Eating a High Folate Diet, Part 2
Preparing High Folate Foods
In general, high folate foods can be divided into two groups: fruits and vegetables, and everything else. When discussing folate and cooking, these groups matter, in fact they matter a lot. Fruits and vegetables had a type of folate that gets easily broken down so the body can’t use it. To get the maximum effective folate, you need to buy, store and prepare high folate fruits and vegetables in ways that won’t damage their folate.
For everything else, go to town. Beans, liver, lentils and other non-fruit and vegetable sources of folate contain a form of folate that is not as easily damaged. So you can pretty much ignore everything else in this section if you are cooking any of those folate sources. Bake, boil, fry, have fun. The folate will still be there for you when you eat them.
Buying and Storing High Folate Fruits and Vegetables
There are three things that break down the folate in fruits and vegetables: air, water and heat. By protecting your fruit and vegetables from them you can ensure the highest level of folate possible.
Air: The folate in fruit is protected from air by the fruits skin or peel. Vegetables don’t have this protection, and protecting them fro air in storage is not really possible unless you have some way to vacuum seal your food. Your best option for vegetables with folate is to buy the as fresh as possible and eat them quickly. If you have the room and time, growing your own vegetables is a great way to get the highest possible folate – you can pick them right before you eat. Once fruit gas been sliced, it will also begin to lose folate.
Water: Actually, there is one way to store high folate vegetables that protects them from air – canning. However, make sure any canned fruit or vegetables you buy for folate are canned in syrup or oil. High folate vegetables or fruits that are canned in water rather than syrup will likely be low folate by the time you open the cans. Cooking high folate vegetables in water will also remove folate from your food. So when you cook go for grilling, stir frying or a quick steam cooker. Boiling is definitely not the best option.
Heat: Cooking of course leads to the last thing that damages the folate in food, heat. High folate fruits and vegetables are best eaten raw when possible. If you do cook them you are best going to with a quick cooking method that doesn’t expose the vegetables to heat long, like the above mentioned grilling and stir fry.
Why Cooked Vegetables Seem to Have More Folate
Many people get confused when they research foods high in folate, because the see frequent warnings not to cook their high folate foods, and then find lists of high folate foods, like our list in Part 1 of Eating a High Folate Diet, that say, for instance, a half cup of boiled spinach has more folate then a cup of raw spinach. The fact is that both statements are true – and the folate food lists are unintentionally very misleading. The reason for this is the confusing system we use in America for measuring our food.
Cups are volume measurements. Volume measurements are notoriously unreliable because the volume food takes up changes depending on a number of things, including how the food is cooked. A better measure for how much food you are eating is actually weight, which is the way food is measured in Europe. Looking at boiled and raw spinach by weight, it turns out that ½ lb of spinach makes 1 serving (that half cup on the list) of boiled spinach. That same ½ pound can make 7 ½ servings of raw spinach (½ lb is 226 grams, 1 cup of raw spinach is considered to be 30 grams). This means that you can each a ½ lb of spinach raw, and get 100% of your folate for the day, or boil is and get 29% of your folate for the day. To be fair, most people will not be interested in 3 bowls (2 servings to a bowl) of spinach salad in a day. In which case you are still better having one bowl, and saving the rest for tomorrow. You’ll get more folate out of the same amount of food, and save some money (by making 3 meals with that food instead of 1) at the same time.
The Exception to the Rule
There is one vegetable that actually has more folate when it is cooked, asparagus. Asparagus apparently contains nutrients that when exposed to heat combine to form folate, so you get more folate from cooked asparagus than from raw asparagus – nearly 4 times more.
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