Folic acid is one of the important micronutrients necessary for our body. It is a water-soluble B complex vitamin and is also called folate, folacin and vitamin B9. Folate is an essential vitamin that occurs naturally in food. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, found in fortified foods and supplements (1).
Functions in which folic acid is involved in the body (2)
- Maturation of blood cells
- Synthesis, repair, methylation of DNA
- Biological reactions in which it is a co-factor
- Cell division and growth
- Spinal fluid in which it is a component etc.
How much folic acid do we require?
Folate intake is expressed as dietary folate equivalents (DFEs) that is adjusted for the greater amount of absorption of folic acid compared to folate naturally found in foods. Folate 1 μg equals 0.6 μg folic acid consumed with food or 0.5 μg folic acid taken in the form of supplements on an empty stomach (3).
The RDA for folate per day is
|Children, 1-3 Years
For women who are in the age group of becoming pregnant, the dietary reference intake (DRI) recommends 400 μg of folic acid/day from fortified foods and supplements on top of a diet which includes a variety of foods to decrease the risk of neural tube defect (NTD) (4,5).
25 Foods that good sources of folate (6)
Fruits rich in folate
- Avocados 100 grams provide 81 ug of folate.
- Guavas are rich source of vitamin C and also provide 49 ug of folate per 100 grams of fruit.
- Mango is a tropical fruit and is a good source of folate, 100 grams gives 43 ug folate.
- Pomegranate 100 grams provides 38 ug of folate.
- Papaya 100 grams contains 37 ug of folate.
Vegetables rich in folate
- Arrowroot 100 grams provides 338 ug of folate.
- Green leafy vegetable spinach (100 grams) gives 194 ug of folate.
- Soybean sprouts (100 grams) are not only rich source of protein but also contain 172 ug folate.
- Parsley is a culinary herb used for flavoring, 100 grams of which provides 152 ug of folate.
- Kale is rich in beta carotene and also provides 141 ug of folate.
Nuts and seeds rich in folate
- Safflower Seeds (100 grams) give 160 ug of folate.
- Hazelnuts (100 grams) has 113 ug of folate.
- Hemp Seeds (100 grams) give 110 ug of folate.
- Walnuts (100 grams) have 98 ug of folate.
- Flax Seeds (100 grams) contain 87 ug of folate.
Animal products which are sources of folate
- Chicken liver 100 grams gives 588 ug of folate.
- Lamb liver (100 grams) contains 230 ug of folate.
- Egg Yolks (raw) 100 grams provide 146 ug of folate.
- Dehydrated milk 100 grams provides 37 ug of folate.
- Cheddar Cheese (100 grams) gives 27 ug of folate.
Beans and lentils that are rich sources of folate
- Edamame are green soybeans and they (100 grams) contain 311 ug of folate.
- Raw Peanuts or groundnuts (100 grams) provide 240 ug of folate.
- Black Beans (100 grams) provide 149 ug of folate.
- Fava Beans (Raw, 100 grams) has 148 ug of folate.
- Navy Beans (100 grams) have 140 ug of folate.
Deficiency of folic acid
Folate deficiency could lead to numerous health problems (2)
- Megaloblastic anemia.
- Impaired proliferation and macrocytosis of epithelial surfaces
- Skin pigmentation
- Complications of pregnancy
Among these health issues which arise because of folic acid deficiency megaloblastic anemia is the most common.
Importance of folic acid during pregnancy
Folic acid is an important nutrient for women who may become pregnant. A woman’s blood levels of folate fall during pregnancy due to an increased maternal RBC synthesis in the first half of pregnancy and fetal demands in the second half.
The first four weeks of pregnancy (when most women do not even realize that they are pregnant) require folic acid for proper development of brain, skull and spinal cord of the fetus. Serious birth defects like neural tube defects (NTD)are less likely to occur when women take 0.4 mg folic acid daily.
- Cheok, L.S. (2016) Folic acid and diseases – supplement it or not?, Rev Assoc Med Bras. Vol. 62(1).
- Wildman, R. (2009) The Nutritionist-Food, Nutrition, and Optimal Health. Vitamins are vital molecules in food 191. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group. Second Edition. New York and London.
- Krawinkel, M.B., Strohm, , Weissenborn, A., Watzl, B., Eichholzer, M., Bärlocher, K., Elmadfa, I., Leschik-Bonnet, E. and Heseker ,H. (2014) Revised D-A-CH intake recommendations for folate: how much is needed?, Eur J Clin Nutr. Vol.68 (6).
- Hodgetts, V.A., Morris, R.K., Francis, A., Gardosi, J. and Ismailb, K.M. (2014) Effectiveness of folic acid supplementation in pregnancy on reducing the risk of small-for-gestational age neonates: a population study, systematic review and meta-analysis.
- Chan, Y.M., Bailey, R. and O’Connor, D. L. (2013) Folate, Advances in Nutrition. Vol. 1(4).
- National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, United States Department of Agriculture.