw young leaves in our fresh spinach recipes with apples and avocado is obviously even better; but it is much easier to eat 100g of steamed than raw vegetables. All beans, avocado and strawberries are high in folate.

There is really no need for anyone to be folate deficient unless you are still on a black and white diet. Is it not about time to upgrade and move to colour?

Mature spinach is rich in folate.


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Growing lettuce

Every month I plant a row of lettuce one metre long. It took me yesterday, literally fifteen minutes. That supplies us daily with more than ample fresh green, folate-rich, leafy salads.

Have you got fifteen minutes, once a month and a small patch of ground? Whether it is one of the causes of infertility, a heart or mental condition we should all be eating these high folate foods; for anaemia and pregnancy too.

These are two weeks old. Within a month we will be snipping off leaves every day for our daily benefits of folate. It is so easy; fresh lettuce is essential for the perfect salad.

Lettuce seeds after two weeks will soon the high in folate.

Foods high in folate

By adding half an avocado, some peppers and herbs you are nearly home; a side dish of hummus and a condiment made from olive oil and lemon-juice means you will have the perfect high folate levels meal.

If you are banting then it is important to have sufficient of these vitamins or you will have a build up of toxic homocysteine from protein metabolism; it is literally-speaking deadly.

  • Find out more about the "modified Banting diet" by using the Site Search tab in the main menu above.
A divine green salad is rich in folate.

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56 Groenekloof Rd,

Hilton, KZN

South Africa