Ohio State University Extension Fact sheet

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Human Nutrition1787 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210

1787 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210

Folate (Folacin, Folic Acid)


This fact sheet is one in a series containing information to help you select foods that provide adequate daily amounts of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Following these guidelines will put your diet in accordance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which focus on nine general topics:

What is “a good food source”?

A good food source of folate contains a substantial amount of folate in relation to its calorie content and contributes at least 10 percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for folate in a selected serving size. The U.S. RDA for folate is 400 micrograms per day. The U.S. RDA given is for adults (except pregnant or lactating women) and children over 4 years of age.

The U.S. RDA for folate is the amount of the vitamin used as a standard in nutrition labeling of foods. This allowance is based on the 1968 RDA for 24 sex and age categories set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences. The 1989 RDA for folate has been set at 180 micrograms per day for women 19 to 50 years of age and 200 micrograms for men 19 to 50 years of age.

Where do we get folate?

More than one-third of the folate in the American diet is provided by fruits and vegetables. Grain products contribute a little more than one-fifth and legumes, nuts, and seeds contributed a little less than one-fifth. Foods that contain small amounts of folate but are not considered good sources can contribute significant amounts of folate to an individual’s diet if these foods are eaten often or in large amounts.

Why do we need folate?

Folate, a water-soluble vitamin, helps the body form red blood cells and aids in the formation of genetic material within every body cell.

Functions of Folate

Do we get enough folate?

According to recent surveys of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average intake of folate by nonpregnant women and men 19 to 50 years of age met their RDA for folate.

Where can I find folate in the food guidance system?


Meat and Beans

Vegetables—Excellent Source!


Milk, Yogurt, Cheese, Fats, Oils, and Sweets are poor sources of folate!

How can we get enough folate?

Eating a variety of foods that contain folate is the best way to get an adequate amount. Healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet rarely need supplements. The list of foods in the table of this fact sheet will help you select those foods that are good sources of folate as you follow the Dietary Guidelines. The list of good sources was derived from the same nutritive value of foods table used to analyze information for recent food consumption surveys of the USDA.

Some Good Sources of Folate
Food Serving Size Amount (Micrograms) % Daily Value*
Chicken liver 3.5 oz 770 193
Breakfast cereals 1/2 to 1 1/2 cup 100 to 400 25 to 100
Braised beef liver 3.5 oz 217 54
Lentils, cooked 1/2 cup 180 45
Chickpeas 1/2 cup 141 35
Asparagus 1/2 cup 132 33
Spinach, cooked 1/2 cup 131 33
Black beans 1/2 cup 128 32
Burrito with beans 2 118 30
Kidney beans 1/2 cup 115 29
Baked beans with pork 1 cup 9 223
Lima beans 1/2 cup 78 20
Tomato juice 1 cup 48 12
Brussels sprouts 1/2 cup 47 12
Orange 1 medium 47 12
Broccoli, cooked 1/2 cup 39 10
Fast-food French fries large order 38 10
Wheat germ 2 tbsp 38 10
Fortified white bread 1 slice 38 10
* based on Daily Value for folate of 400 micrograms
(Source: Food Values of Portions Commonly Used, 16th edition)

How to Prepare Foods to Retain Folate

Folate can be lost from foods during preparation, cooking, or storage. To retain folate:

What about fortified foods?

Most ready-to-eat cereals are fortified with folate. Fortified ready-to-eat cereals usually contain at least 25 percent of the U.S. RDA for folate. Because cereals vary, check the label on the package for the percentage of the U.S. RDA for a specific cereal. Since January 1, 1998, flour has also been fortified with folate.

What is a serving?

The serving sizes used on the list of good sources are only estimates of the amounts of food you might eat. The amount of a nutrient in a serving depends on the weight of the serving. For example, 1/2 cup of a cooked vegetable contains more folate than 1/2 cup of the same vegetable served raw, because a serving of the cooked vegetable weighs more. Therefore, the cooked vegetable may appear on the list, while the raw form does not. The raw vegetable provides the nutrient, just not enough in a 1/2-cup serving to be considered a good source.


Browne, M. B. 1993. Label Facts for Healthful Eating. Mazer Corporation, Dayton, OH.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 2003. Folic Acid Cereal List.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005. United States Department of Health and Human Services, United States Department of Agriculture. www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, Life Sciences Research Office. Prepared for the Interagency Board for Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research. 1995. Third Report on Nutrition Monitoring in the United States: Volumes 1 and 2. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.

Subcommittee on the 10th Edition of the RDAs, Food and Nutrition Board, Commission on Life Sciences, National Research Council. 1987. Recommended Dietary Allowances, 10th ed. Academy Press, Washington, DC.

Wardlaw, Gordon M., Ph.D, R.D., L.D., C.N.S.D. Contemporary Nutrition: Issues and Insights, 4th Edition. Division of Medical Dietetics, School of Allied Medical Professions, The Ohio State University.

Updated and revised November 2004 by Marla Murphy, Dietetic Intern, Department of Human Nutrition, College of Human Ecology

Click here for PDF version of this Fact Sheet.

OSU Extension embraces human diversity and is committed to ensuring that all educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, age, gender identity or expression, disability, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or veteran status.

Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Agricultural Administration and Director, OSU Extension TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-6181

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