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Vitamin B9 is an essential B vitamin, commonly referred to as folic acid, vital to our bodies and health. Nicknamed the Vitamin of Life and especially known among mothers-to-be, it is a support that should always be present at every stage of life, from the womb to old age. It is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it dissolves in liquids and is excreted through the urine, so it is necessary to take it regularly through the diet.

Folic acid has several necessary functions: it allows DNA duplication, it is helpful in the formation of haemoglobin, it prevents heart disease, but not only that, it also affects the nervous system, and above all, it must be taken during pregnancy for the correct development of the embryonic nervous system, to prevent malformations in the foetus, such as those of the skull, heart and neural tube. Folic acid is the processed form of vitamin B9. In contrast, the form found naturally in food is folate, which is also available naturally in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, chicken meat, duck liver, eggs, herbs and dried fruit.

An excellent antioxidant essential for mental and emotional health; remember that states of stress increase the body’s need for folic acid. The daily requirement of vitamin B9 is approximately 0.2 mg per day, but more should be taken during pregnancy as the foetus depletes maternal reserves. Alcohol hinders the absorption of folate and increases its destruction, as does smoking; oral contraceptives and treatment with certain drugs, such as barbiturates and the hormones contained in the contraceptive pill, can also interfere with its absorption. Fruits and vegetables should preferably be eaten in season and raw, remembering that cooking the food destroys at least 50% of the folic acid, just as UV light, heat and prolonged storage are all factors that contribute to depleting the food of vitamin B9.

As explained above, a folic acid deficiency is risky, particularly in pregnant women, because it leads to severe malformations, so its intake is recommended one month before conception and for the first three months of pregnancy. Deficiency can also be due to limited consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables or high consumption of preserved foods, with the risk of diseases such as anaemia, digestive and neurological problems and damage to the mucous membranes of the oral cavity. Naturally available folic acid is very delicate. The amount of the vitamin decreases during extended storage when food is heated and kept warm, and some of it is lost in the cooking water. Food should be bought as fresh as possible to preserve it, used quickly and cooked to maintain the nutrients.

As a water-soluble vitamin, to enjoy its many benefits, one must pay attention to how food is cooked. It means that heat, boiling, acidity and freezing of food alter its properties and lead to a significant loss of folic acid. In boiling itself, which is a widely used method of food preparation, some 90% of folic acid is lost. In conclusion, I strongly advise all of you to eat fresh food, not frozen or boiled food.

Edit by Dr. Ilaria Chionetti Pininfarina

Journalist, Nutrition Consultant and Eating Behaviour

Enjoy even more @ www.naturopatachionetti.com

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