Need More Folate in Your Diet? These 19 Folate-Filled Foods Can Help

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Many of us supplement our diets with vitamins and nutrients, but one particular vitamin—folate—gets a lot of attention. Folate is a B vitamin that plays a role in red and white blood cell creation, DNA and RNA production, and more. And it's particularly important for pregnant people and adolescents.

We talked to a few nutrition experts to find out why folate is so great—and what foods you can eat if you want to consume more of it.

What Is Folate?

Folate—also known as vitamin B9—is a vitamin that plays a key role in many of your body's core functions. Folate helps your body make red blood cells (which keep your organs and tissues in tip-top shape) and white blood cells (which help your body fight off infections). It also helps your body produce DNA and RNA, and it assists your body in converting carbohydrates into energy. To put it simply, folate does a lot. And that's exactly why it's so important to make sure you get enough of it.

The NIH recommends that adults and children over the age of 14 consume 400 micrograms of folate each day. (That's roughly the amount found in one and a half cups of boiled spinach.) The organization also recommends that pregnant adults consume 600 micrograms of folate each day, which is approximately equivalent to the amount found in two and a half cups of boiled spinach.

If you don't get enough folate, you may experience sores on your tongue and mouth. You may also notice your skin, hair, and fingernails changing color. Additionally, you may experience megaloblastic anemia, a blood disorder that affects your red blood cells. Folate deficiency may also be linked with depression, increased risk of heart disease, increased risk of certain cancers, and more.

"Folate is an important B vitamin that keeps our brains functioning optimally," Dr. Uma Naidoo, M.D., nutritional psychiatrist and author, says. "Folate is an essential nutrient and its deficiency is highly linked to mood disorders, anxiety, memory loss, chronic fatigue, stress, and more."

If you don't consume enough folate while pregnant, you may experience the symptoms listed above. You may also increase your risk of having a baby that's premature, lightweight, or that has a neural tube defect—a defect that affects the brain or spinal cord.

"Folate is critical for the normal development of the brain and spinal cord," says Dr. William Li, MD, physician and author. "Deficiency in folate can lead to serious but avoidable birth defects—including incomplete development of the brain, and spinal cords that are not fully sealed into the spine."

Since folate supports proper development, it's also key during periods of intense growth—like during the growth spurts many people experience during adolescence.

Thankfully, folate deficiency is pretty rare in the U.S., because folate is found in a bunch of the foods we eat every day.

What Foods Contain Folate?

One easy way to increase your folate intake? Take a folate supplement. (Just be sure to talk to your primary care provider first.) But since folate is available in so many of the foods we already eat, it's pretty easy to get enough folate without taking a supplement. The following foods are excellent sources of this key vitamin:

01 of 19

Beef liver

Skirt Steak With Corn Cakes
Chili-rubbed steak adds some heat to this Southwestern meal.Get the recipe for Skirt Steak With Corn Cakes. Christopher Baker

Serving Size: 3 oz.
Amount of Folate: 215 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 54 (35 for pregnant women)

Beef liver may not be everyone's favorite snack, but it's packed with folate. If you're not a fan of beef liver, consider this recipe for skirt steak instead. Steak also contains folate, though not as much as beef liver.

RELATED: Spicy Ground Beef Recipe

02 of 19

Spinach

Spinach, Apple, and Walnut Salad
Maura McEvoy

Serving Size: Half cup
Amount of Folate: 131 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 33 (22 for pregnant women)

These figures are for boiled spinach, but boiling isn't your only option. If you eat one cup of raw spinach, you can expect to consume 58 micrograms of folate, which is 15 percent of the recommended daily intake for most adults, and 10 percent of the recommended daily intake for pregnant adults.

There are plenty of dishes that call for raw spinach, like this salad that also includes watermelon radishes.

03 of 19

Black-eyed peas

Ham and Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Sang An

Serving Size: Half cup
Amount of Folate: 105 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 26 (17 for pregnant women)

There are tons of legumes that contain folate—and black-eyed peas contain more than most. This recipe pairs black-eyed peas with ham and healthy veggies.

If black-eyed peas aren't your thing, don't worry—kidney beans also contain a fair amount of folate. Just a half cup of canned kidney beans will get you 46 micrograms of folate, which is 12 percent of the recommended daily intake for most adults, and 8 percent of the recommended daily intake for pregnant adults.

RELATED: Kidney Beans Are Full of Plant-Fueled Protein, Fiber, and More Benefits—Here's Why RDs Highly Recommend Them

04 of 19

Fortified breakfast cereals

Cracklin’ Oat Bran Oatmeal Raisin Skillet Cookie
Fans of the cinnamon-scented squares will fall hard for this cookie, in which Cracklin’ Oat Bran is mixed into the dough and sprinkled on top. Baking the cookie in an oven-safe skillet makes for a crisp exterior and soft and chewy center, which tastes best when enjoyed warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Cut into slices and serve to a crowd, or have everyone grab a spoon and dig straight into the skillet. Get the recipe: Cracklin’ Oat Bran Oatmeal Raisin Skillet Cookie. Grace Elkus

Serving Size: Half cup
Amount of Folate: 100 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 25 (17 for pregnant women)

You can't expect to find folate in every breakfast cereal, but if you stock up on cereals that have been fortified with folic acid (a synthetic form of folate), you can expect to get about 100 micrograms of folate in every serving. This recipe takes a popular breakfast cereal, Oat Bran, and uses it as a base for a tasty skillet cookie.

05 of 19

Rice

fried rice
Ray Kachatorian/Getty Images

Serving Size: Half cup
Amount of Folate: 90 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 22 (15 for pregnant women)

Rice makes a classic addition to any meal, and it also contains a fair amount of folate—when it's been fortified with folic acid. Use fortified rice to make this fried rice that also includes egg and veggies, and you'll be well on your way to consuming enough folate for an entire day.

RELATED: These Are the 3 Healthiest Types of Rice You Can Eat

06 of 19

Asparagus

Roasted Asparagus With Olive Vinaigrette
Punch up roasted spears with a tangy mixture of olives, parsley, and vinegar. Get the recipe. Christopher Baker

Serving Size: 4 spears (about 2.5 oz.)
Amount of Folate: 89 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 22 (15 for pregnant women)

In need of a tasty side dish? Just four spears of boiled asparagus will get you 89 micrograms of folate. Make this oven-roasted asparagus dish to increase your folate consumption.

07 of 19

Brussels sprouts

Crispy Brussels sprouts with pancetta and lemon served in a bowl
Anna Williams

Serving Size: Half cup
Amount of Folate: 78 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 20 (13 for pregnant women)

Brussels sprouts are beloved by some and hated by many. But no matter what you think of them, one thing's for sure: They contain a ton of folate. This recipe pairs Brussels sprouts with savory pancetta and vibrant lemon zest.

08 of 19

Spaghetti

Easy pasta recipes - healthy Zucchini-Butter Spaghetti
Jennifer Causey

Serving Size: Half cup
Amount of Folate: 74 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 19 (12 for pregnant women)

Many boxes of spaghetti come enriched with folic acid, and if you score one of these nutrient-packed pastas, you can expect to get 74 micrograms of folate with every half cup of spaghetti you consume. Go ahead and get a good helping of folate with help from this zucchini-butter spaghetti.

RELATED: 42 Perfect Pasta Recipes You'll Want to Make for Dinner Tonight (and Every Night)

09 of 19

Romaine lettuce

Romaine Salad With Tomatoes and Bacon
Con Poulos

Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount of Folate: 64 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 16 (11 for pregnant women)

Salad lovers, rejoice! Folate is found in tons of leafy greens, including romaine lettuce.

Other greens—like mustard greens—also contain a fair amount of folate. Just half a cup of boiled mustard greens will get you 52 micrograms of folate, which is 13 percent of the recommended daily intake for most adults, and 9 percent of the recommended daily intake for pregnant adults.

10 of 19

Avocado

Easy avocado recipes - Avocado Toast
Danny Kim

Serving Size: Half cup
Amount of Folate: 59 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 15 (10 for pregnant women)

Get ready to whip up some avocado toast, because half a cup of raw avocado will get you 59 micrograms of folate. This recipe is simple and will help you increase your folate intake.

11 of 19

Broccoli

Broccoli and Pepper Stir-Fry
Grated ginger, hoisin sauce, and toasted sesame seeds put an Asian spin on this quick stir-fry. Get the recipe. David Prince

Serving Size: Half cup
Amount of Folate: 52 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 13 (9 for pregnant women)

Broccoli is one of the most popular vegetables around, and it also happens to contain a fair amount of folate. Eat more of the healthy green veggie courtesy of this nutritious stir-fry.

12 of 19

White bread

Southern Tomato Sandwich

Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount of Folate: 50 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 13 (8 for pregnant women)

White bread may not seem like the healthiest thing in your pantry, but if yours has been fortified with folic acid, you can expect one slice to contain 50 micrograms of folate.

And since 1/4 teaspoon of baker's yeast also contains folate—23 micrograms, to be exact—you can expect to find folate in other baked goods, too. Who knew a simple sandwich, like this one packed with heirloom tomato slices, could help you eat more folate?

RELATED: What's the Difference Between Whole Wheat, Whole Grain, and Multigrain Bread?

13 of 19

Tomato juice

bloody-mary-recipe
Getty Images

Serving Size: One cup
Amount of Folate: 48 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 12 (8 for pregnant women)

Tomato juice might not be everyone's go-to, but one cup of the stuff contains a considerable amount of folate. In other words, go ahead and enjoy that bloody Mary!

