Advocates of wheat consumption claim that multiple nutritional deficiencies will develop with elimination of this thing being sold to us called “wheat” (cause it ain’t wheat, but a genetically-altered product for high-yield).
Folates are a B vitamin necessary for multiple cell processes, including assembly of DNA and RNA. Folates are therefore especially necessary during pregnancy, as the fetus requires this nutrient to assemble and grow its own genetic code.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for folates and folic acid, which are lumped together as Dietary Folate Equivalents, are 400 mcg per day in adults (male and female), 600 mcg per day in pregnant females. (1 DFE = 1 mcg food folate = 0.6 mcg folic acid from supplements and fortified foods.) Folate deficiency can show itself as anemia (megaloblastic variety, or big red blood cells), impairment of neurologic function, and the feared and devastating neural tube defects (e.g., spina bifida) in infants born to mothers who are folate-deficient.
Because folates are so crucial to pregnant women, the FDA has passed regulations that require manufacturers of breads, cereals, flours, corn meals, pastas, rice, and other grain products to enrich them with folates, usually folic acid. So one of the first concerns in going wheat-free (or, at least eliminating this fraud being sold as “wheat”) is folate deficiency. So let’s explore that question.
Two slices of whole wheat bread provide 50 mcg of folates after fortification. So how do other dietary sources of folate stack up? Here’s a partial list:
Almonds, 1/2 cup, unblanched: 24 mcg
Asparagus, 10 medium stalks: 230 mcg
Avocado, 1 cup: 90 mcg
Black beans, 1/2 cup, cooked: 64 mcg
Broccoli, 2 raw spears: 45 mcg
Brussel sprouts, 1 cup, cooked: 93 mcg
Cauliflower, 1/2 cup, raw: 30 mcg
Celery, 1 large stalk, raw: 23 mcg
Eggs, 2 large: 41 mcg
Green beans, 1 cup, raw: 33 mcg
Green onions, 1/2 cup: 51 mcg
Romaine lettuce, 2 cups: 77 mcg
Spinach, 1 cup cooked: 261 mcg
Spinach, 2 cups raw: 116 mcg
Summer squash, 1/2 cup, cooked: 23 mcg
Tomato, 1 medium, 18 mcg
Walnuts, 1/2 cup: 59 mcg
So folate-fortified bread is, by no means, a standout source of folates. Wheat products can serve as a source of folates, however, in an unhealthy diet of soft drinks, vending machine foods, and cheap fast food. But a diet dominated by real, whole foods like the ones in the list above provide adequate folates for the majority, even wheat-free.
Anyone interested in ensuring adequate folate intake, especially pregnant and lactating women, can easily supplement folate intake with an inexpensive folic acid or B-complex supplement. Folic acid costs somewhere around $3 for a 90-day supply of 400-800 mcg tablets.