The importance of folate in the diet is beginning to be appreciated, particularly by pregnant women. Lack of folate has been linked with serious birth defects but it is also associated with increased levels of cancer and heart disease. Folate also has an essential role in the formation of DNA and in manufacturing blood cells and it contributes to the formation of haem – the iron constituent of haemoglobin. It’s pretty important stuff!
The major sources of folate are all plant-based and so most vegetarians have considerably higher intakes than meat eaters (117, 118). In fact, some studies show that only vegetarians and vegans achieve the recommended daily intake of this vitamin (119).
As explained above folate is one of the three key B-vitamins that is now known to play a part in lowering levels of homocysteine in the body – a major risk factor for heart disease.