February, 2016

Purslane – A Tasty “Weed” That is Loaded With Nutrients

Purslane is best known as a weed. However, it is also an edible and highly nutritious vegetable. In fact, purslane is loaded with all sorts of nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids. This article takes a detailed look at purslane and its health effects.

What is Purslane?

Purslane is a green, leafy vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked. It is known scientifically as Portulaca oleracea, and is also called pigweed, little hogweed, fatweed and pusley. This succulent plant contains about 93% water. It has red stems and small, green leaves. Purslane has a slightly sour or salty taste, similar to spinach and watercress. It can be used in many of the same ways as spinach and lettuce, such as in salads or sandwiches. This is what purslane looks like:

Purslane grows in many parts of the world, in a wide range of environments. It can grow in gardens and sidewalk cracks, but can also adapt to harsher conditions. This includes drought, as well as very salty or nutrient-deficient soil. Purslane has a long history of use in traditional/alternative medicine. It is also high in many nutrients. A 100 gram (3.5 oz) portion contains:

  • Vitamin A (from beta-carotene): 26% of the DV.
  • Vitamin C: 35% of the DV.
  • Magnesium: 17% of the DV.
  • Manganese: 15% of the DV.
  • Potassium: 14% of the DV.
  • Iron: 11% of the DV.
  • Calcium: 7% of the RDI.
  • It also contains small amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3, folate, copper and phosphorus.

You get all of these nutrients with only 16 calories! This makes purslane one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, calorie for calorie.

Bottom Line: Purslane is a a weed that grows in many parts of the world. It is also a highly nutritious vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked.

Purslane is High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important fats that the body cannot produce. Therefore, we must get them from the diet. While purslane is low in total fat, a large portion of the fat it does contain is in the form of omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, it contains two types of omega-3 fatty acids, ALA and EPA. ALA is found in many plants, but EPA is found mostly in animal products (like fatty fish) and algae. Compared to other greens, purslane is exceptionally high in ALA. It contains 5-7 times more ALA than spinach. Interestingly, purslane also contains trace amounts of EPA. This omega-3 fatty acid is more active in the body than ALA, and is generally not found in plants that grow on land.

Bottom Line: Purslane is much higher in omega-3 fatty acids than other greens. It contains high amounts of ALA, but also trace amounts of EPA, a more biologically active form of omega-3.

Purslane is Loaded with Antioxidants

Purslane is rich in various antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds:

  • Vitamin C: Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an antioxidant that is essential for the maintenance of skin, muscles and bone.
  • Vitamin E: Purslane contains high levels of a special form of vitamin E called alpha-tocopherol. It may protect cell membranes from damage.
  • Vitamin A: Purslane contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body turns into vitamin A. Vitamin A is best known for its role in eye health.
  • Glutathione: This important antioxidant may protect cells from damage.
  • Melatonin: Purslane also contains melatonin, a hormone that can help you fall asleep. It also has several other benefits.
  • Betalain: Purslane synthesizes betalains, antioxidants that have been shown to protect low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles from damage.

One study in obese teenagers reported that purslane seeds reduced LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, both of which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. The researchers attributed these effect to the antioxidants and plant compounds in purslane seeds.

Bottom Line: Purslane is very high in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds, which may have various health benefits.

Purslane is High in Important Minerals

Purslane is also high in several important minerals. It is a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure. High potassium intake has been linked to a lower risk of stroke, and may also reduce the risk of heart disease. Purslane is also a great source of magnesium, an incredibly important nutrient involved in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. Magnesium may protect against heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Purslane also contains some calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body. Calcium is important for bone health. Phosphorus and iron are also found in purslane, in lower amounts. Older, more mature purslane plants may contain higher amounts of minerals than younger plants.

Bottom Line: Several important minerals are found in purslane, including potassium, magnesium and calcium.

