Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is a water-soluble vitamin that occurs naturally in food. Folic acid is the synthetic form of B9 included in vitamin supplements and added to foods. Vitamin B9 is essential for the production of new cells, and is especially important before and during pregnancy to prevent birth defects. Folate also maintains cells and prevents harmful cell changes.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires the addition of folic acid to many grain products. Food labels that list either folic acid or folate both provide vitamin B9.
Most ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, as well as cereals to be cooked, such as oatmeal, are fortified with folic acid. The added vitamin B9 in cereals may account for 25 to 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance, which is 400 mcg. Kellogg's All-Bran and All-Bran Buds supply the highest amount, at over 970 mcg per 200-calorie serving.
Other Grain Products
Other grain products commonly fortified with folic acid are breakfast bars, snack bars, breads, tortillas, rice, pasta, noodles, cornmeal and flour. Many provide 70 to 150 mcg per 200-calorie serving.
Liver is an excellent source of folate—3 oz. of chicken liver provides about 660 mcg, while 3 oz. of beef liver provides 185 mcg of folate.
Folate also occurs naturally in high amounts in broccoli, spinach and asparagus. A 1 c. serving of chopped broccoli provides 100 mcg, 1/2 c. of frozen spinach includes 90 mcg, and four spears of asparagus offer 85 mcg.
Dried beans and peas are natural sources of folate, and canned beans and soups with beans are a convenient way to obtain folate or folic acid. A 1/2 c. serving of lentils, for instance, provides 180 mcg, 1/2 c. of black beans provides 128, and 1/2 c. of Great Northern beans provides 90 mcg.