Importance of folic acid for synthesis of the “hormones of happiness”
Folic acid is a B9 vitamin, which is also widely referred as folate. Vitamin B9 is essential for numerous bodily functions. Each B vitamin is either a cofactor for key metabolic processes or is a precursor needed to make one. A cofactor is a non-protein chemical compound that is required for various biological reactions. Cofactors are “helper molecules” that assist in the synthesis of almost every enzyme in the body. Some of the cofactors also require their own synthesis.
Deficiency in any required amino acid or cofactor can impair the synthesis of “happy hormones” – dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphin.
Folates cannot be synthesized de novo or stored in the body. Therefore, folic acid has to be supplied through the diet on regular basis to meet the daily requirements.
Folate and folic acid derive their names from the Latin word “folium”, which means “leaf”. Folates occur naturally in many foods. Dark green vegetables like broccoli and spinach and dried legumes such as chickpeas, beans and lentils are naturally good sources of folate. In Canada, folic acid is added to all white flour, enriched pasta and cornmeal products.
A lack of dietary folates can lead to folate deficiency, which can result in many health problems, and mental confusion, forgetfulness, mental depression, irritability, and behavioral disorders are among them.
Vegetables rich in folates
Many vegetables and fruit contain folic acid (or vitamin B9, or folate) that is of vital importance in the “happy hormones” production. The list can be very long, just to mention a few:
- Artichokes, cooked – 79-106mcg of folates per 125ml
- Asparagus, cooked – 80-88mcg in 4 spears
- Avocados – 81mcg in ½ fruit
- Baby soybeans cooked – a 125-milliliter (ml) serving (1/2 cup) contains 106-255 micrograms (mcg) of folates
- Beets, cooked – 72mcg of folates per 125ml
- Black beans – 157-218mcg of folates per 175ml (3/4 cup)
- Broccoli, cooked – 89mcg of folates per 125ml
- Lentils – 265mcg of folates per 175ml (3/4 cup)
- Lettuce – 65-80mcg of folates per 250ml
- Papaya – 58mcg in ½ fruit
- Potato, with skin, cooked – 48-66mcg in 1 medium potato
- Spinach, cooked – 121-139mcg of folates per 125ml
- Spinach, raw – 61mcg of folates per 250ml
Red beets deserve your special attention. They contain “betaine” which has been suggested to regulate levels of neurotransmitters that improve your mood. Beets also contain tyrosine, so they are a double whammy of raising dopamine.