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Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that occurs naturally in food. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate that is found in supplements and added to fortified foods such as cereals.
Folate helps produce and maintain new cells. This is especially important during periods of rapid cell division and growth such as infancy and pregnancy. Folate is needed to make DNA and RNA, the blueprints for cells. It also helps prevent changes to DNA that may lead to cancer. Both adults and children need folate to make normal red blood cells and prevent anemia. Folate is also essential for the metabolism of homocysteine and helps maintain normal levels of this amino acid.
Leafy green vegetables (e.g., spinach and turnip greens), citrus fruits and juices, and dried beans and peas are all natural sources of folate.

In 1996, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published regulations requiring the addition of folic acid to enriched breads, cereals, flours, corn meals, pastas, rice, and other grain products. Since cereals and grains are widely consumed in the U.S., these products have become a very important source of folic acid in the American diet. The following table suggests a variety of dietary sources of folate.

Food Micrograms (mcg)
*Breakfast cereals fortified with 100% of the DV, ¾ cup 400
Beef liver, cooked, braised, 3 ounces 185
Cowpeas (black eyes), immature, cooked, boiled, ½ cup 105
*Breakfast cereals, fortified with 25% of the DV, ¾ cup 100
Spinach, frozen, cooked, boiled, ½ cup 100
Great Northern beans, boiled, ½ cup 90
Asparagus, boiled, 4 spears 85
*Rice, white, long-grain, parboiled, enriched, cooked, ½ cup 65
Vegetarian baked beans, canned, 1 cup 60
Spinach, raw, 1 cup 60
Green peas, frozen, boiled, ½ cup 50
Broccoli, chopped, frozen, cooked, ½ cup 50
*Egg noodles, cooked, enriched, ½ cup 50
Broccoli, raw, 2 spears (each 5 inches long) 45
Avocado, raw, all varieties, sliced, ½ cup sliced 45
Peanuts, all types, dry roasted, 1 ounce 40
Lettuce, Romaine, shredded, ½ cup 40
Wheat germ, crude, 2 Tablespoons 40
Tomato Juice, canned, 6 ounces 35
Orange juice, chilled, includes concentrate, ¾ cup 35
Turnip greens, frozen, cooked, boiled, ½ cup 30
Orange, all commercial varieties, fresh, 1 small 30
*Bread, white, 1 slice 25
*Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice 25
Egg, whole, raw, fresh, 1 large 25
Cantaloupe, raw, ¼ medium 25
Papaya, raw, ½ cup cubes 25
Banana, raw, 1 medium 20

* Items marked with an asterisk are fortified with folic acid as part of the Folate Fortification Program.

Source: Office of Dietary Supplements, available at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/folate

Top 20 naturally-occurring folate-rich foods, not including organ meats or veal1. Up to 70% of the folate in food is methyl folate2, 3.

Rank Food Folate mcg)
#1 Brewer’s yeast, 1 tablespoon 313
#2 Lentils, 1/2 cup, cooked 180
#3 Edamame, frozen, 1/2 cup 179
#4 Romaine lettuce, 2 cups 152
#5 Pinto beans, 1/2 cup, cooked 147
#6 Okra, 1/2 cup, cooked fr. frozen 134
#7 Black beans, 1/2 cup, cooked 128
#8 Black-eyed peas, 1/2 cup, cooked 120
#9 Spinach, 2 cups, fresh 218
#10 Kidney beans, 1/2 cup, cooked 115
#11 Broccoli, chopped, 1 cup, cooked 104
#12 Brussels sprouts, 1 cup, cooked 94
#13 Collard greens, 1/2 cup, cooked 88
#14 Garbanzo beans, 1/2 cup, canned 80
#15 Asparagus, 1 cup, fresh 79
#16 Orange Juice, 1 cup, fresh 74
#17 Beets, 1/2 cup, cooked 68
#18 Whole wheat bread, 2 slices 60
#19 Orange, 1 large 55
#20a Papaya cubes, 1 cup 53
#20b Tofu, 3/4 cup 53

References

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