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Discover the role of folate in the body and how to get enough in your diet.

Key points

  • Folate is a B vitamin that is important for making healthy blood cells.
  • Folate is the form naturally found in food, while folic acid is the form found in enriched foods and vitamin supplements.
  • There are many food sources of folate to choose from.
  • Women of childbearing age and pregnant women need to take a vitamin supplement with folic acid in addition to the folate found in a healthy diet.

What is folate and what does it do?

Folate is another name for vitamin B9. It is important for making blood cells, and it keeps the heart and blood vessels healthy. Folate is essential during early pregnancy to help reduce the risk of some birth defects, such as spina bifida. It is also important for children’s growth.

Sources of folate and how to get enough

Folate is naturally found in many foods. Some foods that are rich in folate include green leafy vegetables, peas, beans, oranges/orange juice and peanuts. There are also some foods that have added folic acid (otherwise known as enriched or fortified foods). Examples of foods that are often fortified with folate include grain products, pasta, and breakfast cereals.

You and your family can get enough folate by eating a variety of these foods throughout the week.

Tips

Overcooking vegetables can reduce the amount of available folate. Try lightly steaming, sauteing or roasting vegetables, or eat them raw.

Grain products and vegetables and fruits containing folate

How much do we need?

Folate recommendations*

AgeAmount per day (micrograms [µg]/day)
Birth – 6 months65 µg
7 – 12 months80 µg
1 – 3 years150 µg
4 – 8 years200 µg
9 – 13 years300 µg
14+ years
During pregnancy
During breastfeeding
400 µg
600 µg
500 µg

*These recommendations are presented here simply as a guide to help you make informed food choices.

How much folate can I find in a serving of food?

Examples of food sourcesAmount of folate (µg)
½ cup green peas47 µg
¾ cup orange juice35 µg
½ cup chopped asparagus90 µg
½ cup raw spinach60 µg
½ cup cooked enriched pasta75 µg
30 g peanuts, dry roasted27 µg

Especially important for…

women of childbearing age and in early pregnancy

  • Women of childbearing age need a supplement of 400 µg (0.4 mg) folic acid each day in addition to the amount of folate found in a healthy diet.
  • Pregnant women should take a multivitamin containing 400-1000 µg of folic acid.
  • If you are pregnant, speak to your doctor about the level of folic acid that is appropriate for you if:
    • you have a family history of, or a previous pregnancy affected by, an open neural tube defect (for example spina bifida or anencephaly).
    • you are on certain medications, including anti-seizure medications.

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Last updated: December 16th 2021