More and more people are embarking on gluten-free diets for multiple reasons, including non-celiac gluten sensitivity, low-carb diet for weight loss and overall health, and of course, Celiac disease. Whatever the reason, many are finding health benefits from removing gluten containing grains from their diets.
While this change is health-promoting for so many people, there’s one thing you need to be mindful when you cut out processed breads and other enriched flours from your life: Folate Deficiency.
Folate is a naturally occurring B-vitamin found in many foods. Due to its importance for our own health and for the health of developing fetuses in pregnant women, many foods have been fortified with folic acid (a synthetic version of folate). These include bread, cereal, flour, cornmeal, pasta, rice, and other grain products. However, just because you choose not to eat foods from those categories doesn’t mean you have to decrease your intake of folate. The hope is that you are replacing those foods with healthy, whole fruits and vegetables. If that’s the case, you should be in the clear!
Some examples of folate-rich foods are:
- Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts
- Other green vegetables like asparagus and okra
- Legumes like beans and lentils
- Colorful fruits like papaya, oranges and strawberries
- Avocado (my favorite!)
- Nuts and seeds
If you include at least a couple servings per day from the foods listed above, your folate intake will be just fine. Many people also choose to take a folate supplement. This can come in the form of:
- A multivitamin like this one for kids or this one for adults
- A B-complex vitamin like this one
- Or folate alone
If you do chose to supplement, I recommend that you consider taking the active form of folate (5-methyltetrahydrofolate) as some people are unable to process and effectively use the inactive folic acid.
Taking on a gluten-free diet can be a great step towards better health for you or your child. Don’t let concerns over folate deficiency stop you from enjoying the benefits of this new lifestyle!