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.

Excellent Very Good Good
Fortified cereals Oatmeal Enriched pasta
  Some cereal / nutritional bars Fortified bread
    Some cereal / nutritional bars
Excellent Very Good Good
Chickpeas / garbanzo beans Asparagus Beets
Lentils Baked beans Broccoli
Black beans Black-eyed peas Brussel sprouts
Pinto beans Refried beans Canned corn
Red kidney beans Spinach Collard greens
  Romaine lettuce Turnip greens
  Lima beans  
Excellent Very Good Good
    Avocado
    Orange juice
Excellent Very Good Good
Chicken and beef liver Black-eyed peas Peanuts
Chickpeas / garbanzo beans Lima beans Sunflower seeds
Lentils    
Black beans    
Pinto beans    
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!

Revised: May 30, 2011

This web site is designed for informational use only; it is not designed to give advice, diagnose, cure or treat any medical condition you may have. If you have any questions about your health, please contact your health care provider.