The Best Folate-Rich Foods (In 8 Categories)

Written by Angie Arriesgado
featured image for blog post on folate-rich foods

Folate is quite abundant in nature. It’s present in many different types of foods – from fruits and veggies to eggs and seafood. By simply sticking to a diet rich in unprocessed whole foods, you’ll most likely get enough folate for the day! Get ready to load up on these folate-rich food items on your next trip to the supermarket.

Why eat folate-rich foods?

Folate is the form of Vitamin B9 naturally found in food. Other forms of B9 are (1):

  • Folic acid – this is the synthetic form
  • 5-MTHF – this is the bioactive form that both folate and folic acid get converted to in the body

Folate is required for essential body functions, such as (2):

  • Energy production and fatigue reduction
  • Immune system function
  • Cell division and blood formation
  • Amino acid synthesis and homocysteine metabolism
  • Production of important neurotransmitters

For women, eating foods rich in folate for pregnancy is an absolute must because this vitamin is essential for prenatal health. Increasing folate intake at least 3 months before pregnancy is recommended to help prevent neural tube defects in babies (3).

The Best Folate-Rich Foods To Add To Your Diet

We will be focusing only on foods naturally rich in folate, so you will not see any folic acid-enriched foods below. Take a look at the best foods you can consume if you’re looking to enrich your diet with folate:

infographic on the 50 best folate-rich foods to add to your diet

Liver

Organ meat may not be to everyone’s liking, but if you want the best bang for your buck in terms of folate content, then liver is a must-eat. Liver is one of the healthiest foods on the planet.   

Pro tip: To make liver more palatable, soak it in a bowl of milk for about half an hour. This removes the bitter flavor and brings out its more pleasant taste.  

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds may have a higher fat and calorie content than other foods we listed. But contrary to popular belief, it’s not a bad thing at all! These tiny morsels contain the good types of fat, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health (5).  

Beans

Beans are well-known for their fiber and protein content, especially in vegan and vegetarian communities. Beans are also naturally gluten-free, making them an excellent option for those with celiac disease (6). Moreover, they’re economical as refrigeration isn’t necessary. They can last in the pantry for months!

While beans are excellent sources of folate, fiber, and other beneficial plant compounds, eating too much can give you gas, bloating, and stomach pain. Soaking the beans for several hours may help reduce the gassy side effects (7).

Leafy and cruciferous vegetables

A basic requirement for a healthy, well-rounded diet, leafy and cruciferous vegetables are rich in many nutrients, including folate. They’re also low in calories, so you can eat more than one serving and not worry about gaining extra weight.

A daily serving of leafy greens can help slow down cognitive decline associated with ageing (8). For best results, however, try to eat different kinds of these folate-rich vegetables. Doing so may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (9, 10).

Root vegetables

As the name suggests, this type of vegetable grows underground. They’re rich in nutrients too, but the downside is that they’re also relatively high in starch (11). Anyone doing low carb or keto may need to minimize consumption or avoid this veggie group altogether.

Fruits

Fruits are delicious and nutritious, and often make the perfect snack or dessert. They’re low in calories plus they’re packed full of antioxidants, such as Vitamin C. This is important because the body doesn’t produce Vitamin C; we must get it from our diet (12).

Seafood

Seafood is a great source of protein and polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Other bioactive components found in seafood are amino acids, phospholipids, and of course, vitamins and minerals (13).

Eggs

Eggs are a natural source of many nutrients, proteins, and healthy fats. Egg yolks, in particular, contain most of the nutrients compared to egg whites.

What’s the best way to cook folate-rich foods?

Unfortunately, folate is easily destroyed with improper handling and cooking techniques. For instance, steaming spinach and broccoli is fine, but boiling can eliminate approximately half the folate content! That said, there is no single best way to cook folate-rich foods. Far too many factors influence folate retention (and loss) in various foods (14).

Are you getting enough folate via food intake?

As you’ve learned in this blog post, there are many food sources of folate. But since it’s also easily destroyed, the total amount of folate that makes it to your gut and liver is drastically reduced. Moreover, only half of the folate intake from food is absorbed in the body (15).

