How can I get enough folate or folic acid each day?

Most people can get enough folate by eating a variety of foods because a healthy diet contains plenty of the nutrient. But some people need to supplement with folic acid, the synthetic form of the vitamin. This is particularly important for women before and during pregnancy. They need folic acid to help prevent the birth defects spina bifida and anencephaly.

Multivitamins usually contain 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid, the minimum needed for health. Prenatal vitamins often contain more, since pregnant women need up to 800 mcg daily. Folic acid is also available in stand-alone supplements. Talk to your doctor about how much you need.
Coleen  Boyle, PhD, MS
Public Health & General Preventive Medicine
There are two easy ways for women to be sure to get enough folic acid each day:

Take a vitamin that has folic acid in it every day.
  • Most multivitamins sold in the United States have the amount of folic acid women need each day. Women can also choose to take a small pill (supplement) that has only folic acid in it each day.
  • Multivitamins and folic acid pills can be found at most local pharmacy, grocery, or discount stores. Check the label to be sure it contains 100% of the daily value (DV) of folic acid, which is 400 micrograms (mcg).
Eat a bowl of breakfast cereal that has 100% of the daily value of folic acid every day.
  • Not every cereal has this amount. Check the label on the side of the box, and look for one that has “100%” next to folic acid.
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The easiest way is to take a vitamin pill. Most U.S. multivitamins have 400 micrograms (mcg) folic acid. Check the label on the bottle to be sure. Or you can take a pill that only contains folic acid.

Not all vitamin bottles have the amounts of vitamins that their labels say they do. And they may contain harmful chemicals. When choosing a brand of vitamins, look for a mark that says USP or NSF. These "seals of approval" mean that the pills are safe and have the amounts of vitamins stated on the label.
  • Vitamin Label
  • Check the Supplement Facts label to be sure you are getting 400 mcg folic acid.
  • You can also eat foods that are high in folate, such as:
  • Beans and lentils Peas (black-eyed peas, chickpeas, green peas) Juices (orange, tomato, grapefruit, pineapple) Fruits (oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, avocado, papaya, raspberries) Soymilk Vegetables (green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, and Chinese cabbage; broccoli; Brussels sprouts; asparagus; artichokes; okra; corn; cauliflower; potato; beets; green onions; sweet red peppers) Nuts Sunflower seeds Peanuts and peanut butter Liver Giblets
  • You can also eat foods that have had folic acid added to them, such as:
  • Breakfast cereals (Some have 100% of the Daily Value of folic acid in each serving) Breads Flours Pastas Corn meals White rice
  • Food Label
  • Check the label on the package to see if the food has folic acid. The label will tell you how much folic acid is in each serving. Sometimes, the label will say folate instead of folic acid.
This answer is based on source information from National Women's Health Information Center.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.