It’s still one of the biggest trends in eating healthy; gluten-free diets.
Whether you suffer from celiac disease and thus must consume a gluten-free diet, or are just hoping it will help you lose a few pounds, it’s important to know that going gluten-free can have other effects on your body.
Dropping gluten from your diet can also mean missing out on important vitamins and minerals, like folate. Folic acid is added too all products made from enriched grains including many cereals, flours, pastas, and breads, thanks to a 1998 mandate by the Food and Drug Administration.
When grains are refined, the milling process removes many vitamins, including folic acid. Enriched grains have many of the nutrients lost in the milling process, added back in. In the case of folic acid, more is added into the grains than was there originally, meaning the products are actually fortified. Enriched grains have more folate in them than whole grains.
However, many gluten-free products are made of neither whole grains or enriched grains. Instead, these gluten-free products contain starches like potato starch or rice starch, in-place of the grains. These starches don’t contain the natural folate or the added folic acid found in grains.
Luckily, if you are on a gluten-free diet, either out of choice or necessity, there are other ways to get the recommended 400 mcgs of folic acid per day. Adding things like raw spinach, asparagus, whole grain quinoa, beans, and black-eyed peas can help increase your folate intake.
You can also find folic acid at any local drug or grocery store. It doesn’t require a prescription, and doesn’t cost a lot.
Folic acid and folate are vital for any woman planning on getting pregnant because it significantly reduces the risk of serious birth defects, including spina bifida and anencephaly. Folic acid has also been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer.
Before starting a gluten-free diet, talk to you doctor to ensure your diet includes enough folic acid and other important nutrients.