Folate is a B-vitamin found naturally in leafy green vegetables, beans, peas, and fruit. Some other foods, such as bread and cereal, are commonly fortified with the synthetic form of folate, folic acid. Foods high in folate are essential for making new cells, preventing anemia, and fetal development in pregnancy.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends an average adult takes in 400 micrograms of folate per day. Pregnant women need 600 micrograms in order to allow the fetus to develop properly and avoid spinal defects. Children need less folate than adults, with kids under 13 requiring 300 micrograms or less, depending on age. Folate deficiency can also cause anemia, digestive or behavioral disorders, and weakness or heart palpitations.
Leafy green vegetables are foods high in folate. These include collard greens, spinach, and turnip greens, along with mustard greens, romaine lettuce and parsley. Asparagus, broccoli, beets, and cauliflower are also excellent sources of folate.
A one-cup (about 240 milliliters in volume) serving of baked beans, green peas, or split peas can provide about 15 percent of the recommended daily intake of folate. One cup (about 240 ml) of lentils contains almost 90 percent of the recommended daily folate. A half-cup (about 120 ml) serving of cowpeas or Great Northern beans provides about one fifth of an adult's daily folate.
The best fruit foods high in folate are citrus, such as orange segments, orange juice, or grapefruit. A serving of one orange provides about one tenth of the recommended daily intake. A serving of strawberries, papaya, cantaloupe, or banana contains half the folate of an orange.
Fortified foods high in folate include breakfast cereal, bread, rice, and egg noodles. Breakfast cereal can contain 100 percent of an adult's daily allowance, but consumers should check the packaging for appropriate serving sizes. Some cereals only contain one quarter of the recommended folate. One slice of fortified white or brown bread provides about 6 percent of the daily allowance.
Although folate is commonly associated with plant foods, beef or calf liver is also an excellent source of the nutrient. A few other foods are also useful sources of folate. Three ounces (about 85 grams) of beef liver contain almost half an adult's daily recommended folate. An ounce (about 28 g) of peanuts or 2 tablespoons (about 28 g) of wheatgerm provides 10 percent of recommended folate. One large egg contains the same folate as a slice of fortified bread.