Folic acid is a man-made form of B complex vitamin folate. Folate and folic acid are often presumed to be one, but their metabolic functions and effects are different. Folate is a natural form of vitamin B9 and in found in a variety of plant and animal food sources. Folic acid, on the other hand, is the other synthetic form of this vitamin. It is usually found in supplements and fortified foods. Our body can efficiently regulate the healthy levels of folate by releasing the excess though the urine. Before we get to know the folic acid rich foods, we will understand its importance.
Functions of Folic Acid:
Folic acid enables the body to perform essential functions like:
- Nucleotide biosynthesis in cells
- DNA synthesis
- Red blood cell formation
Folic acid is extremely important for pregnant women. Continued consumption of folic acid throughout the pregnancy will ensure the good health of both the mother and baby. Studies have shown that if women consumed the daily-recommended allowance of folic acid before and during their pregnancy, then nearly 70% of the neural tube defects could be prevented. The most common neural defect is the spina bifida. It occurs when a part of the baby’s spinal cord remains outside the body. This results in paralyzed legs in the baby followed by bladder and bowel control problems. The most serious type of NTD is anencephaly in which the baby is born without a part of its skull and brain. This ultimately results in the death of the baby. Folic acid plays a major role in the cellular growth and regeneration of the fetus. Furthermore, proper levels of folic acid in the body can prevent anemia, cancer, Alzheimer’s and birth defects.
A woman should start taking folic acid supplements around 6 months before she is planning to conceive. You have to continue taking folic acid supplements throughout the pregnancy and until six months of breastfeeding. Women who had a child with NTD would require much higher doses of folic acid.
Recommended Daily Allowance:
The recommended dietary allowance of folate varies according to the age. The recommendation includes:
- Infants younger than 6 months need 65 micrograms
- Infants 6 to 12 months need 80 micrograms
- Toddlers 1 to 3 years old need 150 micrograms
- Children 4 to 8 years old need 200 micrograms
- Older teens 14 to 18 years old need 400 micrograms
- Pregnant women 19 years and older need 600 micrograms
- Breastfeeding women 19 years and older need 500 micrograms
20 Best Sources of Folic Acid:
Foods that contain the natural form of folate are called folate food. Our body cannot absorb folate food as easily as folic acid supplements and fortified foods. However, the natural folate sources can definitely help to increase the folic acid levels in the body. Some of the best sources of folic acid include:
1. Ready to Eat Cereals:
Cereals are a great way to get folic acid in your diet. Most of the ready to eat cereal are fortified with 100 to 400 micrograms of folic acid per serving. Make sure you check the nutrition label before purchasing cereals. The cereals should contain 3 grams of fiber and less than 10 grams of sugar. Other grain products that come fortified with folic acid include breads, rice pasta, instant oatmeal and rice.
Broccoli is one of the best detoxifying foods you can eat. A half-cup serving of broccoli provides you with 52 micrograms of folic acid, amounting to 13% of what an average adult needs per day. You can eat broccoli both raw and cooked. This cruciferous vegetable will make a great addition to salads or pasta. Alternatively, you can combine it with meat to make a sumptuous side dish. Broccoli is low in calories too. It contains just 26 calories per ½ cup serving.
Beans are versatile, healthy and extremely affordable. Beans of all kinds provide women with plenty of folic acid to support the baby’s development. Black beans, split pea, kidney, navy, soy and cooked lentils are all good sources of folic acid. A small serving of any kind of beans will provide you with the daily recommended amount of folic acid. Kidney beans add 46 micrograms of folic acid with just a ½ cup serving, while pinto beans help you meet 75% of your daily value. A ½ cup serving of dried soybeans provides 174 micrograms of folic acid and 388 calories. A half cup serving of black eyed peas will give you 104 micrograms of folic acid, enough to help you meet 26% of the daily value. Cook beans and lentils with meat, shallots, spinach and simple spices for a delicious and healthy meal.
4. Nuts and Seeds:
Seeds like pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and flax seeds will give you a healthy dose of folic acid. ¼ cup of sunflower seed contains 82 micrograms of folic acid and 2 tablespoons of flax seeds contains 54 micrograms of folate. Seeds also provide you with beneficial fats and essential nutrients like vitamin A, E, omega 3 fatty acids and cancer preventing lignans. Add a handful of seeds to your smoothies, oats or cereal or eat them raw or roasted.
Not many are aware, but peanut is a good source of folic acid too. A half cup of peanuts is filled with 106 micrograms of folic acid, a quarter of what an average person needs in a day. Peanuts will also provide you with zinc, copper, protein and magnesium.
This woody treat is perhaps one of the most nutrient dense foods in the entire vegetable kingdom. This low calorie vegetable has been used as a medicine since time unknown. Four stalks of asparagus provide 90 micrograms of folic acid, around 22% of the daily value. These spears also provide the body with all the nutrients it craves for like vitamin A, C, K and manganese.
6. Yeast Extracts Spread:
This strong and salty flavoured food is usually used as a spread on crackers, sandwiches and toast. 1 teaspoon of extract spread provides 61 micrograms of folic acid and 9 calories. Make sure you apply the spread sparingly as it is very salty.
