What Are Folate and Folic Acid?

Foods rich in folate

This week is National Folic Acid Awareness week, so now is a good time to talk about why folic acid and folate are important to your health.

The terms folate and folic acid both refer to a B vitamin used by the body in making new cells.1 This vitamin is called folate when it comes from the food we eat. Folic acid is the man-made form of folate found in vitamin supplements and fortified foods.1

Food high in folate or folic acid include dark, leafy greens such as spinach, legumes such as kidney beans and peanuts, orange juice, and cereals and grains to which folic acid has been added. 2

While all adults and children need folate in their diets, experts encourage women who may have child to consume at least 400 micrograms of folate per day.3 This is because birth defects of the brain and spine (called neural tube defects) have been shown to be less common among children whose mothers consumed enough folate during pregnancy.1


  1. Caroline Dunn and Gail Kauwell, Women’s Nutition: Folate/Folic Acid, FSHN-15-03, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2015, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fs265
  2. Linda B. Bobroff, Healthy Eating: Folate, FCS8560, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2012, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy066
  3. “Folate,” National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements, 2013, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-Consumer/

Photo credits: UF/IFAS

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sgrenrock

sgrenrock

Web Writer at IFAS Communications

Sam is originally from California and has her BA in linguistics and MFA in poetry. She loves art, animals, culture, and learning about science.

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