Everyone wants to be healthy, but what it takes to be healthy?
Adequate sleep, regular exercise, and proper nutrition play a significant role in becoming healthy. In the same manner, there are many nutrients that can also help to make a person healthy and folic acid is one of those.
What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9 that is also called pteroylmonoglutamic acid. Unlike folate, folic acid is converted into 5-MTHF not in the digestive system, but in the liver and other tissues of the body. This nutrient is commonly added to supplements, but it takes time to convert or metabolize even a small dose of folic acid.
Along with vitamin B12, folic acid is significant for red blood cell formation. Thus, deficiency of these vital nutrients may lead to macrocytic anemia. Likewise, lack of folic acid is also associated with mental conditions like depression.
The good thing is that folic acid is not only present in supplements because there are foods that are rich in this nutrient.
20 Folic Acid-Rich Foods You Should Include In Your Diet
Broccoli is rich in folic acid and is also one of the detox foods. A cup of this vegetable provides about 26% of the daily requirements. It is also rich in Vitamin A which is essential for healthy teeth and skin.
1 cup Broccoli: 57 mcg (14% DV)
Eating a cup of boiled asparagus offers 262 mcg of folic acid or 65% of your daily requirement of folic acid. Asparagus is also rich in riboflavin and iron which is important in folate metabolism and hemoglobin formation.
½ cup Asparagus: 134 mcg (33% DV)
Citrus fruits are dense in folic acid and oranges are one of those. Consuming a piece of an orange gives about 50 mcg of folic acid. But, you can obtain more from a glass of fresh-squeezed juice of oranges. Other citrus fruits that are rich in folic acid are papaya, grapes, grapefruit, strawberries, cantaloupe, and bananas.
1 Medium Oranges: 39.30 mcg (10% DV)
For those who are non-vegetarian, you can still obtain folic acid from the liver. Both chicken and beef liver are rich in folate. The liver is also rich in selenium which helps to prevent heart disorders and different types of cancer. But, liver consumption should be taken in moderation because it also contains cholesterol and trans fat.
3 oz Liver: 221 mcg (55% DV)
Certain herbs that are rich in folic acid are basil and rosemary. One serving of basil and rosemary offers 3.6 mcg and 1.6 mcg of folic acid respectively.
For Basil 2 tbsp Chopped 5g (1% DV)
A cup of avocado contains about 110 mcg of folic acid and that is 28% of the daily requirements. Aside from folic acid, avocados are also rich in vitamin K, dietary fiber, and fatty acids. They are also rich in phytochemicals and vitamin C.
½ cup avocado: 61 mcg (15% DV)
Green soybeans contain 422 mcg of folic acid and mature soybean seeds contain 697 mcg per serving. They are also a good source of protein that reduces the bad cholesterol level.
1 Cup Soybeans: 186-256 mcg (174% DV)
Serving a cup of banana contains about 45 mcg of folic acid. They are also good sources of vitamin B6 which boosts the immune system of the body to fight numerous diseases. The vitamin B6 also keeps the normal level of blood sugar and maintains normal nerve function.
One serving or 1 cup of tomatoes will give you 22 mcg of folic acid. They are also rich in beta-carotene, lycopene, and carotenoids which are known to possess anti-tumor and antioxidant properties. Likewise, they also have a low level of cholesterol, sodium, and saturated fat.
One of the foods that are an excellent source of folic acid is Brussels sprouts. About 25% of the daily requirements of folic acid are obtainable by consuming a cup of boiled Brussels sprouts. Other vitamins and nutrients that can be obtained from Brussels sprouts include vitamins A, C, and K as well as potassium and manganese.
Cauliflower isn’t only rich in Vitamin C but also in folic acid. A cup of cauliflower contains about 55 mcg of folic acid which accounts for 14% of the recommended daily requirement. You can consume cauliflower by adding it to the salad.
One cup of papaya provides 53 mcg of folic acid and it is also a good source of vitamins C and A. This fruit is a natural remedy for intestinal infections and gastrointestinal tract disorders.
Dark green leafy vegetables
Folic acid can be found in dark green leafy vegetables. This is one of the reasons why it is important to include these types of vegetables in your diet as they are essential to our health. Kale and spinach are among the dark greens that offer good amounts of folate.
Dark green leafy vegetables are also rich in carotenoids that are necessary for our health.