Purslane Also Contains Oxalates

On the flip side, purslane also contains high amounts of oxalates. This can be an issue for people who tend to develop kidney stones, as oxalates can contribute to their formation. Oxalates also have antinutrient properties, meaning that they may interfere with the absorption of minerals like calcium and magnesium. Purslane grown in the shade may have higher levels of oxalates, compared to plants readily exposed to sunlight. If you are concerned about the oxalate content of purslane, try adding it to yogurt, which has been shown to significantly reduce the amount of oxalates.

Bottom Line: Purslane contains oxalates, which can reduce the absorption of some minerals and contribute to the formation of kidney stones.

Take Home Message

Despite being seen as a weed in some cultures, purslane is a highly nutritious, leafy green vegetable. It is loaded with antioxidants, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and beneficial plant compounds. Calorie for calorie, purslane is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth.

Read More

Why Eggs Are a Killer Weight Loss Food

Eggs are among the healthiest foods you can eat. They are rich in high-quality protein, healthy fats and many essential vitamins and minerals. Eggs also have a few unique properties that make them egg-ceptionally weight loss friendly. This article explains why whole eggs are a killer weight loss food.

Eggs Are Low in Calories

The simplest way to lose weight is to reduce your daily calorie intake. One large egg contains only about 78 calories, yet is very high in nutrients. Egg yolks are especially nutritious. An egg meal commonly consists of about 2–4 eggs. Three large boiled eggs contain less than 240 calories. By adding a generous serving of vegetables, you’re able to have a complete meal for only about 300 calories. Just keep in mind that if you fry your eggs in oil or butter, you add about 50 calories for each teaspoon used.

Bottom Line: One large egg contains about 78 calories. A meal consisting of 3 boiled eggs and vegetables contains only about 300 calories.

Why Eggs Are a Killer Weight Loss Food

Eggs are incredibly nutrient-dense and filling, mainly because of their high protein content. High-protein foods have been known to reduce appetite and increase fullness, compared to foods that contain less protein. Studies have repeatedly shown that egg meals increase fullness and reduce food intake during later meals, compared to other meals with the same calorie content. Eggs also rank high on a scale called the Satiety Index. This scale evaluates how well foods help you feel full and reduce calorie intake later on. Additionally, eating a diet high in protein may reduce obsessive thoughts about food by up to 60%. It may also cut the desire for late-night snacking by half.

Bottom Line: Eggs rank high on the Satiety Index scale, which means they may help you feel fuller for longer. High-protein foods, like eggs, may also help you snack less between meals.

Eggs May Boost Your Metabolism

Eggs contain all the essential amino acids, and in the right ratios.

This means your body can easily use the protein in eggs for maintenance and metabolism. Eating a high-protein diet has been shown to boost metabolism by up to 80–100 calories a day, through a process called the thermic effect of food. The thermic effect of food is the energy required by the body to metabolize foods, and is higher for protein than for fat or carbs. This means that high-protein foods, such as eggs, help you burn more calories.

Bottom Line: A high-protein diet may boost your metabolism by up to 80–100 calories per day, since extra energy is needed to help metabolize the protein in foods.

Eggs are a Great Way to Start Your Day

Eating eggs for breakfast seems to be especially beneficial for weight loss. Many studies have compared the effects of eating eggs in the morning versus eating other breakfasts with the same calorie content. Several studies of overweight women showed that eating eggs instead of bagels increased their feeling of fullness and caused them to consume fewer calories over the next 36 hours. Egg breakfasts have also been shown to cause up to 65% greater weight loss, over 8 weeks. A similar study in men came to the same conclusion, showing that an egg breakfast significantly reduced calorie intake for the next 24 hours, compared to a bagel breakfast. The egg eaters also felt more full. Furthermore, the egg breakfast caused a more stable blood glucose and insulin response, while also suppressing ghrelin (the hunger hormone). Another study in 30 healthy and fit young men compared the effects of three types of breakfasts on three separate occasions. These were eggs on toast, cereal with milk and toast, and croissant with orange juice. The egg breakfast caused significantly greater satiety, less hunger and a lower desire to eat than the other two breakfasts. Furthermore, eating eggs for breakfast caused the men to automatically eat about 270–470 calories less at lunch and dinner buffets, compared to eating the other breakfasts. This impressive reduction in calorie intake was unintentional and effortless. The only thing they did was to eat eggs at breakfast.

