9 Folic Acid Rich Foods You Should Add to Your Diet
At this point, I think it’s safe to say that eating whole, real foods is our best bet in order to get all of those daily vitamins and minerals we need. Fruits, vegetables, protein, healthy fats, whole grains — eating a variety of these foods will help you reach those daily and weekly nutrition goals. Folate is one of them; a natural form of vitamin B9 that synthesizes into folic acid in the body. Yet unfortunately, not everyone is getting those folic acid rich foods into their diet, which is especially worrisome for those who are pregnant.
“During fetal development, folic acid plays a role in the development of the baby’s neural tube, which forms the early brain and spine,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD. “Research shows that adequate intake of folic acid before and during pregnancy may reduce the risk of developing neural tube defects, such as spina bifida or anencephaly.”
However, while folic acid is particularly important for pregnant women, it’s still vital for everyone to get enough of this nutrient for a variety of health reasons.
“Folic acid is important for a variety of functions outside of pregnancy, including the production of red blood cells and the synthesis and repair of DNA,” says Goodson. “Without enough folic acid, you may be at risk for developing a deficiency that can contribute to anemia and make you feel fatigued.”
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How much folic acid do you need in a day?
The Daily Value (DV) for folate is 400 micrograms for men and women ages 19 years and older. For pregnant women, that requirement will jump to 600 micrograms. For lactating women, the DV is 500.
While there are some foods that are naturally rich in folic acid, because this particular nutrient is vital for women that are pregnant, many foods on grocery shelves have also been fortified to help people reach their dietary requirements.
“Folic acid is a specific type of folate that is used in the fortification of many different foods, such as ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, pasta, rice, and bread,” says Goodson. “Most all grains in the US are fortified with niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, iron, and folic acid. Some dairy milk may also be fortified with folic acid.”
Here are the specific folic acid rich foods — whether they be naturally occurring or fortified products — to stock up on in order to reach your folate needs for the day.
Folic acid rich foods to add to your diet
1. Minneola tangelos
One tangelo: 80% DV
While many different types of citrus fruits are known for having a high amount of vitamin C, they are also one of the best sources of folate. In particular, minneola tangelos actually contain 80% of your daily value in one fruit! Plus, they contain 60% of your daily vitamin C, making them a great go-to fruit to have with your morning breakfast.
2. Dark leafy greens
One cup raw: 15% DV
While the amount of folate in your dark leafy greens will vary based on type, a majority of them contain a decent amount of folic acid with each bite. Cooking your leafy greens can also benefit your intake of folate (likely because these greens cook down, which means you’re getting more in a serving). One cup of cooked kale contains 21% of your DV, while one cup of spinach contains 66%.
One cup cooked: 42% DV
Similar to dark leafy greens, broccoli will also contain more folate when cooked—around 84 micrograms per a half-cup cooked serving. However, if you enjoy dipping raw broccoli into hummus or ranch as a snack, or sprinkling it into a salad, you’ll still get around 14% of your DV per cup.
One serving: 13% DV
Did you know that a serving of an avocado is technically a third of the fruit? (Yes, avocado is technically a fruit). However, we all know that only eating a third of an avocado at a time doesn’t exactly make sense—especially when opening it means cutting it simply in half. So while half of an avocado is bigger than the serving size, it will provide around 21% of your DV. Plus, it’s a great source of healthy fat and tastes pretty amazing smashed on a piece of whole-grain toast.
One large egg: 6% DV
Along with being an excellent source of vitamin D and protein, eggs actually contain some folate that can help you reach your goals; a single large egg can contain around 24 micrograms of folate. So if you were to scramble up two eggs in the morning and enjoy a minneola tangelo on the side, that’s 92% of your folate intake from breakfast alone!
6. Beans & legumes
One cup of lentils: 90% DV
No matter the type of bean or legume you enjoy having with your meals, we promise you, it’s a great source of folate in your diet. One cup of pinto beans contains 74% of your daily value, one cup of kidney beans contains 33% DV, and one cup of black beans contains 64%. Chickpeas contain 40% DV, and lentils — well, they certainly win the crown for best folic acid rich food.
7. Beef liver
3 oz. serving: 54% DV
Beef liver may not be your usual go-to protein, but given how this protein can be a nutritional powerhouse — especially in terms of its folate content — you may want to consider cooking it up every now and again. Along with being one of the best folic acid rich foods, beef liver is also high in vitamins A, D, E, K, B12, copper, and iron.
8. Enriched grains
One slice of enriched bread: ~9% DV
While there are quite a few foods that can easily provide you with the daily folic acid intake you need, unfortunately, not everyone is able to access or afford these foods on a regular basis—especially when a loaf of bread is easy to get your hands on, even in food deserts. That’s why many grain products are actually enriched with all kinds of nutrients, to give people (particularly pregnant women) the nutrition they need. While different grain products will vary based on the folate daily value they provide, bread is one of the most comments.
It’s important to note that the nutrients added to enriched grains are considered supplements are given that folate is not naturally occurring in these products compared to other folic acid rich foods. Hence why nutritionists recommend getting a mix—like smashing avocado onto your toast or adding leafy greens to your sandwiches.
9. Fortified milk
One cup low-fat milk: 3% DV
While milk isn’t one of the highest folic acid rich foods, previous studies have actually shown that folic acid-fortified milk can increase blood folate concentrations in women of childbearing age. A 2016 randomized-controlled trial published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition even concluded after a 12-week trial that fortified milk powder containing 100% DV of your folate increased blood folate concentrations and even reduced the risk of neural tube defect-affected pregnancies. Low-fat (2%) milk that has been fortified will also contain an increased amount of vitamins A and D.
Read next: 9 Choline-Rich Foods To Protect Your Brain, Says Science
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