Vitamin B9, or folate, is a water-soluble vitamin which is sometimes called vitamin M or folic acid. It can be synthesised by plants, microorganisms and human beings, but our bodies generate so little that we have to get most of our required amount from our diet.
Vitamin B9 plays a role in several of the body’s chemical reactions; for example, it keeps the nervous system running smoothly by synthesising neurotransmitters like serotonin and acetylcholine. It also helps the immune system maintain normal function and assists in red blood cell production (together with vitamin B12 and iron).
It’s also vital to cell replication, making it especially important in childhood and adolescence and during pregnancy.
Together with vitamins B6 and B12, it helps prevent homocysteine (a sulphur-containing amino acid that’s toxic in large quantities) from forming in the blood.
Vitamin B9 is largely found in leafy plants, so its main sources are green vegetables, in addition to legumes, soybeans, offal, liver, oilseeds, kiwi, etc.
DID YOU KNOW?
The name “folate” comes from the Latin folium, meaning “leaves”, as vitamin B9 is mainly found in leafy plants.
This vitamin is almost always prescribed during and before pregnancy in order to prevent neural tube defects in the foetus.