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New research finds Asian vegetables jam packed full of healthy folate 20 Oct 2011

New research from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation has found that several types of Asian vegetables contain folate levels equal to or greater than spinach, making them one of the richest sources of folate you can find.

The National Health and Medical Research Council dietary guidelines recommend a regular intake of folate to meet daily nutritional requirements and the consumption of folate is especially important for pregnant women.

The research team, led by scientists at the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) used new technologies to measure the folate levels of ten Asian vegetables including buk choy, choy sum and wombok and compared them to spinach.

“We know that Asian vegetables are being eaten by a growing number of Australians because they look and taste great, and now we have research confirming another one of their positive health attributes,” said Craig Burns, RIRDC’s Managing Director.

“The importance of folate in the diets of pregnant women is commonly known, with many women increasing their folate intake during pregnancy to reduce the chance of spina bifida in their babies.

“As this report highlights,  folate deficiency has been implicated in a number of disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, breast and colon cancers, depression, dementia, cleft lip/palate and hearing loss.”

The research also points to some of the lesser known Asian vegetables, such as mizuna, tatsoi, kang kong and snake beans as being excellent sources of the important vitamin.

Mr Burns said that in addition to the research having significant health implications, the report will also serve as an important resource for Australia’s growing Asian food industry.

“The domestic Asian food industry has experienced significant growth in the last two decades and is estimated to now contribute approximately $150 million to the Australian economy each year,” Mr Burns said. 

“Reinforcing Asian vegetables as a healthy eating choice, particularly in terms of their high folate levels, provides industry with an important marketing message they can use to continue to grow their market share and consumer awareness.

“Health and allied health professionals should find this research report is very useful in their role to provide general dietary advice.”

The research team was led by Avis Houlihan, a Principal Scientist at DEEDI and included world leading food composition researchers from Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services and Mahidol University in Thailand.

The ‘Folate content of Asian vegetables’ research report is available for free on RIRDC’s website: www.rirdc.gov.au.