Folic acid, or folate, is a B class vitamin that is essential to making red blood cells, synthesizing and repairing DNA and regulating cell metabolism. Folic acid intake is especially important for women. Pregnancy and lactation both require adequate serum folate to ensure proper fetal development. Since your body cannot produce its own folic acid, the best way to prevent folic acid deficiency is daily intake of folate-rich foods.
The daily recommended intake of folic acid is at least 400 micrograms per day. Don’t worry about overdosing. Folic acid is water soluble, and any excess amount is excreted through urine. Below are five types of foods that are super-rich in folate.
1. Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are rich in proteins, potassium, calcium and lots of essential vitamins as well as folic acid. An average cup of beans can give you around 180 micrograms of folate, which is almost half of your total daily need. Keep in mind that green beans do not fall into this group. Raw beans and legumes are usually very hard and inedible, so cooking will be necessary.
The best cooking methods to preserve the nutrition are boiling or steaming. Be patient when you cook. Some beans, like black beans and kidney beans, can take more than two hours to cook unless you have a pressure cooker.
2. Dark Leafy Vegetables
Leafy vegetables are extremely nutrient dense with a load of essential vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and powerful antioxidants to help you maintain your body function. In terms of folic acid content, usually darker and leafier vegetables are more concentrated with folate. To really get the most folate out of your vegetables, some light cooking can be a good idea. This can help breakdown the vegetables and release the folate that is held within. For example, a cup of raw spinach gives you about 58 micrograms of folate, but a cup of lightly cooked spinach gives you about 260 micrograms of folate. Remember not to overcook them though. Folic acids are water soluble and very heat sensitive. Prolonged cooking time or exposure to high heat can significantly reduce the folate in your food. Some examples of folate-rich vegetables include spinach, asparagus, kale, broccoli, boy choy, beets and mustard greens.
3. Fortified Cereals and Breads
Read the nutritional panel on your breakfast cereal and your bread. Food producers often enhance the nutritional value of their product with proteins, vitamins and other nutrients. Some add as much as 100% of your recommended daily intake of folic acid per serving of cereal.
4. Citrus and Fortified Fruit Juices
Citrus fruits are naturally rich in folate. Having a medium-sized orange gives you 1/5 of your total daily need. If you choose to drink juices instead, read the labels to make sure they are fortified with extra folate.
Though they are high in cholesterol and saturated fat, animal livers are also extremely nutrient dense--especially when it comes to folate. One hundred grams of braise beef liver gives you as much as 70% of your daily folate need.