Folate (Vitamin B9)

Understand folate and folate targets in the Nutrient Explorer

What it is

Folate is a water-soluble vitamin.

What it does

Folate is a coenzyme involved in chemical reactions related to DNA, RNA, and amino acid metabolism.

Recommended intake

The recommended intake for folate is 400mcg per day for men and women who aren’t pregnant or lactating. Pregnancy and lactation can increase intake requirements for folate.

There is no suggested upper limit for folate intake from natural dietary sources of folate, but most health authorities recommend consuming no more than 1000mcg of folate per day from fortified foods and supplements.

These recommendations are based on dietary folate equivalents, which account for both folate and folic acid.

Likelihood of tracking completeness: Very low

Folate is not a nutrient that food manufacturers are required to disclose on nutrition labels. The vast majority of food and beverage manufacturers do not voluntarily list folate content on nutrition labels, so most branded products in the MacroFactor database lack information on folate. So, if you’d like to accurately track your folate intake, you’ll need to make a point of mostly tracking “common foods,” which come from research-grade databases that have full nutrient reporting.

For more on when you can track using branded foods versus common foods when you’re trying to accurately monitor your intake of particular nutrients, you should check out this article.

Likelihood of insufficient intake: Typically low

Most adults in developed countries consume adequate amounts of folate. However, women tend to consume a bit less folate than men, and folate needs increase during pregnancy, so women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant may have a greater likelihood of insufficient folate intake if they don’t take supplemental folate.

For more on nutrients with a greater likelihood of insufficient or excessive intake, you should check out this article.

Signs of deficiency

Signs of a folate deficiency include megaloblastic anemia, fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, and feelings of weakness.

Good sources

Great sources of folate include green leafy vegetables (like spinach, lettuce, turnip greens, arugula, collards, and mustard greens), endive, asparagus, yeast products, chinese cabbage, kelp and seaweed (nori), liver, okra, peppers, beets, and cauliflower.

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about micronutrients generally, there’s a five-part series on the MacroFactor website you might enjoy.

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