Here are some tips on how to increase your folate levels.
Do I Need To Take A Folate Supplement?
The first thing you might think of doing if your folate levels are low is to reach for the supplements, but first, it’s worth taking a look at your diet to see what foods you are eating and where you can increase your intake of foods containing folate.
Folate can only be obtained through diet and is particularly important for women trying to conceive and pregnant women as it is needed for foetal and placental development. Therefore, folate supplements are advised for women trying to conceive and pregnant women who should take 400 micrograms of folic acid during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Folate is important for the development of red blood cells, the formation of DNA and to enable our nerves to function effectively. So low folate levels can cause symptoms such as :
- extreme tiredness
- a lack of energy
- pins and needles (paraesthesia)
- a sore and red tongue
- mouth ulcers
- muscle weakness
- disturbed vision
- psychological problems, which may include depression and confusion
- problems with memory, understanding and judgement
What Is The Normal Folate Range?
Folate levels are considered normal when they are between 8.83 nmol/L and 60.8 nmol/L. Folate levels between 8.7 and 8.83 nmol/L are considered borderline and low folate levels are anything less than 8.7 nmol/L.
How To Increase Folate Levels
The best way to increase folate levels is through your diet. A healthy balanced diet will give your body all the vitamins and minerals it needs to function well.
Here is our list of the top 5 foods that contain folate and should be incorporated into your diet:
Legumes include beans, peas, and lentils all of which are good sources of folate. They also contain potassium, iron and magnesium and provide a good source of fibre and protein.
Recipes that include legumes are:
- Sausage, roasted veg and puy lentil one-pot
- Halloumi with lemony lentils, chickpeas and beats – this is packed with folate as it includes chickpeas and beets too!
- Jerk chicken, lentil and mango bowl
- Black Bean and Lentil Chilli
Asparagus not only contains folate but other vitamins and minerals as well such as potassium, thiamine, vitamins A, B6 and C. It is rich in antioxidants which helps with inflammation and also high in fibre, so good for your heart too.
Recipes that include asparagus are:
- Asparagus omelette – with added bonus of eggs which are also high in folate.
- Health asparagus pasta primavera – also contains beans and peas, another folate winner!
- Creamy chicken and asparagus braise
- Salmon and asparagus quiche
Eggs are a quick and easy way to increase your folate intake, they are also packed with vitamin B12 which is often tested along folate.
Why not rustle up some delicious eggs for breakfast such as:
- Salmon and egg breakfast wrap
- Smoked mackerel and scrambled eggs
- Eggs Benedict with cheat’s hollandaise
- Smokey bean breakfast pot
All leafy greens are good sources of folate, including spinach and kale. They also contain vitamins K and A and are high in fibre – so another winner! They are also super easy to grow in your garden.
- Chickpea, spinach and almond butter bowl – a real folate winner!
- Spinach and blue cheese pizza
- Watermelon and spinach super salad
- Mushroom and spinach lasagne
Bananas are another great source of folate as well as potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C. They also help moderate blood sugar levels; help improve digestion and support heart health.
Try out these banana recipes:
- Banana oat pancakes
- Baked banana porridge
- Blueberry and banana power smoothie
- Chocolate and banana cake – maybe not the healthiest option, but we deserve a treat every now and again.
There are still many other sources of folate to include in your diet such as:
- Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit
- Brussel sprouts (not just for Christmas!)
- Nuts and seeds
- Wheat germ
When Are Low Folate Levels A Concern?
If you have low folate levels alongside low B12 levels, then this can indicate macrocytic anaemia which is a condition where your body has overly large red blood cells. Being low in these two vitamins is a common cause of macrocytic anaemia.
Older people or those with heart disease tend to present more with symptoms related to macrocytic anaemia, but otherwise healthy younger people may not present with any symptoms. However, symptoms of macrocytic anaemia may include :
- Shortness of breath on exertion
- Complaining of looking pale
Tests That Include Folate
If you are concerned that you may have low folate levels and haven’t yet tested, here are our tests that include folate:
- Baseline Plus – also includes B12 and is a good all-round health check
- Nutricheck – vitamin and mineral deficiency test, includes B12 as well as folate
- Vegan Blood Test – vegans can be low in some key vitamins including folate, B12 and iron.
Your diet is the main source of folate and including foods rich in folate will help improve your folate levels. However, low folate levels, alongside low B12 levels should be investigated as they are indicative of macrocytic anaemia.