There are a number of reasons it’s important to get adequate amounts of folic acid. Perhaps most importantly are cellular growth and regeneration. A recent article from the New York Times fingered folic acid as one of the most, “luscious micronutrients” available and multiple studies suggest a lack of folic acid may lead to mental conditions such as depression.
Folic acid allows the body to perform many essential functions including nucleotide biosynthesis in cells, DNA synthesis and repair, red blood cell creation, and prevention of anemia. Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, is well known for its application in the prevention of fetal deformities, Alzheimer’s disease, and several types of cancer. Fortunately, there are many foods that are naturally rich sources of folic acid.
Folic Acid vs. Folate
While folic acid and folate are often marketed as one and the same, their metabolic effects can be quite different. Folate is the bioavailable, natural form of vitamin B9 found in a variety of plant and animal foods. Folic acid, while readily utilized by the body, is the synthetic form of the vitamin, often found in supplements and fortified foods. The body is more adept at using folate and will regulate healthy levels by releasing excess through the urine.
Foods with Folate (AKA Folic Acid Although Slightly Different)
1. Dark Leafy Greens
It should come as no surprise that one of the planet’s healthiest foods is also one of the highest in folate. For an immediate boost in folic acid, consider adding more spinach, collard greens, kale, turnip greens and romaine lettuce into your daily diet. Just one large plate of these delicious leafy greens can provide you with almost all of your daily needs for folate.
- Spinach — 1 cup = 263 mcg of folate (65% DV)
- Collard Greens — 1 cup = 177 mcg of folate (44% DV)
- Turnip Greens — 1 cup = 170 mcg of folate (42% DV)
- Mustard Greens — 1 cup = 103 mcg of folate (26% DV)
- Romaine Lettuce — 1 cup = 76 mcg of folate (19% DV)
This woody treat is perhaps one of the most nutrient dense foods with folic acid out of the entire vegetable kingdom. Eating just one cup of boiled asparagus will give you 262 mcg of folic acid, which accounts for approximately 65% of your daily needs. Not only is asparagus a delicious snack, but it’s also full of nutrients your body craves, including Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Manganese.
Not only is broccoli one of the best detox foods you can eat, it’s also a great source for folic acid. Just one cup of broccoli will provide you with approximately 24% of your daily folic acid needs, not to mention a whole host of other important nutrients. We recommend eating organic broccoli raw or lightly steamed.
4. Citrus Fruits
Many fruits contain folic acid, but citrus fruits rank the highest. Oranges are an especially rich source of folic acid. One orange holds about 50 mcg, and a large glass of juice may contain even more. Other folate-rich fruits include papaya, grapefruit, grapes, banana, cantaloupe and strawberries. Here is a short list of fruits high in folic acid.
- Papaya — One papaya = 115 mcg of folate (29% DV)
- Oranges — One orange = 40 mcg of folate (10% DV)
- Grapefruit — One grapefruit = 30 mcg of folate (8% DV)
- Strawberries — 1 cup = 25 mcg of folate (6.5% DV)
- Raspberries — 1 cup = 14 mcg of folate (4% DV)
5. Beans, Peas and Lentils
Beans and peas especially high in folic acid include pinto beans, lima beans, green peas, black-eyed peas and kidney beans. A small bowl of any type of lentils will give you the majority of your recommended daily amounts of folate. Here is a short list of which beans have the most folic acid.
- Lentils — 1 cup = 358 mcg of folate (90% DV)
- Pinto Beans — 1 cup = 294 mcg of folate (74% DV)
- Garbanzo Beans — 1 cup = 282 mcg of folate (71% DV)
- Black Beans — 1 cup = 256 mcg of folate (64% DV)
- Navy Beans — 1 cup = 254 mcg of folate (64% DV)
- Kidney Beans — 1 cup = 229 mcg of folate (57% DV)
- Lima Beans — 1 cup = 156 mcg of folate (39% DV)
- Split Peas — 1 cup = 127 mcg of folate (32% DV)
- Green Peas — 1 cup = 101 mcg of folate (25% DV)
- Green Beans — 1 cup = 42 mcg of folate (10% DV)
The most beloved vegetable of Mexican fare, the butter pear, or avocado, holds up to 90mcg of folate per cup, which accounts for appoximately 22% of your daily needs. Not only are avocados one of the best foods with folic acid, but it’s also an excellent source of fatty acids, vitamin K and dietary fiber. Adding them to sandwiches or salads will make for an extra-healthy treat.
The world’s slimiest veggie is also one of the most nutrient rich. Okra has the distinct ability to simultaneously offer vitamins and minerals while cleansing the entire digestive tract from toxic build-up. When it comes to folate, Okra is a great source. Just one cup of cooked okra will give you approximately 37 mcg of folic acid.
8. Brussels Sprout
While brussels sprouts probably isn’t your favorite vegetable, there is no denying that they are one of the best foods for folic acid. Eating one cup of boiled brussels sprouts will give you approximately 25% of your daily recommended amount. Brussels sprouts are also high in vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese and potassium. Even with the abundance of nutrients, it still remains incredibly difficult to convince your kid to give them a try.
9. Seeds and Nuts
It doesn’t matter if it’s pumpkin, sesame, sunflower or flax seeds, eating them raw, sprouted, or sprinkled onto a salad will add a healthy serving of folic acid. Sunflower seeds, flax seeds and peanuts are especially high in folate, with one cup offering up to 300 mcg. Nuts are also very high in folic acid, with both peanuts and almonds ranking especially high. Below is a short list of the best seeds and nuts for folic acid.
- Sunflower Seeds — ¼ cup = 82 mcg of folate (21% DV)
- Peanuts — ¼ cup = 88 mcg of folate (22%)
- Flax Seeds — 2 tbs = 54 mcg of folate (14% DV)
- Almonds — 1 cup = 46 mcg pf fp;ate (12% DV)
This cruciferous vegetable is typically regarded as one of the best vitamin C foods, but it’s also a great source of folic acid. Eating just one cup of cauliflower will give you approximately 55 mcg of folate, accounting for 14% of your recommended daily value. I recommend adding fresh cauliflower to a salad with some of the other folic acid foods on this list.
Beets are a great source for antioxidants and they also provide detox support, making them one of the best liver cleanse foods on the planet. While that’s a great reason to add them to your diet, beets are also known as one of the best foods with folic acid. Eating one cup of boiled beets will provide you with approximately 136 mcg of folate, accounting for 34% of your daily needs.
You probably have a can of corn in your pantry right now. Eat it up! This popular vegetable contains plenty of folate. Just one cup of cooked corn will give you approximately 76 mcg of folic acid, accounting for almost 20% of your daily needs. I recommend avoiding canned veggies and opting for fresh and organic.
Celery is commonly regarded as a great food to help with kidney stones, but did you know it’s also a great source for folic acid? Just one cup of raw celery will give you approximately 34 mcg of folate, accounting for 8% of your daily needs.
Carrots are another extremely popular vegetable that is probably in your home right now. Just one cup of raw carrots will give you almost 5% of your daily recommended needs for folic acid. Eat baby carrots as a snack or add them to your salads for a folate boost!
Squash may not be the most popular vegetable for your family, but there is no denying its nutritional benefits. And, if you make it right, it can be delicious. Whether it’s summer squash or winter squash, adding squash to your diet will help give you a boost in folic acid. Here is a breakdown of how much folate can be found in squash.
- Winter squash — 1 cup = 57 mcg of folate (14% DV)
- Summer Squash — 1 cup = 36 mcg of folate (9% DV)
These are just a few of the foods with folic acid, are you aware of others? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.
– Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM