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How to add Folate into your diet

add folate to your diet

It’s well-documented that we should be eating a balanced diet but it appears that one vitamin in particular, is going under the radar. 

A new survey by Discover Great Veg has found that despite folate’s importance to our wellbeing, 75% of Brits don’t know folate is found naturally in food, and 1 in 5 think it’s only pregnant women who need to consume it at all.

But that just isn’t the case. Folate matters to us all – from anaemia to cardiovascular disease and even mental health, not eating enough folate (otherwise known as Vitamin B9) can lead to a range of health problems. But these could potentially be avoided by including more folate, with a few simple tweaks to our diets.

The latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey[2] report though has shown that levels of folate in the UK diet are not as high as they should be. In fact, average blood folate concentrations have decreased over the last 11 years by 25-28% across all age groups.

The lack of folate in many people’s diets is possibly due to the confusion amongst consumers about who needs this vital vitamin. Alongside the misconception about folate being only needed for expectant mums, the research also showed that 1 in 10 think it is only important for adults, when in fact we should all eat folate, something only 3 in 10 people recognised.

Despite more than 8 in 10 people believing it is difficult to get folate in their diet, it is found naturally in a wide range of everyday foods including green leafy veg like kale and spinach, chickpeas and kidney beans, as well as liver.

The survey also revealed confusion between folate and folic acid, as it found that the majority of respondents (89%) have heard of folic acid but aren’t aware that it is a synthetic form of folate, used to fortify manufactured foods including bread and breakfast cereals.

To help educate consumers to get more folate into their diet, Discover Great Veg has now partnered with nutritionist Jenny Tschiesche, to raise awareness about the importance of folate for every age group. It wants to help people understand how easy it can be to incorporate it into their diets without the need for supplements or fortified foods.

Jenny comments, “Folate is actually important at every stage of life so it is concerning to see that not only do the majority of people not know how much folate they should be eating every day – just 6% knew it should be 200 micrograms – but they don’t know where to get it from either. We need to raise awareness about the importance of getting enough folate in your diet at every age – from children up to the elderly, and for both men and women.”

Eating a diet deficient in folate can lead to anaemia (which results in fatigue, pallor and irritability), neural tube defects, cardiovascular disease, mental health problems including depression and anxiety, and even cancer – due to the role folate plays in DNA synthesis and repair.

Tell-tale signs that you’re not eating enough folate can include:

  1. Tiredness
  2. Depression and anxiety
  3. Swollen tongue
  4. Mouth sores
  5. Premature grey hair
  6. Reduced sense of taste
  7. Growth problems

Luckily folate is one vitamin that is easy to get enough of by making the right food choices. With 194ug and 141ug folate per 100g respectively, spinach and kale are two of the best sources of folate available – as well as being two of the most versatile vegetables. Jenny has created a set of family recipes using spinach and kale that will help ensure people can reach the RDA for this crucial vitamin. These include Spinach & Kale Mini Quiches, Lemony Chicken with Kale and Potatoes Traybake and Kale Pasta Sauce – a delicious alternative to classic pesto pasta. Each recipe contains at least 30% of your RDA for folate per portion.

Jenny Tschiesche comments: “One of the most common causes of low folate in children particularly is low intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s a really important vitamin for us all to get enough of and eating more green leafy veg is a great way to do that. As well as folate, spinach and kale also contain other key nutrients including Vitamins K, A and C, as well as calcium.”

LEMONY CHICKEN TRAY BAKE WITH KALE AND POTATOES

Serves 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large leek, sliced
  • 300g miniature/baby potatoes, boiled then halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided into 1 1/3 tbsp and 2/3 tbsp (2 tsp)
  • 8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • One small pack of fresh thyme
  • 350g kale

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 210C (fan) 230C (standard).

Toss the leek slices, potatoes, and garlic in 1+1/3 tbsp olive oil in a large bowl. Season to taste.

Spread out on 1-2 baking trays.

Add the chicken thighs to the same bowl and toss with the paprika, lemon zest and lemon juice. Season to taste.

Place the coated chicken portion on top of the vegetables, each with a sprig of thyme on top.

Bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the kale in the remaining 2/3 tbsp i.e. 2 tsp olive oil. Stir to coat each piece well then add to the baking tray/s giving everything a good stir in the process.

Bake for a further 15 minutes, stirring once. Check that the chicken juices run clear and if you have a meat thermometer that the internal temperature at the thickest part is at least 74C.

Per portion:

828 kcal, Carbohydrates 28.13g of which sugars 4.44g, fats 55.94g of which saturated fat 14.162g, protein 54.01g and folate 164ug.

Folate = 41% of RDA

KALE PASTA SAUCE

Serves 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 500g pasta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 280g kale
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. water
  • 90g grated parmesan
  • 240ml vegetable stock
  • 180g cream cheese (low fat used in nutritional analysis)

Method:

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the kale and garlic and fry for about 1-2 minutes, until the leaves start to wilt a little then add the water and keep stirring for a further couple of minutes. Transfer the kale and garlic to a food processor and blend for a few minutes then add the grated parmesan, vegetable stock and cream cheese. Blend at full speed until you have a bright green and creamy texture. Stir this in to your cooked pasta then warm through gently before serving.

Per portion:

445 kcal, Carbohydrates 52.27g of which sugars 5.35g, fats 19.41g of which saturated fat 8.7g, protein 18.43g and folate 123ug.

Folate = 30% of RDA

SPINACH AND KALE MINI QUICHES

Makes 8

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 90g spinach
  • 90g kale
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 6 large eggs
  • 180g fresh pesto
  • Ground black pepper
  • A little olive oil for greasing

You will need an 8-hole muffin baking tray – each muffin hole should have at least  a 125ml capacity

Method:

Preheat your oven to 190C or Gas Mark 5. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the spinach, kale and water. Cook for a few minutes until the leaves have wilted and reduced. Leave to cool. Pop these leaves into your food processor and blend on medium speed.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the pesto and pepper then add to the cooled leaves in the food processor before blending on top speed.

Grease the 8 holes of your muffin tin with a little oil or use cases to avoid sticking. Fill each of the 8 greased muffin holes with equal amounts of the eggy mixture. Put the tray in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes or until a cocktail stick inserted into the quiches comes out clean.

Serve warm or cold.

Per portion (2 quiches):

358 kcal, carbohydrates 6.01g of which sugars 1.14g, fats 33.57g of which saturated fat 6.9g, protein 10.43g and folate 122ug.

Folate = 30% of RDA

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