Folic acid is a synthetic form of the B9 vitamin or folate. It’s a common ingredient in prenatal vitamins, as it promotes healthy bone and spine development in fetuses. Some studies find folate slows cognitive decline and can even help prevent certain types of cancer. If you prefer to boost your folate levels naturally, foods high in folic acid or folate can help. Folate is a fat-soluble vitamin, so to get the maximum absorption of B9 during digestion make sure to pair these foods with healthy dietary fat.
Garbanzo beans, or chickpeas, are a type of legume. These beans are a valuable source of protein, complex carbohydrates, and all-important folate. Chickpeas may be purchased dried or canned. When using dried beans, be sure to thoroughly soak and rinse them before cooking. You may choose to eat chickpeas warm, cold, or tossed with a bit of feta cheese. Chickpeas are also the primary ingredient in hummus, a satisfying vegetable dip that is growing in popularity. A one-cup serving of chickpeas has 282 mcg of folate — over 70 percent of your recommended daily value.
Beef liver is an excellent source of folate. This lean protein is also one of the best dietary sources of iron. You may choose to eat beef liver in a stir-fry with other folate-rich vegetables. If you are pregnant or nursing, this combination can help you reach your recommended daily values without supplements. One 3-ounce serving of beef liver contains about 55 percent of your daily folate needs. If you don’t enjoy the strong flavor of beef liver, the smaller chicken liver, ounce per ounce, rivals beef in both folate and iron. Many people enjoy fried chicken livers on a salad or with a spicy sauce.
These leafy green vegetables are related to cabbage and can be sweet and crunchy when prepared properly. Remember that folate is fat-soluble, so adding butter or bacon to your Brussels sprouts can help you absorb more of this vitamin. Brussels sprouts have 20 percent of your daily folate allowance per half-cup serving. If you have a mandolin slicer, you can slice your sprouts thinly, and toss them raw into a salad with other leafy greens for a superfood powerhouse blend.
Lentils are part of the legume family. They’re an excellent source of plant protein and complex carbohydrates and can help you create filling meals. Lentils contain about 90 percent of your daily folate requirement per one-cup serving. They are mild in flavor and can be cooked in many ways. Lentil soups are popular as a warm comfort dish, but you may choose to eat warm lentils tossed with different dried fruits such as raisins.
Spinach is a dark leafy green packed with vitamins and minerals and minimal calories. Eating it raw makes for a sweet and crunchy salad base. If you don’t like the taste of raw, sauté it with a bit of garlic for a healthy side dish. Raw spinach contains about 14 percent of your daily folate needs per one-cup serving, while a cup of cooked spinach meets two-thirds of your requirement.
Asparagus is very rich in vitamin K. This starchy green vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse, rich in fiber and essential vitamins. Asparagus tastes better when cooked, as the stalks soften with heat. Try your asparagus on the grill for an interesting flavor, or sauté the tips with your favorite stir-fry or vegetable side dish. Asparagus provides about one-third of your folate needs in a half-cup serving.
Avocado contains healthy dietary fats and is delicious on a salad, mashed into a guacamole dip, spread on toast, or even on its own. This Mexican-grown fruit is also a good source of folate, with a half-cup serving containing about 15 percent of your daily recommended value. Best of all, avocado is a naturally fatty food, so you’ll have the necessary dietary fat your gut needs to fully absorb the folate from the avocado.
These sweet, earthy veggies contain a good amount of folate, with one average beet providing one-quarter of your dietary requirement. Beets come in yellow and red varieties — yellow beets have a higher amount of beta-carotene, while red beets have higher amounts of vitamin C. Both types of beets have B vitamins, iron, manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium. Enjoy beets pickled, as a sandwich accompaniment, or roasted in the oven for a healthy and filling side dish.
It might seem odd to see pasta listed as one of the top dietary sources of folic acid, but in fact, folic acid can be found in relatively high amounts in enriched grain-based foods. Enriched spaghetti contains folic acid – the synthetic form of folate. A one-cup serving of enriched pasta contains about one-third of your recommended daily allowance. Toss with some crispy chicken livers or spinach to deliciously boost your folate intake even higher.
Like Brussels sprouts, broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable. This green veggie is tasty if eaten raw, but it can also be roasted, steamed, or sautéed. Most people prefer the taste of cooked broccoli over raw, but either option is a delicious way to get 14 percent or more of your daily folate needs in a one-cup serving. If you choose to eat your broccoli raw, make sure you thoroughly wash it, as the little flowers on the top can hide bacteria.
Great Northern Beans
Most legumes contain folic acid, and beans are an especially rich source. The great northern bean has a delicate flavor and is popular in casseroles and similar dishes. Unfortunately, soaking and cooking leeches folic acid from dried beans. Quick-soaking methods, such as boiling dried beans before soaking them, are especially damaging to folic acid. Ideal cooking times vary between bean types. Soak great northern beans slowly and cook them for 45 to 60 minutes to preserve folic acid.
Folic acid is very important for pregnant women and prenatal development. The U.S. and Canada made folic acid fortification of grains and cereals mandatory in 1998. Some types of corn flour and tortillas are also fortified with folic acid. Many countries adopted similar policies, and the incidence of neural tube defects has dropped by 25% to 50% in most nations with mandated folic acid fortification.
Cantaloupe and Oranges
Fruits are excellent sources of nutrients. Although a cup of cantaloupe contains only 53 calories, it provides 106% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A and 95% of recommended vitamin C. Cantaloupe is also a good source of folic acid and potassium. Oranges are known for vitamin C, but they provide folic acid, beta carotene, and many more vitamins as well. Peel an orange or cut cantaloupe into sections for a fast, easy snack. You can also make a delicious fruit salad or have a cup of 100% orange juice, although it’s easier on your blood sugar to eat a whole orange rather than drinking juice
Seeds and Nuts
Nuts are very nutrient-dense foods. Tree nuts include almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, macadamias, walnuts, and pistachios. Peanuts are actually legumes, but they’re commonly referred to as nuts and have a similar nutrient profile. Legumes and tree nuts are good sources of folic acid, vitamins E and K, thiamine, potassium, magnesium, copper, iron, and selenium. Edible seeds, such as chia, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, and Nigella seeds, also contain folic acid and other nutrients. Add nuts and seeds to salads, bread, desserts, and savory dishes. Replace salty, high-calorie snacks with roasted seeds. The fiber, protein, and fatty acids in nuts and seeds help you feel full, which reduces snacking on less healthy foods.
Global food distribution has let tropical fruits enter the everyday diets of people across the United States. Papayas, mangos, guavas, and jack fruit are rich sources of folic acid. Sweet granadilla, tamarind, passion fruit, and cherimoya contain the nutrient in lower concentrations. These fruits are also excellent sources of antioxidants, vitamin C, and more. Incorporating tropical fruits into your diet increases vitamin intake and adds vibrant colors and a variety of rich, sweet flavors to smoothies, juices, salads, and kabobs.