14 of 19

Green peas

Sweet Pea Risotto
Kana Okada

Serving Size: Half cup
Amount of Folate: 47 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 12 (8 for pregnant women)

Looking for an excuse to cook those green peas in your freezer? Now you have one: Just half a cup of boiled green peas contains 47 micrograms of folate, so take those green veggies and make this creamy risotto.

15 of 19

Orange juice

Cranberry and Orange Relish
Justin Bernhaut

Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount of Folate: 47 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 12 (8 for pregnant women)

If you prefer your breakfasts with a glass of OJ, then we have some good news for you: There's a fair amount of folate in orange juice—and oranges in general.

While a glass of orange juice has 47 micrograms of folate, a single orange will get you 29 micrograms of folate. That's 7 percent of the recommended daily intake for most adults, and 5 percent of the recommended daily intake for pregnant adults. Considering that this orange chicken with bulgur pilaf recipe calls for orange juice and orange zest, it's safe to say there's plenty of folate to go around.

16 of 19

Crab and halibut

braised-halibut-1019din
Antonis Achilleos

Serving Size: 3 oz.
Amount of Folate: 36 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 9 (6 for pregnant women)

Seafood isn't just delicious, it's also packed with nutrients—folate, included. Just 3 ounces of Dungeness crab will get you 36 micrograms of folate.

And if crab isn't your thing, don't worry—other seafood dishes also come packed with folate. Just 3 ounces of halibut will get you 12 micrograms of folate, which is 3 percent of the daily recommended intake for most adults, and 2 percent of the daily recommended intake for pregnant adults. If you're a fish fan, try this halibut recipe with tomatoes and husk cherries.

RELATED: 10 Most Sustainable Types of Seafood, According to the Seafood Watch

17 of 19

Peanuts

Peanut Butter Granola
Maple sugar sweetens old-fashioned rolled oats and roasted peanuts. Get the recipe.. Danny Kim

Serving Size: 1 oz.
Amount of Folate: 27 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 7 (5 for pregnant women)

Peanuts are a great snack—and they're also a pretty good source of folate. Include more peanuts in your diet with help from this peanut butter oats recipe.

18 of 19

Bananas

Banana Bread
Kana Okada

Serving Size: 1 banana
Amount of Folate: 24 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 6 (4 for pregnant women)

There are a handful of different fruits that contain folate, and while these fruits don't contain as much folate as a cup of spinach or beef liver, they can contribute to your overall folate consumption.

A single banana contains 24 micrograms of folate, so go ahead and make some banana bread to make sure you get enough of this key nutrient.

RELATED: 6 Types of Fruit That Are Loaded With Fiber—Plus, Delicious Ways to Eat More of Them

19 of 19

Eggs

Egg Salad Toast
These open-faced egg toast beauties are much more than your average egg salad sandwich—the flavors, textures, and even look are elegant and original. Folded into the egg salad mixture is a mustardy vinaigrette, briny capers, fresh parsley, and just-bitter-enough radicchio leaves. Heaped on top of toasted sourdough, the result is both fresh and hearty, a win-win! This mixture would also be delicious piled on a whole grain like brown rice or quinoa, or even served as a salad for a lighter meal. Get the recipeEgg Salad Toast with Fresh Herbs and Capers. Greg DuPree

Serving Size: 1 hard-boiled egg
Amount of Folate: 22 micrograms
Percent Daily Intake: 6 (4 for pregnant women)

Start the day strong by whipping up a batch of eggs. Just one hard-boiled egg should get you 22 micrograms of folate. Egg salad, like the version on this toast that's packed with hard-boiled eggs, will surely help you get more folate.

Should You Also Take a Folate Supplement?

Since folate is readily available in so many of the foods we know and love, there are plenty of ways to get enough of it. Still, there are some groups of people who may benefit from taking a folate supplement—also known as folic acid.

"As a nutritional psychiatrist, I always suggest food options first to everyone trying to improve their mental fitness," Dr. Naidoo says. "In reality, though, for most individuals, a supplement can act as a complement to the diet as they fill in any nutritional gaps not being met by the foods [they] eat."

Naidoo notes that folate supplements may be useful for adolescents, women, older adults, and pregnant adults—as well as anyone with a diet low in vegetables.

That said, there is such a thing as getting too much of the stuff. Nicole Avena, PhD, nutrition expert and author, notes that consuming high amounts of folate may have negative effects on some individuals. And Dr. Li agrees, noting that there may be some consequences of consuming too much folate—but that more research needs to be conducted before we can say anything for sure.

As always, it's a great idea to talk to your primary care provider before starting any new supplements—or before changing your diet in general. So book an appointment with your go-to doctor and talk about your desire to consume more folate. They can help you do so in a safe and healthy way.

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