HealthLinkBC File #68g, January 2011
Folate and Your Health
- What is folate?
- Why is folate important for my health?
- How much folate do I need each day?
- Do some people need more folate?
- Which foods are good sources of folate?
- Food Sources of Folate
What is folate?
Folate is one of the B vitamins found naturally in foods. Folic acid is the form of folate used in vitamin supplements and fortified foods.
Why is folate important for my health?
Folate helps make normal red and white blood cells. If you do not get enough folate, you may develop anemia. As a result, you may feel tired or weak, or you may not be able to concentrate.
In addition, folate is needed when the body makes new genetic material (DNA), such as during pregnancy. If you are a woman planning a pregnancy, folate is important because it helps prevent some birth defects. For more information, see HealthLink BC File #38c Nutrition and Pregnancy: Neural Tube Defects and Folic Acid .
How much folate do I need each day?
Adults need 400 micrograms (mcg) of dietary folate equivalents (DFEs)* each day. It is important to eat foods that contain folate every day. Taking a daily multivitamin can help you get the folate you need (in the form of folic acid).
*Folate in foods is not absorbed as well as folic acid from supplements or fortified food. Dietary folate equivalents (DFEs) adjust for these differences. This means that 1 mcg of DFE = 1 mcg of food folate or 0.6 mcg of folic acid from fortified food or as a supplement taken with meals.
Do some people need more folate?
Women between 14 and 50 years, whether planning a pregnancy or not, need a multivitamin with 400 mcg (0.4 mg) of folic acid each day. In addition, they need to eat foods high in folate.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women need more folate. The recommended amount of folate is 600 mcg for pregnant women and 500 mcg for breastfeeding women.
To get enough folate, take a daily supplement with 400 mcg of folic acid. Make sure your supplement also contains vitamin B12. Do not take more than 1000 micrograms (1 milligram) each day unless advised by your doctor.
Which foods are good sources of folate?
Good sources of folate include dried peas, beans, and lentils, dark green leafy vegetables, other vegetables and fruits, enriched grain products, and nuts.
Food Sources of Folate
|Food||Portion||Folate (mcg DFE)|
|Asparagus, cooked||6 spears||134|
|Beets, cooked||125 mL or 1/2 cup||72|
|Black beans, navy beans or dark red kidney beans, cooked*||175 mL or 3/4 cup||183|
|Bok choy or corn, fresh, frozen, canned, cooked||125 mL or 1/2 cup||35|
|Broccoli, cooked||125 mL or 1/2 cup||89|
|Broccoli, raw or cauliflower, raw or cooked||125 mL or 1/2 cup||30|
|Brussels sprouts, cooked||4 sprouts||50|
|Cold breakfast cereals**||30 g||36|
|Cranberry beans, lentils, or black eyed peas, cooked*||175 mL or 3/4 cup||
|Eggs||2 large eggs||43|
|Gai-lan (Chinese broccoli) or parsnips, cooked||125 mL or 1/2 cup||47|
|Green peas, frozen, cooked||125 mL or 1/2 cup||
|Hazelnuts or cashews||60 mL or 1/4 cup||25|
|Liver, beef, cooked**||75 g or 2 1/2 oz||
|Liver, chicken, cooked**||75 g or 2 1/2 oz||420|
|Liver pate||75 g or 2 1/2 oz||45|
|Liver, pork, cooked||75 g or 2 1/2 oz||122|
|Orange juice, fresh||125 mL or 1/2 cup||39|
|Orange juice, from frozen concentrate||125 mL or 1/2 cup||58|
|Pasta, enriched***||125 mL or 1/2 cup||90|
|Peanut butter, all types||30 g or 2 Tbsp||28|
|Peanuts, roasted||60 mL or 1/4 cup||54|
|Romaine lettuce, raw||250 mL or 1 cup||80|
|Pinto beans or garbanzo beans (chick peas), cooked*||175 mL or 3/4 cup||214|
|Soybeans, cooked*||175 mL or 3/4 cup||69|
|Soybeans, green/edamame, cooked and shelled||125 mL or 1/2 cup||106|
|Spinach, cooked||125 mL or 1/2 cup||139|
|Spinach, raw||250 mL or 1 cup||61|
|Split peas or home-prepared baked beans, cooked*||175 mL or 3/4 cup||92|
|Sunflower seed kernels, dried||60 mL or 1/4cup||83|
|Tomato juice or vegetable juice cocktail, canned||125 mL or 1/2 cup||27|
|Wheat germ, toasted||30 g or 2 Tbsp||106|
|White beans, canned*||175 mL or 3/4 cup||126|
|White bread**||35 g or 1 slice||60|
|* Canned beans in general are lower in folate than cooked beans.
* * Although liver is high in folate, pregnant women should not eat it, because it has a large amount of vitamin A. This could be harmful to the baby.
* * * The amount of folic acid in enriched foods varies. Check the label for accurate information. If the amount is given as a percentage of the daily value (DV),the standard used is 220 mcg. For example, if a serving of cereal has 17% of the daily value, it has 37 mcg of folic acid (0.17 x 220 mcg).
For nutrition information, call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered dietitian.
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