For Spinach 1 Cup Chopped 30 mcg (15% DV)
Another food that is an excellent source of folic acid is lentils. In fact, one cup of lentils provides 920 mcg of folic acid. They also help to maintain healthy levels of blood pressure as it contains a good amount of potassium and protein.
½ cup Lentils: 179 mcg (45% DV)
Aside from being rich in folic acid, beets also help to treat inflammation, prevent oxidative stress, and reduce blood pressure. A single serving of beets allows you to obtain about 148 mcg of folic acid.
½ cup Beets: 68 mcg (17% DV)
Carrots are always present in every kitchen as it is one of common and highly favored vegetable. You can consume carrots either raw or cooked and a cup of raw carrots gives you 6% of your daily requirements. Young carrots are good as a snack or you can add them to salads to get the nutrients.
1 cup Carrots: 128 mcg (6% DV)
If you are suffering from kidney stones, you should integrate celery into your diet. It’s not only good for treating kidney stones but it also provides a good amount of folate of about 36 mcg.
If you want to enjoy a folic acid boost, you should add squash to your diet. It’s not only delicious but also rich in folic acid. In fact, a cup of winter squash contains 41 mcg of folate that is about 21% of the daily requirement.
Many of us love corn as a snack. It is rich in folic acid, copper, phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, and zinc. These nutrients are known to provide different health benefits.
1 cup Corn 34 mcg (9% DV)
Seeds and nuts
Examples of seeds and nuts that are good sources of folic acid are flax seeds which contain 148 mcg, sunflower seeds with 104 mcg, and almonds with 48 mcg per serving. You can consume nuts and seeds either raw or add them to the salad.
¼ cup Sunflower Seeds: 82 mcg (21% DV)
¼ cup Peanuts: 88 mcg (22% DV)
2 tbsp Flax Seeds: 54 mcg (14% DV)
1 cup Almonds: 54 mcg (12% DV)
Folic Acid vs. Folate
Many people even professionals were confused between folate and folic acid. It is important to know the difference between these two because they offer different effects and benefits to your body.
A folate is a natural form of vitamin B9 and it is used as a generic name for a group of compounds in which the nutritional properties are alike. Before folate can enter the bloodstream, it’s first converted by the digestive system into 5-MHTF, an active form of vitamin B9.
It plays a big role in improving nerve function along with vitamin B12. Folate is necessary for DNA formation in every cell of the body to facilitate normal cell replication. It also works for the formation of pyrimidines and purines which are important for DNA building blocks.
Folic acid is also a vitamin B9 but in a synthetic form. It is one of the ingredients in supplements and in processed food products like breakfast cereals and flour. Unlike folate, the folic acid needs to be converted to 5-MTHF in the liver and other tissues.
However, it takes time to convert even a small dose of folic acid to 5-MTHF. This means that it is not completely metabolized which may result in health problems when it is taken along with fortified foods.
A study showed that for more efficient conversion of folic acid, it should be taken along with vitamin B6. Otherwise, unmetabolized folic acid can be accumulated in the bloodstream.
When Should I Start Taking Folic Acid?
Folic acid is important to everyone and it should be taken according to your daily requirements. If you’re unable to take folic acid in its natural form, you can take supplements.
A woman who tries to get pregnant should take folic acid on a daily basis particularly during the first 12 weeks while the spine and nerves develop. This is important to avoid birth defects and to prevent specific types of cancer.
What Are The Risks Of Not Taking Folic Acid?
Folic acid deficiency may result from either of the two cases – excessive loss due to the use of diuretics or Crohn’s disease or excess demands due to pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Symptoms of deficiency are manifested through fatigue and tiredness, loss of appetite, diarrhea, weight loss, heart palpitations, headaches, behavioral disorders, and sore tongue.
The risk of folic acid deficiency gets worse during pregnancy as it may cause neural tube defects in the fetus. It is recommended that a pregnant woman should take folic acid in the first few weeks of pregnancy as it is the time when the nerve cells and spine develop.
is a registered dietitian with over 10 years of experience in the field of nutrition. She has a Master’s degree in Nutritional Science from Dhaka University and has worked with various clients to help them achieve their health goals through personalized diet plans. Mounota is passionate about educating people on the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle and has written extensively on the subject for various publications.