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- Helping amino acid metabolism and conversion
- Producing and maintaining new cells
- Making DNA and RNA, the building blocks of cells
- Preventing changes to DNA that may lead to cancer
- Making red blood cells, preventing anemia
- Assisting in the creation of neurotransmitters (chemicals that regulate sleep, pain, and mood)
|Age Group (in Years)||Recommended Dietary Allowance|
|1 - 3||150 mcg||150 mcg|
|4 - 8||200 mcg||200 mcg|
|9 - 13||300 mcg||300 mcg|
|14 - 18||400 mcg||400 mcg|
|Pregnancy, 14 - 18||600 mcg||n/a|
|Lactation, 14 - 18||500 mcg||n/a|
|19+||400 mcg||400 mcg|
|Pregnancy, 19+||600 mcg||n/a|
|Lactation, 19+||500 mcg||n/a|
- Increased need, as with pregnancy, without increased intake
- Low levels of folate containing foods in diet
- Abnormally high levels of folate passing out of the body
Medication that interferes with the body's ability to use folate such as:
- Anti-convulsant mediations
Populations at Risk of Folate Deficiency
- Pregnant women—Folate is critical for the production and maintenance of new cells. This is especially important during pregnancy—a period of rapid cell division.
- People who consume excessive amounts of alcohol—Alcohol interferes with the absorption of folate and increases excretion by the kidneys. In addition, many alcoholics tend to have diets low in essential nutrients, like folate.
- People on certain medications—Certain medications can interfere with the body's ability to use folate. Check with your doctor about supplementation if you are on medication that may affect your folate levels.
- People with inflammatory bowel diseases—Malabsorption of folate can occur with inflammatory bowel diseases.
- The elderly—Many elderly have low blood levels of folate, which can occur from low intake of the vitamin or problems with absorption.
Health Implications of Deficiency
- Megaloblastic anemia (abnormally large red blood cells)
- Irritability, hostility
- Weight loss
- Apathy, forgetfulness
- Anorexia, loss of appetite
- Sore tongue, glossitis (inflammation of tongue)
- Heart palpitations
- Paranoid behavior
Major Food Sources
|Chicken liver, simmered||3.5 ounces||770|
|Fortified breakfast cereal||3/4 cup||
(check Nutrition Facts label)
|Soy flour||1 cup||260|
|Beef liver, braised||3 ounces||215|
|Chickpeas, cooked||1 cup||282|
|Pinto beans, cooked||1 cup||291|
|Spinach, boiled||1 cup||263|
|Lima beans, cooked||1 cup||156|
|Wheat germ, toasted||1/4 cup||100|
|Asparagus, boiled||1 cup||243|
|Orange juice, fresh||8 fluid ounces||74|
|Spinach, raw||1 cup||58|
|Whole wheat flour||1 cup||53|
|Green peas, boiled||1/2 cup||50|
|White rice, long-grain||1/2 cup||45|
|Orange, navel||1 medium||44|
|Peanuts, dry roasted||1 ounce||41|
|Wheat flour, whole grain||1 cup||53|
|Broccoli, boiled||1 spear||40|
|Tomatoes, sun-dried||1 cup||32|
|Tomato juice, canned||1 cup||49|
|Peanut butter, crunchy||2 tablespoons||30|
|Cashews, dry roasted||1 ounce||20|
|Bread, whole wheat||1 slice||14|
Tips for Increasing Your Folate Intake:
- Spread a little avocado on your sandwich in place of mayonnaise.
- Drink a glass of orange juice or tomato juice in the morning.
- Add spinach to your scrambled eggs.
- Slice a banana on top of your breakfast cereal.
- Sprinkle some toasted wheat germ on top of pasta or a stir-fry.
- Throw some chickpeas or kidney beans into a salad.
- If you take a vitamin supplement, make sure it contains folate.
Too Much Folate
|Age||Micrograms (mcg) per day|
|1-3 years||300 mcg|
|4-8 years||400 mcg|
|9-13 years||600 mcg|
|14-18 years||800 mcg|
|Pregnant or nursing women up to 18 years||800 mcg|
|19 years and older||1,000 mcg|
|Pregnant or nursing women 19 years and older||1,000 mcg|
Choose My Plate.gov—US Department of Agriculture http://choosemyplate.gov
Eat Right.org—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics http://www.eatright.org
Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Duyff RL. The American Dietetic Association's Complete Food & Nutrition Guide. 3rd ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.; 2006.
Folate. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional. Updated December 14, 2012. Accessed March 6, 2014.
Folate, DFE (µg) content of selected foods per common measure, sorted by nutrient content. USDA national nutritional database for standard reference, release 25. US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: https://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/12354500/Data/SR25/nutrlist/sr25w435.pdf. Accessed March 6, 2014.
Folate deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 16, 2013. Accessed March 6, 2014.
Folic acid. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 28, 2013. Accessed March 6, 2014.
Garrison R, Somer E. The Nutrition Desk Reference. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing; 1995.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 03/2014
- Update Date: 00/30/2014