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Folic acid and folate-rich food sources
Can’t I get enough folic acid if I eat a healthy diet?
If you are wondering about whether or not you can get enough folic acid from foods, then the answer is maybe. You would have to pay super close attention to the nutritional content of everything you ate. And face it, in this busy world, very few of us have time to tally up all of our nutrients every day.
However, it is true that there are many foods that contain folic acid or folate, the naturally occurring version. Some foods have folic acid added during manufacturing. An example is breakfast cereal, which may have 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid added per serving. However, in most cases, the added folic acid is not enough to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs); that’s why it’s important to check the label. Some general folic acid food guidelines include:
- Choosing grain products labeled “enriched” or “fortified”
- Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables every day
- Cooking vegetables lightly in a little water
- Steaming, stir-frying or microwaving your vegetables
- Drinking all the milk in the bowl if you eat a folic acid-fortified cereal
- (folic acid is water soluble and will dissolve into the milk)
Visit mypyramid.gov to learn more about how to build a healthy diet.
Use the following chart to find out what some of the best food sources of folic acid are. The sources are listed as excellent, very good, or good, and may contain natural or man-made folic acid. Even with all these food sources of folic acid, you still may not get the recommended 400 mcg of folic acid. That is why it is important to take a multivitamin with folic acid every day.
|Fortified cereals||Oatmeal||Enriched pasta|
|Some cereal / nutritional bars||Fortified bread|
|Some cereal / nutritional bars|
|Chickpeas / garbanzo beans||Asparagus||Beets|
|Black beans||Black-eyed peas||Brussel sprouts|
|Pinto beans||Refried beans||Canned corn|
|Red kidney beans||Spinach||Collard greens|
|Romaine lettuce||Turnip greens|
|Chicken and beef liver||Black-eyed peas||Peanuts|
|Chickpeas / garbanzo beans||Lima beans||Sunflower seeds|
|Red kidney beans|
Other unexpected places you’ll find folic acid or folate:
- Fortified soy milk. Check the label since some types have more than others. Cow’s milk does not contain folate.
- Nutritional yeast, which has a nutty, cheesy, creamy flavor that makes it popular as an ingredient in cheese substitutes.
- Fortified beverages, like VitaminWater, Ensure and Slim-Fast. Read the label: The different flavors often contain different nutrients.
Nutritional cereal or energy bars, like Pria, PowerBar, Genisoy and LUNA bars. Again, always check the label for folic acid content.
Remember! While you can get folic acid through the foods you eat, the best way to ensure that you get enough folic acid is to take a multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid every day!