I really think I was born to be a Nutritionist. However, very briefly at one point, I dabbled with the idea of being a writer. I am not a poet by any stretch but below is my ill-fated attempt at poetry which to be honest, I think reads like the script to a terrible infomercial. Here it is anyway:

Would you look at your state?!

If you’re starting to experience hate,
Don’t wait,
Eat your folate,
Get on it before it’s too late!
Better health is your bait!

Okay, I tried. Anyway, off late, have you been feeling blue? Under the weather? Depressed? Cranky? Crappy? Does each day seem like an endless drag and you have no idea why? Do you just not feel like yourself? Well, newsflash: It could be your folic acid levels! I know what you’re thinking. Great! After low Vitamin D and low B12 levels, this is exactly what I need. More nutrient deficiencies! While I do empathize fully, know that this is important so read on:

What is folate? Is it the new and latest diet/health fad?

No, it most certainly is not. Folate, also known as folic acid or B9, is a B vitamin. Good news: B vitamins are water-soluble which means even if your physician recommends a supplement, you won’t overdose on it because your body would just pee out the excess (if any). Remember how first your Vitamin D was super low and then it went through the roof after a couple injections? Well, you won’t have to worry about that happening with a folate supplement because as already mentioned, it is water-soluble. Yes, I am a bit of a mind reader and I once again know what you’re thinking. What about food sources? Got it right, didn’t I? Here you have them:

  • Bhindi/okra
  • Palak/spinach
  • Chickpeas (Hello hummus!)
  • Papaya
  • Peanuts (Yes, good ol’ local, plain roasted singdana. Not salted and certainly not honey-glazed)
  • Bananas
  • Oranges

What does folate do/Why do I need it?

Like most nutrients, it has a host of things to do in our body. It is needed for:

  • Production and maintenance of new cells
  • Formation of heme, the iron containing substance in hemoglobin which is crucial for oxygen transport. What this means is that low folate levels could be the reason for your anemia
  • Energy production and key metabolic processes (looks like I finally have your attention)
  • Amino acid formation
  • Optimal digestion

Isn’t folate mostly important only for pregnant women?

Okay, yes. Folic acid does have a reputation for it’s role in preventing birth defects and it is absolutely imperative for pregnant women to inculcate a folic acid supplement in their diet. However, this doesn’t make it any less important for you and an array of recent research is establishing the connection between folate and depression and one of the well-known consequences of folate deficiency are changes in thinking and personality. In fact, people with folate deficiency may appear confused, irritable and depressed.

So what’s the connection (between folate and depression)?

There is a naturally occurring compound found in almost every tissue and fluid of the body called SAMe (pronounced as ‘Sammy’). Incidentally, that’s what I call my cousin is too! Anyway, SAMe stands for S-adenosylmethionine and it helps produce and breakdown feel-good brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. Low folate levels lower the levels of SAMe in your brain and low SAMe means low levels of feel good brain chemicals which in turn has you feeling depressed. My cousin Sammy’s absence has a similar effect at family functions. Anyway, speaking of weddings, did you know that alcohol consumption can lower your folate absorption? So if you enjoy your weekend drinks, more reason to include folate rich foods and possibly, a folic acid supplement.

Okay, so what am I supposed to do now with all this information?

Get a simple blood test as part of your standard medical evaluation. Or suggest it to your partner, best friend, co-worker, family member who has been completely out of character off late! The solution to kiss goodbye to your and/or their blues may literally be one nutrient supplement away!