Folate and Your Health

HealthLinkBC File Number: 
68g
Last Updated: 
March 2020

What is folate?

Folate is a B vitamin found naturally in many foods.

What is folic acid?

Folic acid is a form of folate. It’s used in vitamin supplements and fortified foods. Fortified foods, also called enriched foods, are foods that have specific nutrients added to them.

What is a Dietary Folate Equivalent (DFE)?

A DFE is a unit to measure folate. Folate and folic acid are absorbed differently. The DFE accounts for these differences. It tells you how much folate you get from the foods you eat.

Why is folate important for my health?

Folate helps make red and white blood cells. If you do not get enough folate, you could get anemia (an-ee-me-yah). People who have anemia feel tired or weak and may have a racing heartbeat and trouble catching their breath.

Folate is also needed for growth, especially in unborn babies. Folate helps prevent neural tube defects (NTDs). NTDs are a group of serious birth defects that affect a baby’s spinal cord, brain and skull. For more information, see HealthLinkBC File #38c Pregnancy and Nutrition: Folate and Neural Tube Defects.

Which foods are good sources of folate?

Good sources of folate include:

  • dried peas, beans, and lentils
  • dark green vegetables
  • enriched grain products

How much folate do I need each day?

Age (years) Micrograms (mcg) dietary folate equivalents (DFE)
0 to 6 months 65
7 to12 months 80
1 to 3 150
4 to 8 200
9 to 13 300
14 and older 400
Pregnancy 600
Breastfeeding 500

Adults need 400 micrograms (mcg) or 0.4 milligrams (mg) of folate each day. You can usually get enough by eating a variety of healthy foods.

Do some people need a supplement?

Yes. If you could become pregnant, are pregnant or are breastfeeding, take a multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid every day and eat foods that are high in folate. This helps prevent neural tube defects that form in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.

Do not take more than 1000 mcg (1 mg) of folic acid from fortified foods and supplements each day unless your health care provider has told you to. Too much folic acid can cause health problems.

For more nutrition information, call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered dietitian.

Food Sources of Folate

Food Serving Size Amount of Folate
(mcg DFE)
Beans, Peas, Lentils, Nuts, Seeds
Black beans, dried, cooked* 175 mL (3/4 cup) 190
Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), dried, cooked* 175 mL (3/4 cup) 209
Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), canned, drained* 175 mL (3/4 cup) 59
Hazelnuts or cashews 60 mL (1/4 cup) 25
Kidney beans, dried, cooked* 175 mL (3/4 cup) 170
Kidney beans, canned, drained* 175 mL (3/4 cup) 33
Lentils, dried, cooked 175 mL (3/4 cup) 265
Peanut butter, natural 30 mL (2 Tbsp) 46
Peanuts, roasted 60 mL (1/4 cup) 36
Pinto beans, dried, cooked* 175 mL (3/4 cup) 218
Pinto beans, canned, drained* 175 mL (3/4 cup) 30
Soybeans, green (edamame), cooked and shelled 125 mL (1/2 cup) 106
Split peas, dried, cooked* 175 mL (3/4 cup) 94
Sunflower seeds, dried, shelled 60 mL (1/4 cup) 81
White beans, dried, cooked* 175 mL (3/4 cup) 181
Vegetables and Fruits
Asparagus, cooked 6 spears 134
Avocado 1/2 fruit 81
Beets, cooked 125 mL (1/2 cup) 72
Bok Choy, cooked 125 mL (1/2 cup) 37
Broccoli, cooked 125 mL (1/2 cup) 89
Broccoli, raw or cauliflower, raw or cooked 125 mL (1/2 cup) 30
Brussels sprouts, cooked 4 sprouts 50
Gai-lan (Chinese broccoli) or parsnips, cooked 125 mL (1/2 cup) 47
Green peas, frozen, cooked 125 mL (1/2 cup) 50
Kale, raw 250 mL (1 cup) 100
Orange 1 medium 39
Papaya 1/2 fruit 56
Romaine lettuce, raw 250 mL (1 cup) 80
Spinach, cooked 125 mL (1/2 cup) 139
Spinach, raw 250 mL (1 cup) 61
Enriched Grain Products***
Cold breakfast cereals 30 g 33-59
Pasta, enriched, cooked 125 mL (1/2 cup) 100
White bread 35 g (1 slice) 64
Other
Eggs, cooked 2 large 54
Liver, beef, cooked** 75 g (2 1/2 oz) 195
Liver, chicken, cooked** 75 g (2 1/2 oz) 420
Liver, pork, cooked** 75 g (2 1/2 oz) 122
Wheat germ, toasted 30 mL (2 Tbsp) 50

g = gram, mcg = micrograms, mL = millilitre, oz = ounce, Tbsp = tablespoon

*Canned beans usually have less folate than dried beans due to processing effects such as leaching.

**Liver and liver products (e.g. liverwurst spread and liver sausages) are very high in vitamin A. Too much vitamin A may cause birth defects, especially during the first trimester. The safest choice is to limit these foods during pregnancy. If you choose to eat liver or liver products, have no more than 75g (2 ½ ounces) per week.

***The amount of folic acid in enriched foods varies. Check the nutrition label for more information. By 2022, labels of enriched foods will list the amount of folate in micrograms (mcg) DFE. Until then, some labels will only list folate as a percent daily value (%DV). In this case, the standard used is 220mcg. For example, if a serving of cereal has 17% DV, it has 37mcg of folic acid (0.17 x 220mcg = 37mcg).

Note: The values in the above table come from the Canadian Nutrient File (CNF). If more than one entry for that food item was available in the CNF, an average of the entries was taken.

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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