Bottom Line: Eating eggs for breakfast may increase your feeling of fullness and make you automatically eat fewer calories, for up to 36 hours.

Eggs Are Cheap and Easy to Prepare

Incorporating eggs into your diet is very easy. They are inexpensive, widely available and can be prepared within minutes. Eggs are delicious almost every way you make them, but are most often boiled, scrambled, made into an omelet or baked. A breakfast omelet made with a couple of eggs and some vegetables makes for an excellent and quick weight loss friendly breakfast.

Bottom Line: Eggs are inexpensive, available almost everywhere and can be prepared in a matter of minutes.

Take Home Message

Adding eggs to your diet may be one of the easiest things to do if you’re trying to lose weight. They can make you feel more full and help you eat fewer calories throughout the day. Furthermore, eggs are a great source of many vitamins and minerals that are commonly lacking in the diet. Eating eggs, especially for breakfast, may just be what makes or breaks your weight loss diet.

Read More

What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids? Explained in Human Terms

Omega-3 fatty acids are very important fats that we must get from the diet. However, most people don’t really know what they are. This article explains what omega-3 fatty acids are, how they work and why you should care.

What is Omega-3?

Omega-3 is short for omega-3 fatty acid. This is a family of essential fatty acids that play important roles in the human body. We can not produce them on our own, so we must get them from the diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated, meaning that they have several double bonds in the chemical structure. The three most important types are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). ALA is mainly found in plants, while DHA and EPA are mainly found in animal foods and algae. Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for optimal function of the human body, and they may also provide numerous powerful health benefits. Common foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish, fish oils, flax seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed oil and walnuts, to name a few. For people who do not eat much of these foods, an omega-3 supplement (like fish oil) is often recommended.

Bottom Line: Omega-3 fatty acids are a family of important fats that we must get from the diet. The three main types are ALA, EPA and DHA.

What Does “Omega-3” Mean?

The “omega” naming convention has to do with the placement of the double bonds on the fatty acid chain. Each fatty acid has a long chain of carbon atoms, with one carboxylic acid end (called alpha) and one methyl end (called omega). Here is a photo with two fatty acids. The alpha end is on the left and the omega end on the right. The double lines shows the placement of the double bonds.

The omega-3 fat ALA is on the top and the omega-6 fat LA on the bottom. The number 3 means that the first double bond of the fatty acid molecule is located 3 carbon atoms away from the “omega” end. Conversely, the double bond in omega-6 fatty acids is located 6 carbon atoms away from the omega end.

Bottom Line: The “omega” naming convention has to do with the placement of the double bond in the fatty acid molecule. Omega-3 fatty acids have the first double bond placed 3 carbon atoms away from the omega end.

The Three Types: ALA, EPA and DHA

There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, DHA and EPA.

ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the most common omega-3 fatty acid in the diet. It is 18 carbons long. It is not active in the human body, and needs to be converted into the active forms, EPA and DHA. However, this conversion process is inefficient. Only a small percentage of ALA is converted into the active forms. ALA is found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds and soybeans, to name a few.

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)

Eicosapentaenoic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid that is 20 carbons long. It is mostly found in animal products, such as fatty fish and fish oil. However, some microalgae also contain EPA. It has several functions in the human body. Part of it can be converted into DHA.

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the most important omega-3 fatty acid in the human body. It is 22 carbons long. It is a key structural component of the brain, the retina of the eyes and numerous important parts of the body. Like EPA, it is mostly found in animal products like fatty fish and fish oil. Meat, eggs and dairy products from grass-fed animals also tend to contain significant amounts. Vegetarians and vegans are often lacking in DHA, and should take microalgae supplements, which contain DHA.

