We are almost done with B vitamins, I promise. B9 or Folic Acid is particularly important because of its role in red blood cell production and cell growth & reproduction. This function makes it very important during pregnancy (a major time of cell multiplication) for the healthy development of the baby. So if you’re expecting, make sure you are getting enough folic acid.
Also, research has shown that folic acid can help prevent heart attacks & stroke as it “significantly reduces blood homocysteine levels.” Without folic acid (along with vitamins B6 and B12), homocysteine (an amino acid that our body produces) will not convert into other amino acids, and will build up in our blood vessels. This can cause damage to the vessels and “promote the build-up of cholesterol, leading to blocked arteries.” (Leslie Beck, R.D.)
The best source of folic acid is foliage (makes sense) such as spinach, kale, chard, asparagus and broccoli. Beans & starchy veggies are also a good source such as potatoes, yams and parsnips. Whole grains, wheat germ & milk are also good sources. Many types of fruit such as oranges, cantaloupe, pineapple, bananas and berries are also sources of B9.
If you eat a diet rich in fresh, unprocessed foods you are most likely getting your daily requirement of folic acid. I would recommend taking a supplement during times of increased estrogen levels. If you are taking birth control and during pregnancy & lactation it’s important that you get enough (make sure to double-check with your doctor). Most multi-vitamins have about 400mcg, which is good insurance.
As potatoes are high in folic acid, I thought I would include a yummy potato recipe that I made recently. First let me say, there is a common misconception with potatoes that they are a “bad” food, but they are actually really good for you. Yes, they are considered a carb, but they are high in fiber and vitamins, so I would consider them a healthy choice.
I adapted this recipe from Eating Rules, and it has all the flavors of lasagna, but without the pasta & meat! Trust me, it’s good.
Yummy Veggie Casserole
-2 cups plain Marinara or Pasta Sauce (I used a garlic mushroom tomato sauce)
-½ a package of organic soft tofu (I buy the one that comes with 2 separate packages so I can use another one for later)
-Light Canola Oil cooking spray for greasing the pan
-1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
-4 cloves Garlic, finely sliced
-2 tsp. Red Chili Flakes
-3 or 4 cups of baby spinach (I used the leftovers from my weekly spinach container)
-1 large Russet Potato (or sweet potato), scrubbed and cut into ½ inch slices
-1 Portabella Mushroom, cut into ¼ inch slices (you can use any type of mushroom here)
-1/4 cup Basil and/or Oregano (I didn’t have fresh Basil, so I used the frozen cubes)
-Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
-¼ – ½ cup Cauliflower, cut into small pieces (you can also use broccoli or whatever veg you like!)
-1 cup fresh light Ricotta cheese
-1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (optional)
-2 Tbsp. Olive Oil, for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a rectangle metal baking pan or a regular casserole dish.
Chop all your veggies, and pour all your pasta sauce into a bowl and whisk in the tofu – set aside.
Warm 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium pan. Add garlic and hot pepper flakes, and sauté for a few minutes (make sure not to burn the garlic or it will taste bitter). Turn up the heat to medium-high and add spinach & basil. Sauté the spinach for a few minutes until wilted.
Meanwhile, spoon ½ cup of the pasta sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange the potato slices on top of the sauce. Next, arrange the mushrooms over the potatoes. Spoon more sauce and (if you have fresh) sprinkle 1 tablespoon of herbs over the portabella.
Spread out the sautéed spinach and cauliflower over the sauce and herbs. Next, spread the ricotta with the remaining sauce over the layers of vegetables. Sprinkle with Parmesan, black pepper and remaining herbs. Drizzle two tablespoons of olive oil.
Bake for 40 minutes, cut into 4 or 6 slices (depends on your pan) and enjoy!
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Image Credit: Eating Rules