Good Food Sources of Folate
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Good Food Sources of Folate

Here's Why:

Diet supplement article Folate, also known as folic acid, is a B vitamin that is essential for good health. Specifically, it can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering the level of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood. The level of homocysteine in blood increases due to age, vitamin deficiencies, and some genetic abnormalities. At high levels, homocysteine can damage coronary arteries or make it easier for blood clotting cells to clump together and form a clot. This can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.

Taking supplemental folic acid and other B vitamins may help reduce the risk of heart attack and/or ischemic stroke by lowering homocysteine level. Although the relationship between elevated levels of homocysteine and risk for cardiovascular events have been noted in many studies, some vitamin trials failed to confirm that treatment with folic acid reduces the risk. Also, the exact and most optimal dose of folic acid supplementation is not known. For example, a recent trial (called VISP—Vitamins in Stroke Prevention) looked at the role of vitamins in prevention of stroke. More than 3600 patients participated in a trial that lasted for almost two years. Patients with a recent history of ischemic stroke and elevated levels of homocysteine were divided into two groups. One group received a low dose of folic acid, and the other group a high dose. The trial failed to show a difference in risk reduction between the groups.

Another extremely important role of folic acid is 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 of folic acid daily.

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 stay large and immature.

Recommended Intake

Age group (in years)Recommended Dietary Allowance
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:

Major Food Sources

FoodServing sizeFolate content (mcg)
Chicken liver, simmered3.5 oz770
Fortified breakfast cereal3/4 cup100-400 (check Nutrition Facts label)
Soy flour1 cup260
Beef liver, braised3.5 oz217
Chickpeas, canned1 cup160
Pinto beans, canned1 cup144
Spinach, boiled1/2 cup131
Lima beans, canned1 cup121
Papaya1 medium116
Wheat germ, toasted1/4 cup102
Asparagus, boiled4 spears85
Orange juice, fresh8 fl oz75
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 oz41
Wheat flour1 cup40
Broccoli, boiled1/2 cup39
Tomatoes, sun-dried1 cup37
Tomato juice, canned6 oz35
Peanut butter, crunchy2 T29
Cashews, dry roasted1 oz20
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.


American Dietetic Association

Food and Nutrition
US Department of Agriculture


Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition

Dietitians of Canada


The Nutrition Desk Reference . Keats Publishing; 1995.

Folic acid information. WIC Learning Center website. Available at: . Accessed on: November 12, 2006.

Folic acid: Frequently asked questions. Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: . Accessed on: November 12, 2006.

Herrmann W. Significance of hyperhomocysteinemia. Clin Lab . 2006;52(review):367-374.

Hankey GJ. Is plasma homocysteine a modifiable risk factor for stroke? Nat Clin Pract Neurol. Jan 2006;2(review):26-33.

Toole J, Malinow R, Chambless L, et al. Lowering homocysteine in patients with ischemic stroke to prevent recurrent stroke, myocardial infarction, and death: the Vitamin Intervention for Stroke Prevention (VISP) randomized controlled trial. JAMA . Feb 4, 2004;291:565-75.

Last reviewed June 2008 by Dianne Scheinberg MS, RD, LDN

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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