Bottom Line: There are three main omega-3 fatty acids in the diet: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

The Omega-6:Omega-3 Ratio

Omega-6 fatty acids also have important roles in the human body. Their function is often similar to the function of omega-3 fatty acids. Both are used to produce signalling molecules called eicosanoids, which have various roles related to inflammation, blood clotting and others. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, but eating too much omega-6 counteracts these beneficial effects. For this reason, we need to consume these fatty acids in a certain balance for optimal health. This balance between omega-6 and omega-3 is often termed the omega-6:omega-3 ratio. These days, most people are eating way too many omega-6 fats, and way too few omega-3s, so the ratio is currently skewed far towards the omega-6 side.

Bottom Line: Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are used to produce important signalling molecules called eicosanoids. Getting both types of fatty acids in a certain balance is considered important for optimal health.

What Omega-3 Fatty Acids Do

Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, play structural roles in the brain and retina of the eyes. It is particularly important for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers to get enough DHA. It can affect the future health and intelligence of the baby. Additionally, getting enough omega-3 fatty acids can have powerful health benefits for adults as well. This is especially true of the longer-chain forms, EPA and DHA. Although evidence is mixed, studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can have protective effects against all sorts of diseases. This includes breast cancer, depression, ADHD, as well as various inflammatory diseases. At the end of the day, omega-3 fatty acids are important, and the modern diet is severely lacking in them. If you don’t like fish, then consider taking a supplement. It is both cheap and effective.

This article is the first in a series on omega-3 fatty acids. Keep posted for more.

Read More

The 56 Most Common Names for Sugar (Some are Tricky)

Added sugar may be the single unhealthiest ingredient in the modern diet. On average, Americans eat about 15 teaspoons of added sugar each day, although sources vary on the exact figure. Most of this is hidden within processed foods, so people don’t even realize they’re eating it. All this sugar may be a key factor in several major illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes. Sugar goes by many different names, so it’s very difficult to figure out how much a food actually contains. This article lists 56 different names for sugar. But first, let’s briefly explain what added sugars are and how the different types can affect your health.

What is Added Sugar?

During processing, sugar is added to food to enhance flavour, texture, shelf life or other properties. Added sugar is usually a mixture of simple sugars such as glucose, fructose or sucrose. Other types, such as galactose, lactose and maltose, are less common. Unfortunately, food manufacturers often hide the total amount of sugar by listing it under several different names on ingredients lists.

Bottom Line: Sugar is commonly added to processed foods. Manufactures often use several different kinds of sugar so they can hide the real amount.

Glucose or Fructose — Does it Matter?

In short, yes. Glucose and fructose — even though they’re very common and often found together — have very different effects on the body.

Glucose can be metabolized by nearly every cell in the body, while fructose is metabolized almost entirely in the liver. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated the harmful effects of high fructose consumption. These include insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, fatty liver and type 2 diabetes. Although eating any extra sugar should be avoided, it is especially important to minimize your intake of added sugars that are high in fructose.

Bottom Line: Added sugar goes by many names, and most types consist of glucose and/or fructose. High-fructose added sugars are more harmful.

1. Sugar / Sucrose

Sucrose is the most common type of sugar. Often called “table sugar,” it is a naturally occurring carbohydrate found in many fruits and plants. Table sugar is usually extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets. It consists of 50% glucose and 50% fructose, bound together. Sucrose is found in many foods, including ice cream, candy, pastries, cookies, soda, fruit juices, canned fruit, processed meat, breakfast cereals and ketchup, to name a few.

Bottom Line: Sucrose is also known as table sugar. It occurs naturally in many fruits and plants, and is added to all sorts of processed foods. It consists of 50% glucose and 50% fructose.

2. High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

High-fructose corn syrup is a widely used sweetener, especially in the US.

It is produced from corn starch via an industrial process, and consists of both fructose and glucose. There are several different types of HFCS, which contain varying amounts of fructose. Two notable varieties are:

  • HFCS 55: This is the most common type of HFCS. It contains 55% fructose and 45% glucose, which makes it similar to sucrose in composition.
  • HFCS 90: This form contains 90% fructose.

