When we think of building up our blood, we often turn to iron supplements or iron-rich foods. But there are other nutrients essential for the formation of our red blood cells — namely, folate or vitamin B9.
While iron is a crucial piece of the puzzle, without folate, it will be difficult to construct robust red blood cells rich in quality hemoglobin. This is a particularly important factor for people with folic acid deficiency anemia, sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, pregnant women, menstruating women, vegetarians, and vegans.
Folate should appear regularly in your diet, as it is not stored in your fat cells for later use like other vitamins. Therefore, it will only take a couple of weeks to get depleted of folate if you lack the foods that contain it, or fail to eat a balanced diet.
Lacking energy? Try folate
Folate is needed to produce hemoglobin, a protein that makes up red blood cells and carries oxygen around the body. You may detect when your red blood cells are deficient as you will feel noticeably tired, have trouble concentrating, become breathless with light exercise, feel dizzy, and even feel grouchy or depressed — even though you get ample sleep.
You can take a folic acid supplement — which is highly recommended for pregnant women — or eat fortified cereals or breads. However, these are a synthetic form, and are not as good as naturally occurring folate found in your food, as your body must then convert it into a usable form.
Liver is also a good source of naturally occurring folate, but the taste of liver is not appealing to everyone — unless you love pâté.
Look to greens for ultimate folate
A great way to get folate is by drinking a green smoothie everyday. Green-leafed vegetables are a top folate-rich food. Just one smoothie containing 2 cups of chopped greens should significantly boost your folate consumption.
Don’t be scared when you hear the word “green.” You won’t taste the “greenness” when you add all the other fruits and flavors in. The color of the smoothie will appear green, but it will taste either smooth, sweet, zesty, or refreshing — depending on what you add.
Green protein breakfast smoothie
- 2 cups of washed and chopped silverbeet, or spinach
- 2 bananas
- ¼ cup of chopped mint
- ¼ cup of parsley
- ½ lemon, peeled, chopped, and seeded
- 1 whole orange, peeled, chopped, and seeded
- 1 raw egg, for protein
- ¼ cup of raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries
- ½ cup of yogurt
- 2 cups of cool water
Put all ingredients into a blender, with the silverbeet down at the bottom. Blend all ingredients on high for approximately 1-2 minutes, or until contents are very smooth with no green specks visible.
Pour into a tall glass and drink. Once you finish, drink another, or put the surplus in the fridge for an afternoon pick-me-up.
A world of greens to blend
Once you begin to enjoy green smoothies everyday, you will discover there are many more greens to try. Mixing up your greens is beneficial as they each have a different nutrient profile.
Greens you can try:
- silverbeet, or rainbow chard
- beet greens
- bok choy
- pak choy
- dandelion greens
- celery leaves
- carrot tops
- collard greens
- wheat grass
- avocado (also very high in folate)
Fresh raw greens are a cocktail of vitamins and minerals, and they also have an alkalizing effect on the body. When you begin to add raw greens to your diet — particularly if you are used to highly processed foods — you may experience a cleansing action. This may lead you to have gas, bloating, or maybe even a headache or two.
My advice is to begin small by adding only one cup of greens to your smoothie, and building up to two cups over a week.
Also, rotating your greens will help so you’re not eating vegetables high in oxalic acid all the time. This may be a concern for those who have suffered from kidney stones. In this case, talk to your medical practitioner.
The writer of this story is not a medical professional, and the information that is in this story has been collected from reliable sources — and every precaution has been taken to ensure its accuracy. The information provided is for general information purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional health care.