What is Folate?
Folate is a B vitamin that can be found naturally in a wide variety of foods. It also can be found as folic acid in fortified foods and as supplements. As a water-soluble vitamin, very little folate is stored. Consequently, our bodies need a regular supply of folate from the foods we eat.1,2
Benefits of Folate
Folate is important for cell development, particularly during the production of DNA.1,2 Folate participates with various enzymes in the body and is required for the metabolism of proteins.1-3 The need for folate increases during pregnancy, recovery from burns, and with diseases or conditions that result in malabsorption or excess water loss (e.g. Crohn’s disease, alcoholism, diarrhea).1,4
Folate, as part of a well-balanced diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may help in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.5 Adequate folate may also help support the balance of homocysteine levels, which if elevated, is a potential risk factor for heart disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes.1,3,6,7
Foods with Folate
Foods particularly rich in folate include dark leafy green vegetables, legumes (e.g. lentils, peanuts, soybeans), asparagus, and fortified cereals and grains.8 100% orange juice is one of the few fruit juices considered a good source of natural folate8 and is a great addition for a folate-rich diet.
An 8-ounce serving of 100% orange juice provides 15% of the recommended Daily Value for folate.*
Folate deficiency is uncommon after mandatory food fortification programs were implemented in the U.S. and many other countries. Folic acid is added to foods such as white flour, cereals, and other refined grain products in the U.S.1,3 Poor folate status is usually paired with other vitamin deficiencies, and most often due to poor diet.1 Low folate intake can lead to impairment of red blood cell formation causing one type of anemia, a condition which weakens oxygen circulation in the body.1-3 Common symptoms of low folate include changes in skin and hair, and tongue and oral mucosa lesions.1
Life Stage Benefits
Below are age specific benefits folate provides the body:
- Pregnant women need 600 micrograms of folate each day, and breastfeeding women need 500 micrograms per day.1
- Essential for fetal cell division, DNA production, growth and development.
- Important for pregnant women or those trying to conceive to get enough folate since it may reduce the risk of birth defects.
- Getting the recommended amount of folate can be difficult from food alone, so a folic acid supplement and consuming fortified foods is recommended for women of childbearing age.1
Kids, Teens & Young Adults
- Important for the formation of new cells to support growth and development.
- Assists with the production of red blood cells, which supply the body with oxygen to help maintain energy levels.
- Needs increase with increased loss of water such as with vomiting and diarrhea.
- May help maintain blood homocysteine levels. Elevated homocysteine in the blood is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.1,2,7
- Low folate status has been associated with depression and poor response to antidepressants in some people.1
- Suboptimal intake of folate is associated with increased risk of various cancers including of the breast and prostate.3
*Values based on a 2000 calorie diet. FDA rounding rules applied when calculating percent DV based upon 2018 rules. Information is not intended for labeling food in packaged form. Nutrient values may vary based on brand or product types.
- Folate. Health Professionals Fact Sheet. Office of Dietary Supplements. National Institutes of Health.
- Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 1998:150-188.
- Chan et al. Adv Nutr. 2013;4:123-125.
- The A.S.P.E.N. Adult Nutrition Support Core Curriculum, 2nd Ed. American Society of Parental and Enteral Nutrition. 2012.
- A Food Labeling Guide; Guidance for Industry. FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. January 2013.
- Allen. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81(suppl):1206S-1212S.
- Debreceni et al. Cardiovasc Ther. 2014;32(3):130-138.
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28 (slightly revised). US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory; May 2016.