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What You Need to Know About Folate


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folic acid

Folate, also known as folic acid (vitamin B9), is a water-soluble b-complex vitamin that helps with cell growth and maintenance. Folate cannot be stored in your body. A sufficient folate intake is particularly important for pregnant women and women who wish to become pregnant.

Folic Acid for Pregnancy

Folic acid is the form of folate found in vitamin supplements. Pregnant women require a folic acid supplement for the proper development of the baby's brain, skull and spinal cord and to prevent some birth defects, especially during the first four weeks of pregnancy. It is recommend that all women who could become pregnant, are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant take a daily folic acid supplement.

An adequate intake of folic acid is essential for all women during pregnancy to reduce the risk of a baby being born with a neural tube defect (NTD). The neural tube is the part of the developing baby that becomes the brain and spinal cord. A NTD occurs when the neural tube does not fully close.

Folic Acid Supplementation

Although folate can be found in many foods when eating a healthy well-balanced diet, dietary sources alone are not enough to reach the required folic acid level to protect against NTDs. Therefore, it is recommended that women take 0.4 mg of folic acid daily starting three months before getting pregnant, throughout their pregnancy and until four to six weeks postpartum or for the duration of breastfeeding. Future mothers are also strongly encouraged to maintain a folate-rich diet.

Speak to your healthcare professional to determine the right dose of folic acid to take and multivitamin product recommendations that contain enough folic acid to meet your needs.

Folic Acid for Pregnancy

Folate Food Sources

Folate is found in a variety of healthy foods such as enriched grain products, cooked dried peas, beans, and lentils as well as many vegetables like spinach, broccoli and asparagus.

See the table below for a list of common food sources.

Food GroupFoodServing sizeFolate (mcg)
Vegetables and Fruit
Spinach, cooked250 mL (1 cup)278
Kale, raw250 mL (1 cup)100
Broccoli, cooked 125 mL (½ cup)89
Asparagus, cooked4 spears88
Brussels sprouts, frozen, cooked4 sprouts85
Avocado½ fruit81
Lettuce, romaine or mesclun250 mL (1 cup)73
Beets, cooked125 mL (½ cup)72
Spinach, raw250 mL (1 cup)61
Papaya½ fruit56
Potato, with skin, baked1 medium48
Cantaloupe250 mL (1 cup)36
Grain Products
Pasta, egg noodles, enriched, cooked125 mL (½ cup)138
Pasta, spaghetti, white, enriched, cooked125 mL (½ cup)88
Cracker, saltine10 crackers65
Bread, white1 slice (35 g)62
Bagel plain½ bagel (44.5 g)14
Bread, whole wheat1 slice (35 g)11
Milk and Alternatives This food group contains very little of this nutrient
Meat and Alternatives
Liver (turkey, chicken), cooked*75 g (2.5 oz)469
Liver (beef, pork), cooked* 75 g (2.5 oz)158
Non-Meat Sources
Lentils, cooked175 mL (¾ cup)265
Peas (chickpeas/garbanzo, black-eyed/cowpeas, adzuki), cooked175 mL (¾ cup)221
Beans (navy, black, small white), cooked175 mL (¾ cup)186
Edamame/baby soybeans, cooked125 mL (½ cup)181
Peas, pigeon, cooked175 mL (¾ cup)138
Sunflower seeds, without shell60 mL (¼ cup)79
Soybeans, dry, roasted60 mL (¼ cup)89

*Pregnant women should limit intake of liver to one serving every two weeks

The information in this resource is for general information purposes only and is not intended to replace informed medical advice. Consume foods according to any dietary guidelines you have been provided from a health care professional. Metro Ontario Pharmacies Limited assumes no legal liability for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of the information.

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