Folate – Health Benefits and Food Sources

The essential nutrient folate plays several important roles in the body. It is important for converting food into fuel to produce energy; as well helps to assimilate fats and proteins. Folate is needed for the making of genetic material (RNA and DNA) for every cell. It helps the nervous system function properly, as well it is needed for a healthy liver, skin, hair and eyes.

Folic acid is crucial for proper brain function and plays an important role in emotional health. It works with vitamin B12 to help make red blood cells and to help iron function properly in the body. Extra folate is also required for pregnant women to support healthy foetus development.

Folate is water-soluble and should be replenished regularly. Getting your folate from food sources is important since synthetic folate supplements have been found to not be that beneficial and can cause other problems.

Characteristics of a Folate Deficiency

Characteristics of a deficiency include poor growth, tongue inflammation, gingivitis, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, diarrhea, irritability, forgetfulness and mental sluggishness. In babies, a folic acid deficiency can also result in neural defects.

Deficiencies are generally uncommon but can occur in people with excessive alcoholism or who maintain a poor diet. Serious health conditions that effect the digestive system can also reduce the absorption of nutrients such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and celiac disease.

Certain medications have also been found to block the absorption of folate such as: phenytoin (Dilantin), methotrexate, sulfasalazine, triamterene, pyrimethamine, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and barbiturates.

Folate Food Sources

The foods that are rich in folic acid include legumes, cruciferous vegetables, dark leafy greens, sunflower seeds, asparagus, beets and several other types of vegetables.

Nutrient-Rich Whole Food Sources for Folate

This chart lists the best food sources for folate, along with that food source’s single serving size and the amount of folate in that single serving.

Folate Daily Intake Recommendations for Child and Adult

These figures are referenced from the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) 2005 system; used in Canada and the United States. The DRI system provides the minimum daily intake requirements of vitamins, minerals and nutrients for child and adult; males and females.

To find out what your daily intake requirements are for all of the essential nutrients, see the article Essential Nutrients and Beneficial Foods, posted January 16, 2017.

Try our Sweet and Spicy Lentil Salad recipe! Lentils are an excellent whole food source for the essential nutrient folate.


Written by: J. Marshall


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