What is the difference between folate and folic acid?

Folate is the vitamin found naturally in food. Folic acid is the form of the vitamin that is added to foods such as cereal and flour. Folic acid is absorbed better by the body than folate.

What does Folate/Folic Acid do?

This vitamin is used by the body to build new cells. When a woman is pregnant, extra is needed to prevent birth defects such as neural tube defects, heart defects and cleft lip and/or palate.

Through careful planning every day, the daily recommended dosage of folic acids can be met through foods. To be certain that one gets enough folic acid daily, the Arkansas Folic Acid Coalition recommends that women of child-bearing age take a vitamin containing 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily.

Usual sources in the diet are grains, green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli), fruits (bananas), meats (liver) and legumes (lentils and kidney beans).  However, it can be hard to get the full daily amount of folic acid (400 mcg) needed in pregnancy from food. It would take 8 glasses of orange juice, 10 servings of broccoli or spinach and 3 bananas. Cereals enriched with folate can help.

Foods Rich in Folic Acid

· Grains (fortified breakfast cereals, oatmeal, grits, fortified bread products, rice, fortified noodles)

· Leafy greens (spinach, collard greens, mustard greens)

· Beans & Peas (black-eyed peas, pinto beans, baked beans, green beans, lima beans, black beans)

· Fruits & Juices (orange juice, pineapple juice, strawberries, bananas, cantaloupe, kiwi)

Folate in foods can be easily destroyed during preparation, cooking, and storage. Vegetables are best eaten raw or lightly steamed and should be stored in the refrigerator.

Tips for Getting Enough Folate/Folic Acid

  • Take a multivitamin with minerals or folic acid supplement every day.
  • Plan two or more meals per week with beans as the main protein.
  • Eat a dark green vegetable on most days.
  • Include one food from the grains group at each meal.
  • Choose folate-rich foods for snacks.
  • Instead of a soft drink, choose orange juice.

Good sources of folates include (mcg/typical serving):

Fruits & Juices

Orange juice (109)
Pineapple juice (45)
Cantaloupe (34)
Grapefruit (30)
Strawberries (25)
Bananas (24)
Kiwi (40)


Spinach (263)
Broccoli (96)
Turnip greens (170)
Brussel sprouts (100)
Asparagus (262)
Corn (76)
Cabbage (80)
Beets (136)
Romaine and other leaf Lettuce (76)
Cauliflower (55)
Peas (101)

Cereals & Grains

Fortified breads and cereals (100-400 mcg)
Bran muffins (157)
Flour tortillas (98)

Beans and Legume

Black-eyed peas (105)
Pinto beans (294)
Baked beans (121)
Green beans (42)
Black Beans (256)
Lima beans (156)
Lentils (358)
Chick peas (Garbanzo beans) (282)
Navy beans (254)
Kidney beans (229)