High-fructose corn syrup is found in many foods, especially in the US. These include soda, breads, cookies, candy, ice cream, cakes, cereal bars and many others.

Bottom Line: High-fructose corn syrup is produced from corn starch. It consists of varying amounts of fructose and glucose, but the most common type contains 55% fructose and 45% glucose.

3. Agave Nectar

Agave nectar, also called agave syrup, is a very popular sweetener produced from the agave plant. It is commonly used as a “healthy” alternative to sugar because it doesn’t spike blood sugar levels as much as many other sugar varieties. However, agave nectar contains about 70–90% fructose, and 10–30% glucose. Given the harmful health effects of excess fructose consumption, agave nectar may be even worse for metabolic health than regular sugar. It is used in many “health foods,” such as fruit bars, sweetened yogurts and cereal bars.

Bottom Line: Agave nectar or syrup is produced from the agave plant. It contains 70–90% fructose and 10–30% glucose. It may be even more harmful for health than regular sugar.

4–37. Other Sugars with Glucose and Fructose

Most added sugars and sweeteners contain both glucose and fructose.

Here are a few examples:

  • Beet sugar
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Brown sugar
  • Buttered syrup
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Castor sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
  • Date sugar
  • Demerara sugar
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Florida crystals
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Golden sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Grape sugar
  • Honey
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado sugar
  • Panela sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Sucanat
  • Treacle sugar
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Yellow sugar

Bottom Line: These sugars all contain varying amounts of both glucose and fructose.

38–52. Sugars With Glucose Only

These sweeteners contain glucose, either pure or combined with sugars other than fructose (such as other glucose units or galactose):

  1. Barley malt

  2. Brown rice syrup

  3. Corn syrup

  4. Corn syrup solids

  5. Dextrin

  6. Dextrose

  7. Diastatic malt

  8. Ethyl maltol

  9. Glucose

  10. Glucose solids

  11. Lactose

  12. Malt syrup

  13. Maltodextrin

  14. Maltose

  15. Rice syrup

Bottom Line: These sugars are comprised of glucose, either on its own or with sugars other than fructose.

53–54. Sugars With Fructose Only

These two sweeteners contain only fructose:

  1. Crystalline fructose

  2. Fructose

Bottom Line: Pure fructose is simply called fructose or crystalline fructose.

55–56. Other Sugars

There are a few added sugars that contain neither glucose nor fructose. They are less sweet and less common, but are sometimes used as sweeteners:

  1. D-ribose

    56. Galactose

Bottom Line: D-ribose and galactose are not as sweet as glucose and fructose, but are also used as sweeteners.

There’s No Need To Avoid Natural Sugars

There’s no reason to avoid the sugar that is naturally present in whole foods. Fruit, vegetables and dairy products naturally contain small amounts of sugar, but they also contain fiber, nutrients and various beneficial compounds. The negative health effects of high sugar consumption are due to the massive amount of added sugar that is present in the Western diet. The most effective way to reduce your sugar intake is to eat mostly whole and unprocessed foods. However, if you decide to buy packaged foods, be on the lookout for the many different names that sugar goes by.

Read More

Folic Acid vs Folate — What’s the Difference?

Folate and folic acid are different forms of vitamin B9. Even though there is a distinct difference between the two, their names are often used interchangeably. In fact, there is a lot of confusion regarding folic acid and folate, even among professionals. Being aware of their differences is important, because they do not have the same effects on your health. This article explains the difference between folic acid and folate.

Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9 is an essential nutrient that naturally occurs as folate. Folate serves many important functions in the body. For example, it plays a crucial role in cell growth and the formation of DNA. Having low levels of folate is associated with an increased risk of several health conditions. These include:

  • Elevated homocysteine: High homocysteine levels have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Birth defects: Low folate levels in pregnant women have been linked to birth abnormalities, such as neural tube defects.
  • Cancer risk: Poor levels of folate are also linked to increased cancer risk.

For these reasons, supplementation with vitamin B9 is common. Fortifying food with this nutrient is actually mandatory in countries such as the US, Canada and Chile. However, the problem is that supplements and fortified foods usually contain folic acid, not folate.