To increase your folate intake, you may eat more folic acid-enriched foods or take folic acid supplements. Folic acid is more stable than folate and is better absorbed, too. Sounds great, right? But there’s the thing – if you don’t track your folic acid intake, it can lead to a buildup of unmetabolized folic acid in the blood (16).

Therefore, for best results, we recommend you take 5-MTHF, the bioactive form of Vitamin B9. This is the main form found in blood and cord serum; it does not need any conversions like natural folate and folic acid (17).

Do check out our Intelligent Labs 5-MTHF activated folic acid supplements, which come in 2 different doses – 1mg and 5mg. We offer an iron-clad money-back guarantee, so try out the product and see how you like it!

References

(1) “Office of Dietary Supplements – Folate.” Office of Dietary Supplements (NIH), ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional. Accessed 28 Mar. 2022.

(2) Sante, D. “EU Register of Nutrition and Health Claims Made on Foods (v.3.6).” European Commission, ec.europa.eu/food/safety/labelling_nutrition/claims/register/public/?event=search. Accessed 6 June 2022.

(3) Ferrazzi, Enrico et al. “Folic acid versus 5- methyl tetrahydrofolate supplementation in pregnancy.” European journal of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology vol. 253 (2020): 312-319. doi:10.1016/j.ejogrb.2020.06.012

(4) “FoodData Central.” USDA, fdc.nal.usda.gov. Accessed 6 June 2022.

(5) Ros, Emilio. “Health benefits of nut consumption.” Nutrients vol. 2,7 (2010): 652-82. doi:10.3390/nu2070652

(6) “All About Beans Nutrition, Health Benefits, Preparation and Use in Menus — Publications.” North Dakota State University, www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/food-nutrition/all-about-beans-nutrition-health-benefits-preparation-and-use-in-menus. Accessed 6 June 2022.

(7) Njoumi, Sondos et al. “Soaking and cooking modify the alpha-galacto-oligosaccharide and dietary fibre content in five Mediterranean legumes.” International journal of food sciences and nutrition vol. 70,5 (2019): 551-561. doi:10.1080/09637486.2018.1544229

(8) Morris, Martha Clare et al. “Nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline: Prospective study.” Neurology vol. 90,3 (2018): e214-e222. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000004815

(9) Pollock, Richard Lee. “The effect of green leafy and cruciferous vegetable intake on the incidence of cardiovascular disease: A meta-analysis.” JRSM cardiovascular disease vol. 5 2048004016661435. 1 Aug. 2016, doi:10.1177/2048004016661435

(10) Conrad, Zach, et al. “Greater Vegetable Variety and Amount Are Associated with Lower Prevalence of Coronary Heart Disease: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2014.” Nutrition Journal, vol. 17, no. 1, 2018. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-018-0376-4.

(11) Harvard Health. “The Pros and Cons of Root Vegetables.” Harvard Health, 15 Feb. 2021, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-pros-and-cons-of-root-vegetables.

(12) Jideani, Afam I. O., et al. “Antioxidant-Rich Natural Fruit and Vegetable Products and Human Health.” International Journal of Food Properties, vol. 24, no. 1, 2021, pp. 41–67. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1080/10942912.2020.1866597.

(13) Hosomi, Ryota et al. “Seafood consumption and components for health.” Global journal of health science vol. 4,3 72-86. 28 Apr. 2012, doi:10.5539/gjhs.v4n3p72

(14) McKillop, Derek J et al. “The effect of different cooking methods on folate retention in various foods that are amongst the major contributors to folate intake in the UK diet.” The British journal of nutrition vol. 88,6 (2002): 681-8. doi:10.1079/BJN2002733

(15) Obeid, Rima, and Wolfgang Herrmann. “The emerging role of unmetabolized folic acid in human diseases: myth or reality?.” Current drug metabolism vol. 13,8 (2012): 1184-95. doi:10.2174/138920012802850137

(16) Tam, Carolyn et al. “Circulating unmetabolized folic Acid: relationship to folate status and effect of supplementation.” Obstetrics and gynecology international vol. 2012 (2012): 485179. doi:10.1155/2012/485179

(17) Scaglione, Francesco, and Giscardo Panzavolta. “Folate, folic acid and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate are not the same thing.” Xenobiotica; the fate of foreign compounds in biological systems vol. 44,5 (2014): 480-8. doi:10.3109/00498254.2013.845705