Both turkey and beef liver are good sources of folic acid. 100 grams of turkey liver contain more than the recommended amount of folic acid, around 691 micrograms. A 3 oz. serving of beef liver supplies the body with 215 micrograms of folate. Pregnant women can get their daily value of folic acid with just one serving of beef liver. You can add liver to stuffing or make gravy out of it.
8. Dried Spearmint:
Besides adding flavor, herbs also provide essential vitamins and minerals to your body. A tablespoon of dried spearmint provides 10 micrograms of folic acid, around 3% of the daily need of an average person. You can add spearmint in water, lemonade and tea for a refreshing beverage. You can also add it to salads for a cool touch.
Avocados are one of the best foods to meet your daily folic acid need. A single avocado provides 162 micrograms of folic acid, around 41% of the daily value. Not only is avocado a good source of folic acid, but it also provides potassium, vitamin C, fatty acids, phosphorus and antioxidants. Add them to your sandwiches, salads or prepare a delicious dip out of it.
Fruits high in folic acid are completely safe for consumption by the pregnant women. A medium sized banana contains 23.6 of folic acid, equaling to 6% of the daily value of folic acid. It also provides the body with fiber, protein and potassium. The best part is that you can enjoy a banana at any time of the day. So grab a banana to get small, yet useful amount of folic acid.
11. Tomato Juice:
Your struggle for meeting the daily-recommended allowance of folic acid can end by incorporating tomato juice in your diet. A 6-ounce serving of tomato juice will help you meet 36 micrograms of folic acid that is around 9% of the daily value. If plain tomato juice does not appeal to your taste bud, try adding a dash of pepper or Tabasco sauce to spice it up.
12. Chili Powder:
Chili powder is used to add zing to otherwise bland dishes. It is also a surprising source of vitamin A, C, calcium, potassium and folic acid. A teaspoon of this spice contains 2 micrograms of folic acid and just 6 calories.
This colorful fruit is as dense in nutrients as it is in its flavor. One small papaya provides you with 58 micrograms of folic acid, around 14% of the daily value. Besides folic acid, papaya is also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and phosphorus. Papaya works equally well in both savory dishes and desserts.
Vitamin C is not the only reason to include citrus fruits in your diet. They rank the highest in folic acid content too. A medium sized orange provides the body with 29 micrograms of folic acid. Packaged orange juice also comes fortified with folic acid. A ¾ cup serving of orange juice contains 35 micrograms of folic acid.
15. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables:
Dark green leafy vegetables are the healthiest foods on the planet. For a quick boost in your folic acid level, consider adding more of spinach, collard, arugula, kale, lettuce and turnip greens in your diet. A plate of these greens will provide you with your daily need of folate. A serving of spinach provides 26 micrograms, collard greens provide 177 micrograms and turnip greens provide 170 micrograms of folic acid. A cup of arugula will benefit your body with 19 micrograms of folic acid. Green leafy vegetables also come packed with zinc, iron, calcium, potassium and all the vitamins. Combine it with avocado, soybeans and avocado for a strong punch of folic acid.
16. Brussels Sprouts:
Brussels sprout contains an abundance of nutrients. It is high in vitamin C, K, A, potassium, iron and manganese. Brussels Sprout is a good source of folic acid too. One cup will provide you with 25% of the daily amount of folic acid. Brussels sprouts are excellent for the digestive tract. They clear the toxic build up from the gastrointestinal tract, aiding smooth bowel movement.
Cauliflower, one of the best vitamin C foods and is a great source of folic acid. A cup of this cruciferous vegetable will give you 55 micrograms of folic acid, accounting 14% of the daily value. Combine cauliflower with some folic acid rich foods mentioned in this list for a healthy meal.
Beets are one of the best liver cleansing foods. It detoxifies the body, giving you a healthy immune system. It is also renowned for its high folic acid content. Eating just one cup of boiled beet will provide you with 13 micrograms of folate, equaling to 34% of the daily need.
One simply cannot deny the nutritional benefits of squash. It contains plenty of essential minerals and vitamins. Both summer and winter squash can give you a boost in folic acid. 1 cup of winter squash gives 57 micrograms of folic acid, while 1 cup of summer squash provides 36 micrograms.
This delicious fruit is an excellent source of vitamin A, C and folate. A quarter sized cantaloupe can provide you with 25 micrograms of folic acid. While purchasing melon, tap it with a palm of your hand and listen to its hollow sound. Make sure it has no bruise or soft spots.
Folic Acid Supplements:
Taking folic supplements is the best way to ensure that you are getting your daily value of it. Folic acid supplements contain only folic acid, no other vitamin or minerals. They are quite small in size as compared to other multivitamins. Most of the other multivitamin supplements contain folic acid. Make sure you purchase multivitamins that provide at least 400 micrograms of folic acid per tablet. However, do not take more than one multivitamin a day as it could lead to serious health problems.
It is important to include folic acid in your diet, be it in any form to rule out any deficiency disorders. However, it is advisable to consult your physician before you prefer taking supplements. Don’t forget to share your valuable feedback with us in the below comment section.