Bottom Line: Vitamin B9 is an essential nutrient, mainly present as folate and folic acid. It is commonly taken in supplements, and is even added to processed food in North America.

What is Folate?

Folate is the naturally-occurring form of vitamin B9.

Its name is derived from the Latin word “folium,” which means leaf. In fact, leafy vegetables are among the best dietary sources of folate. Folate is actually a generic name for a group of related compounds with similar nutritional properties. The active form of vitamin B9 is a folate known as levomefolic acid or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). In the digestive system, the majority of dietary folate is converted into 5-MTHF before entering the bloodstream.

Bottom Line: Folate is the naturally-occurring form of vitamin B9. Before entering the bloodstream, the digestive system converts it into the biologically active form of vitamin B9, 5-MTHF.

What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9, also known as pteroylmonoglutamic acid. It is used in supplements and added to processed food products, such as flour and breakfast cereals. For many years, folic acid was thought to be much better absorbed than naturally-occurring folate. However, a diet containing a variety of folate-rich, whole foods has been shown to be almost as effective. Unlike most folate, the majority of folic acid is not converted to the active form of vitamin B9, 5-MTHF, in the digestive system. Instead, it needs to be converted in the liver or other tissues. Yet this process is slow and inefficient. After taking a folic acid supplement, it takes time for the body to convert all of it to 5-MTHF. Even a small dose, such as 200–400 mcg per day, may not be completely metabolized until the next dose is taken. This problem is even worse when fortified foods are eaten along with folic acid supplements. As a result, un-metabolized folic acid is commonly detected in people’s bloodstreams, even in the fasted state. This is a cause for concern, since high levels of un-metabolized folic acid have been associated with several health problems. However, one study suggests that taking folic acid along with other B-vitamins, particularly vitamin B6, makes the conversion more efficient.

Bottom Line: Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9. The body does not convert it into active vitamin B9 very well, so un-metabolized folic acid may build up in the bloodstream.

Is Un-Metabolized Folic Acid Harmful?

Several studies indicate that chronically elevated levels of un-metabolized folic acid may have adverse health effects.

These include:

  • Increased cancer risk: High levels of un-metabolized folic acid have been associated with increased cancer risk. They may also speed up the growth of precancerous lesions.
  • Undetected B12 deficiency: Among elderly people, high folic acid levels may hide vitamin B12 deficiency. Untreated vitamin B12 deficiency may increase the risk of dementia and impair nerve function.

Even a small, daily dose of 400 mcg may cause un-metabolized folic acid to build up in the bloodstream. Although high folic acid intake is a concern, the health implications are unclear and further studies are needed.

Bottom Line: High levels of un-metabolized folic acid may negatively affect health by increasing cancer risk or hiding vitamin B12 deficiency. This build up happens very easily, and the full impact on health is not yet known.

What is the Healthiest Source of Vitamin B9?

It is best to get vitamin B9 from whole foods. High-folate foods include asparagus, avocados, Brussels sprouts, and leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce. However, for some people — such as pregnant women — supplements may be an easy way to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B9. In those cases, it is best to choose supplements that do not contain folic acid. Some supplements contain 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), which is considered a healthier alternative to folic acid. Studies have shown that 5-MTHF is equal to or even better than folic acid. Supplemental 5-MTHF is bound to calcium, and is usually known as methyl folate or levomefolate calcium. It is also sold under the brand names Metafolin and Deplin.

Bottom Line: The healthiest dietary sources of vitamin B9 are whole foods, such as leafy green vegetables. If you need to take supplements, methyl folate is a healthier alternative to folic acid.

Take Home Message

There are several distinct differences between folate and folic acid. While folate occurs naturally in foods, folic acid is synthetic. The human body doesn’t seem to handle folic acid very well, and has trouble converting it into the active form of vitamin B9. This can cause un-metabolized folic acid to build up, which may have negative health effects. Luckily, there are many alternatives to folic acid. These include methyl folate supplements and a huge variety of healthy, whole foods.

Read More