Why is folate good for you?

Folate is present in a wide array of foods including vegetables , legumes, eggs, and fruit. Often named vitamin B-9.

In general, meat is poor in folate apart from beef liver. In addition, many foods are fortified with synthetic folate, or folic acid.

Folate is one of the B-vitamins which is required in the bone marrow to create red and white blood cells, turn carbohydrates into energy, and produce DNA and RNA.

During periods of rapid growth such as pregnancy , infancy, and adolescence adequate intake of folate is extremely necessary.

This article offers an in-depth look at the recommended intake of folate, its possible health benefits, high in folate foods and any possible health risks associated with the consumption of folate.

Recommended intake

Folic acid is a vital nutrient.
Folic acid is a vital nutrient.

For people of different ages the recommended daily allowance (DDA) for folate is different, as follows:

  • 0 to 6 months: 65 mcg
  • 7 to 12 months: 80 mcg
  • 1 to 3 years: 150 mcg
  • 4 to 8 years: 200 mcg
  • 9 to 13 years: 300 mcg
  • ver 14 years: 400 mcg
  • during pregnancy: 600 mcg
  • during lactation: 500 mcg

Recommended increases in folate intake during pregnancy and breastfeeding to support accelerated growth and aid in preventing fetal neural tube defects.

The most common causes of folate deficiency include poor diets, obesity and difficulty absorbing foods containing folate or folate itself.

Additionally, the body requires that folic acid be converted to its active form, methylfolate. Genetics can sometimes interfere with this conversion which can lead to a deficiency in folate.

Taking a supplement in the active or reduced form of L-methylfolate (5-MTHF) may help ensure that folate is received in the most useful manner by the body. Speak to your doctor about individual needs and if a certain supplement is needed.

Folic acid supplements play an important role in ensuring that vulnerable individuals and those in greater need of folate receive enough. It is also important to increase the consumption of folate-rich foods, as these foods usually often provide plenty of other nutrients that all work together to promote good health.

In addition to the folate present in a varied diet, it is recommended that someone who might become pregnant get 400 micrograms ( mcg) per day of folic acid from dietary supplements.


Decreased risk of congenital deformities

Consuming enough folic acid during pregnancy is important to help protect the fetus from miscarriages and neural tube defects.

Recent work has also shown that the folate status of a father may be equally significant before conception.

In a McGill University study, paternal folate deficiency in mice was associated with an increase of 30 percent in different congenital deformities than in offspring with no paternal folate deficiencies.

Lower risk of depression

Folate depression
Folate can help reduce the risk of depression.

Low folate status has been associated with increased risk of depression and inadequate response to treatment with antidepressant.

Folate deficiency in people with epilepsy has been related to depression, and one study indicated that nutritional supplementation may help relieve low mood.

Supplementation with folic acid has not been suggested as a remedy for depression in itself, but it may be helpful in improving the response to antidepressants such as fluoxetine, especially in women.

Maintaining a healthy heart

Supplements of folic acid have been shown to have lower homocysteine levels.

Because elevated homocysteine levels are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, some researchers have indicated that folic acid and B12 can minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The intake of B vitamins like folate can be associated with a lower risk of stroke.

Folate and cancer

Low rates of folate intake are correlated with increased breast cancer risk in women and several epidemiological studies have indicated an inverse association between folate status and risk of colorectal, lung, pancreatic, oesophageal, stomach, cervical, ovarian and other cancers7,8.

For example , one study suggested folate may have protective effects against oesophageal cancer.

Other studies have, however, found no correlation between folate and cancer.

Some studies also indicate that high folate status that encourage cancer progression that is already present, such as a study in rats that showed how tumor growth can be triggered by supplementation.

High intake of folate is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer when taken long before the diagnosis is made.

However, it should be noted that taking folic acid supplements in this study did not appear to decrease the risk of colorectal cancer once precancerous lesions develop.

Foods high in folate

Lentils contain large amounts of folate.
Lentils contain large amounts of folate.

The body’s ability to absorb, use and maintain folate varies, and is difficult to measure, among foods.

There are 150 different types of folate, and losses can occur between 50 and 90 percent during cooking, processing, or processing. Green vegetables, legumes, and liver are among the best sources of folate.

One cup of some of folate ‘s best natural food sources includes the following amounts:

  • Asparagus: 268 mcg
  • Beef liver: 290 mcg
  • Lentils: 920 mcg
  • Beans: 784 mcg
  • Spinach: 58 mcg
  • Lettuce: 14 mcg
  • Avocado: 118 mcg
  • Egg yolk: 355 mcg
  • Banana: 45 mcg
  • Mushrooms: 16 mcg
  • Broccoli: 28 mcg

In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration of the United States (FDA) and the Canadian government started to allow manufacturers to add folic acid to some foods, including enriched bread, cereals, flours, cornmeal, pasta , rice, and other grain.

The standard US diet includes a large amount of these foods, making fortified items an important contributor to the total intake of folic acid. Other countries needing fortification with folic acid for some foods include Costa Rica, Chile and South Africa.


High ingestion levels of intravenous folic acid can cause seizures, and high doses of supplementary folic acid have been associated with an increased risk of some cancers progression.

However, dietary folate levels weren’t associated with any adverse effects.

An intake of folate above 1000 mcg can mask a deficiency of vitamin B12 for adults or 800 mcg for those aged 18 years or under. Lack of vitamin B12 can cause permanent damage to the nerve and paralysis.

Folate is beneficial only as part of a large, varied, and nutritious diet.

About the author

Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka MartinsĀ is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.