Folic Acid in FoodsFoods high in folic acid
While it is common knowledge that pregnant women should take folic acid supplements, you may not realise that everyone needs a regular supply of this vitamin. On this page we will highlight the benefits that can be gained from consuming this essential vitamin on a regular basis. We also have a list of folic acid foods.
What is folic acid?
Folic acid is a water soluble B vitamin, sometimes called folate or vitamin B9. Folate occurs naturally in foods, whereas folic acid is the synthetic, or processed, form of this vitamin, but they both provide the same benefits. This vitamin is needed for proper development of the human body, as well as for DNA production. We talk more about the other functions of folic acid further down the page.
Just like with all of the other essential vitamins and minerals, your body can suffer if it is not able to absorb a sufficient amount. The folic acid foods list that we have on this page, along with supplements, will help you to see if you need to add new foods to your diet in order to be sure you are getting enough of this important vitamin. The amounts of folic acid needed per day can be seen in the chart to the right; as you might expect, the highest levels are needed by pregnant women, which is why women planning to start a family are advised to take supplements before they actually become pregnant.
RDI Folic Acid
- 400µg Adults
- 600µg Pregnant women
- 500µg Breastfeeding women
- 400µg Children 14-18 years
- 300µg Children 9-13 years
- 200µg Children 4-8 years
- 150µg Toddler 1-3 years
- 80µg Infants 7-12 months
- 65µg Infants 0-6 months
Folic Acid BenefitsWhy do we need folic acid?
In this next section we will cover folic acid benefits. As you will see, this vitamin is more important to some people than others although we do all need it.
- Folic acid reduces the risk of brain and spinal birth defects – ancephaly and spina bifida – by between 50% and 70%.
- It is used to treat deficiencies which can cause some types of anaemia, often alongside vitamin B12.
- This vitamin is necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells, as well as DNA and RNA synthesis.
- It may also lower the risk of pre-eclampsia and early labour.
- Folate is necessary for fertility in both men and women.
- Some people apply folic acid directly to the gum for treating gum infections.
- It can protect against birth defects that may form before a woman knows she is pregnant.
- Essential for the formation of both red and white blood cells in the bone marrow.
List of Foods Rich in Folic AcidWhat foods have folic acid?
Now we come to the main section of the page, our folic acid foods list. As this vitamin cannot be stored in the body, it is important that you consume a regular selection of foods with folic acid in order to maintain the benefits listed above. As you will see, many of these foods are likely to be things that are already a part of your diet to some degree.
If this is the case then you can congratulate yourself, because it means that you are more likely to already be getting a sufficient amount of folic acid. The best way to check how much you are getting each day is to read the nutritional information on the labels of the foods that you eat, because this will tell you how many micrograms (µg) of this vitamin they contain.
If you are one of the many people that starts off their day without eating breakfast, then you should consider changing your routine. There are many reasons why eating breakfast everyday is good for you, such as helping to boost your metabolism, but
another reason is that many breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals. Almost all of the cereals you will find on shop shelves contain folic acid, a few examples (amounts per 100 g/3.5 oz) are given here:
- All-Bran cereals – eg wheat flakes – 1379 µg (397 µg per serving)
- Muesli, eg- 729 µg (400 µg per serving)
- Rice crispies, eg frosted – 400 µg (120 µg per serving)
- Quaker Oat cereals, eg toasted oatmeal cereal –
- General Mills cereals, eg Cheerios – 714 µg (200 µg per serving)
- Kellogg’s Corn flakes – 357 µg (100 µg per serving)
Bread is a part of almost everybody’s diet and you may be pleased to know that most varieties are rich in folic acid. But as well as being one of our folic acid foods, many breads are fortified and are good sources of other vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins B6 and E; magnesium and zinc.
A slice of granary bread contains approximately 35 micrograms (µg) of folic acid or 140 µg per 100 g. Other types of bread contain varying amounts of this vitamin, for example:
Rye bread – 110 µg, 1 slice 35.2 µg
Pumpernickel bread – 93 µg; 24.2 µg per slice
Wheat bread – 85 µg; 21.3 µg per slice
White bread – 111 µg; 27.8 µg per slice
White rice is another popular food containing folic acid. Whether you are cooking at home or eating out, there are always a wide range of rice dishes that are easy to make or available to you. 100 g (3.5 oz) of cooked white rice provides 58 µg of this vitamin, as well as being a good source of dietary fibre, protein and manganese.
Other foods containing folic acid (all amounts per 100g/3.5 oz):
- Artichokes, cooked – 89 µg
- Asparagus, cooked – 149 µg
- Avocados – 81 µg
- Baker’s yeast – 2340 µg
- Basil, dried – 310 µg
- Beets – 109 µg
- Black eyed peas – 208 µg
- Broccoli, cooked – 108 µg
- Cabbage – 43 µg
- Cantaloupe melon – 21 µg
- Chestnuts – 110 µg
- Chicken liver – 578 µg
- Edamame (soya ) beans – 205 µg
- Flaxseeds – 87 µg
- Green peas, cooked – 63µg
- Hazelnuts – 88 µg
- Kidney beans – 128 µg
- Lentils, cooked – 181 µg
- Lettuce, cos or romaine – 136 µg
- Mango – 43 µg
- Oats – 56 µg
- Oranges – 39 µg
- Orange juice – 30 µg
- Parsley, fresh – 152 µg
- Pasta, cooked – 43 µg
- Peanut butter
- Peanuts – 145 µg
- Spinach, raw 194 µg
- Sunflower seeds – 238 µg
- Walnuts – 98 µg
- Wheatgerm – 281 µg
- Yeast extract – 3786 µg
As you can see there are plenty of foods that contain folic acid for you to choose from if you think that you may be lacking in this vitamin. However, in some cases as we explain below, it will still be beneficial for you to use a vitamin supplement as well.
The human body does not use folate (the natural form of folic acid) as effectively as the human made version. This means that people who need high levels of folic acid, most notably woman before and during pregnancy, should not only eat foods high in folic acid but they should also take a vitamin supplement as well to be on the safe side.
As we have already mentioned on this page, eating folic acid foods isn’t the only way of getting enough of this important vitamin. You can also buy folic acid supplements in pill form from almost any supermarket or pharmacy, or purchase them online. However, it is worth noting that taking more than 1000 µg of folic acid supplements per day can disguise a vitamin B12 deficiency. It does this by masking the symptoms of the deficiency, including anaemia, but does not treat the underlying condition. This is particularly a concern for older people, as it becomes harder to absorb B12 as you get older.