Folate is the Vitamin B9 that is naturally present in many foods.
A form of folate, called folic acid, is used in dietary supplements and fortified foods. It helps the body make healthy new cells. Everyone needs folic acid. For women who may get pregnant, it is really important. Getting enough folic acid before and during pregnancy can prevent major birth defects of her baby’s brain or spine. Folate is a generic term for both naturally occurring folate found in foods and folic acid.
Folic acid is water-soluble. Leftover amounts of the vitamin leave the body through the urine. That means your body does not store folic acid and you need a regular supply of the vitamin in the foods you eat.
Folic acid has several important functions. Folate helps tissues grow and cells work. Taking the right amount of folic acid before and during pregnancy helps prevent certain birth defects, including spina bifida. Taking folic acid supplements before you get pregnant and during the first trimester can lower your chances of
miscarriage. Vitamin B9 works along with vitamin B12 and vitamin C to help the body break down, use, and create new proteins. The vitamin helps form red blood cells and produce DNA, the building block of the human body, which carries genetic information.
Sources of Folate (Vitamin B9) and Folic acid
Folate is naturally present in many foods and food companies add folic acid to other foods, including bread, cereal, and pasta. You can get recommended amounts by eating a variety of foods, including the following:
- Vegetables (especially asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and mustard greens).
- Fruits and fruit juices (especially oranges and orange juice).
- Nuts, beans, and peas (such as peanuts, black-eyed peas, and kidney beans).
- Grains (including whole grains; fortified cold cereals; enriched flour products such as bread, bagels, cornmeal, and pasta; and rice).
- Folic acid is added to many grain-based products. To find out whether folic acid has been added to a food, check the product label.
- Liver (beef liver is high in folate but is also high in cholesterol, so limit the amount you eat).
- Only small amounts of folate are found in other animal foods like meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy products.