Folate is part of the B vitamin family and found naturally in foods, while folic acid is the synthetic form of folate used in supplements and fortified foods
Foods high in folate include beans, peas, and lentils
Other natural sources of folate include leafy green vegetables, seeds, and citrus fruits
Foods that contain folic acid include fortified cereals, breads, and rice
Folate earned its nickname as “the pregnancy vitamin” because it plays a critical role in the proper development of the baby’s nervous system.1, † That’s why it’s especially important for women of childbearing age, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, to take a daily dose of 400 mcg of folic acid (on top of eating a healthy diet full of folate-rich foods) to help reduce the risk of major birth defects of the developing baby’s spine and brain.2
Vitamin B9 sources include both folate-rich foods, folic-acid rich foods, and folic acid in dietary supplements. What’s the difference? It helps to understand how folate differs from folic acid. While folate is naturally found in the food we eat, folic acid is the synthetic form used in dietary supplements and fortified foods. Also, it’s harder for the body to digest, absorb, and metabolize folate. In contrast, folic acid is easier to digest, absorb, and metabolize in the body, which is why it’s used to fortify foods.4
As an essential water-soluble vitamin, folate dissolves in water and then gets delivered to the body’s tissues. However, the body doesn’t store folate very well, and any excess leaves the body through the urine.5 Because of this, folate must be consumed every day through your diet or dietary supplements to replenish the body’s needed supply.
By now, you may want to give your diet a refresh to ensure it contains plenty of folate-rich foods. But what are the best sources of folate? Read on!
Wondering what specific foods are high in folate? Your best bet are legumes—especially certain beans, peas, and lentils. Take a look at this top 10 list of foods with the highest amounts of folate in a one-cup serving: 6
Mung beans: 1294 mcg
Adzuki beans: 1225 mcg
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas): 1194 mcg
Black-eye peas: 1057 mcg
Pinto beans: 1013 mcg
Pink beans: 972 mcg
Pigeon peas: 935 mcg
Lentils: 920 mcg
Great northern beans: 882 mcg
Black beans: 861 mcg
But what if you don’t like beans or peas? No worries—you’ve got plenty of other options!
Other Vitamin B9 Foods
The folate-rich foods list below includes a variety of smart choices to add into your diet, including fruits (especially oranges) and their juices, vegetables (like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and dark leafy greens), seeds, and nuts.1
This helpful chart shows both foods that are natural sources of folate as well as fortified foods high in folic acid. Plus, it shows how much of this nutrient is in each food to help you make healthy eating choices.6,7,8
Folate Food Source
How Much Folate? (mcg)
White rice (long-grain, enriched)
Cereal (Kellogg’s All Bran Complete, wheatflakes)
Cereal (General Mills Total, whole grain)
Chicken (broilers or fryers, giblets, cooked, fried)
Edamame (frozen, prepared)
Turkey (liver, all classes, cooked, simmered)
Peanuts (valencia, raw)
Lamb (variety meats and by-products, liver, cooked, pan-fried)
Sunflower seed kernels
Beef (variety meats and by-products, liver, raw)
Orange juice (frozen concentrate, unsweetened, undiluted)
White pasta (spaghetti, enriched, cooked)
Okra (frozen, unprepared)
10 oz. package
Potatoes (Russet, unpeeled)
Chinese cabbage (bok choy)
10 oz. package
White pita bread
Whole wheat pasta
The Bottom Line
Men, women, and children all need vitamin B9, whether that’s in its naturally occuring form (folate) or synthetic form (folic acid). The best source of folate is legumes, particularly certain kinds of beans, peas, and lentils. However, other good sources of folate include vegetables (like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and dark leafy greens), fruits (especially oranges), nuts, and seeds. Sources of folic acid include both supplements, like Nature Made’s Folic Acid (B9) supplement, as well as fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, breads, and rice.
Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Human Vitamin and Mineral Requirements, Chapter 4: Folate and folic acid.” 2001. Accessed on: August 13, 2021. http://www.fao.org/3/y2809e/y2809e.pdf
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