Here's Why Folate Is Good for You

Diet supplement articleFolate, also known as folic acid, is a B vitamin that is essential for good health. Folic acid plays an extremely important role in preventing birth defects. Low blood levels of folate during pregnancy can cause neural tube defects—anencephaly and spina bifida. Because these defects occur in the first month of pregnancy, before a woman knows she is pregnant, it is important for any woman of childbearing age to get 400 mcg (micrograms) of folic acid daily. Taking folate and iron may offer additional benefits, like reducing the number of infants born with low birth weight and reducing infant mortality.

Also, deficiency of folic acid can result in megaloblastic anemia. This is due to the role that folic acid plays in the DNA synthesis and red blood cell division. Without folic acid new red blood cells can’t divide and thus stay large and immature.

Recommended Intake

Age group (in years)Recommended Dietary Allowance
FemalesMales
1 - 3150 mcg150 mcg
4 - 8200 mcg200 mcg
9 - 13300 mcg300 mcg
14 - 18400 mcg400 mcg
Pregnancy, ages 14-18600 mcgn/a
Lactation, ages 14-18500 mcgn/a
19 - 50400 mcg400 mcg
Pregnancy, ages 19-50600 mcgn/a
Lactation, ages 19-50500 mcgn/a
51 - 69400 mcg400 mcg
70 +400 mcg400 mcg

Here's How You Can Get Folate

Major Food Sources

FoodServing sizeFolate content (mcg)
Chicken liver, simmered3.5 ounces770
Fortified breakfast cereal3/4 cup100-400 (check Nutrition Facts label)
Soy flour1 cup260
Beef liver, braised3.5 ounces217
Chickpeas, canned1 cup160
Pinto beans, canned1 cup144
Spinach, boiled1/2 cup131
Lima beans, canned1 cup121
Papaya1 medium116
Avocado1 medium113
Wheat germ, toasted1/4 cup102
Asparagus, boiled4 spears85
Orange juice, fresh8 fl ounces75
Spinach, raw1/2 cup54
Whole wheat flour1 cup53
Green peas, boiled1/2 cup50
White rice, long-grain1/2 cup45
Orange, navel1 medium44
Peanuts, dry roasted1 ounce41
Wheat flour1 cup40
Broccoli, boiled1/2 cup39
Tomatoes, sun-dried1 cup37
Tomato juice, canned6 ounces35
Peanut butter, crunchy2 tablespoons29
Cashews, dry roasted1 ounce20
Banana1 medium20
Bread, whole wheat1 slice15

Tips For Increasing Your Folate Intake

To help increase your intake of folate:

  • Spread a little avocado on your sandwich in place of mayonnaise.
  • Drink a glass of orange juice or tomato juice in the morning.
  • Add spinach to your scrambled eggs.
  • Slice a banana on top of your breakfast cereal.
  • Sprinkle some toasted wheat germ on top of pasta or a stir-fry.
  • Throw some chickpeas or kidney beans into a salad.
  • If you take a vitamin supplement, make sure it contains folate.