Folate is an essential water-soluble B vitamin that is required for synthesis of building blocks for proteins, DNA, and RNA. This makes folate necessary for development of all cells and tissues in the body—which is particularly important during pregnancy.
Since it is a water-soluble vitamin, folate cannot be stored in the body and must be consumed daily. Folic acid, the form of the vitamin used in supplements and fortified foods, is more readily absorbed than folate, the form of the vitamin found naturally in foods.
How much do I need?
- 400 micrograms per day for adults 14 or older
- 600 micrograms per day for pregnant women
- 500 micrograms per day for lactating women
For recommendations for infants, children, and teens, check out the chart in CSU Extension’s fact sheet: Water-Soluble Vitamins: B-Complex and Vitamin C
Folate can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, liver, meats, fish, whole grains, legumes, and citrus fruits. Folic acid is found in grains and cereals that have been fortified with it. Check the nutrition label to see if folic acid has been added.
What happens if I don’t get enough?
An inadequate amount of folate can impair growth by inhibiting cell growth and protein production. Signs of folate deficiency include diarrhea and anemia. For women who are pregnant or of child-bearing age, low amounts of folate can cause neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida in newborns.
Can I get too much?
There are no known benefits for consuming more than the recommended amount of folate. Too much folate can interfere with some medications and may hide an existing vitamin B12 deficiency.
Did You Know?
Most Americans get enough folate, but the following groups are more likely to have a folate deficiency:
- Women ages 14-30, especially before or during pregnancy
- Non-Hispanic black women
- People with alcoholism
- People with conditions that can decrease nutrient absorption
- Celiac Disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Talk to your doctor if you are concerned you may be at risk for having a folate deficiency.