Folates in Fruits and Vegetables: Contents, Processing, and Stability
Folates play a key role in human one-carbon metabolism and are provided by food. It is well established that folates are beneficial in the prevention of neural tube defects and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Fruits and vegetables, and especially green vegetables, are the main sources of folates. In parallel, fruits and vegetables, with high contents of folates, are mostly consumed after processing, such as, canning, freezing, or home-cooking, which involve folate losses during their preparation. Hence, it is important to know the percentage of folate losses during processing and, moreover, the mechanisms underlying those losses. The current knowledge on folate losses from fruit and vegetables are presented in this review. They depend on the nature of the respective fruit or vegetable and the respective treatment. For example, steaming involves almost no folate losses in contrast to boiling. Two main mechanisms are involved in folate losses: (i) leaching into the surrounding liquid and (ii) oxidation during heat treatment, the latter of which depending on the nature of the vitamer considered. In this respect, a vitamer stability decreases in the order starting from folic acid followed by 5-HCO-H4folate, 5-CH3-H4folate, and, finally, H4folate. Further studies are required, especially on the diffusion of the vitamers in real foods and on the determination of folate degradation products.