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How Folate Can Help Prevent Birth Defects

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Folate Sources

Folate occurs naturally in a variety of foods, including liver; dark-green leafy vegetables such as collards, turnip greens, and Romaine lettuce; broccoli and asparagus; citrus fruits and juices; whole-grain products; wheat germ; and dried beans and peas, such as pinto, navy and lima beans, and chickpeas and black-eyed peas.

Under FDA's folic acid fortification program, which became effective January 1998, the agency requires manufacturers to add from 0.43 mg to 1.4 mg of folic acid per pound of product to enriched flour, bread, rolls and buns, farina, corn grits, cornmeal, rice, and noodle products. A serving of each product will provide about 10 percent of the Daily Value for folic acid. Whole-grain products do not have to be enriched because they contain natural folate. Some of the natural folate in non-whole-grain products is lost in the process of refining whole grains.

Folate also can be obtained from dietary supplements, such as folic acid tablets and multivitamins with folic acid, and form fortified breakfast cereals.

A report recently released by the Institute of Medicine indicates that the evidence suggests that folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, may be better absorbed than folate found naturally in foods. The report also points out that, if taken in adequate amounts, food folate may eventually be demonstrated to be as effective as folic acid.

Food Serving Size Amount (Micrograms) % Daily Value
Chicken Liver 3.5 oz 770 193
Breakfast cereals 1/2 to 1 1/2 cup 100 to 400 25 to 100
Braised beef liver 3.5 oz 217 54
Lentils, cooked 1/2 cup 180 45
Chickpeas 1/2 cup 141 35
Asparagus 1/2 cup 132 33
Spinach, cooked 1/2 cup 131 33
Black beans 1/2 cup 128 32
Burrito with beans 2 128 32
Black beans 1/2 cup 118 30
Pasta 2 oz 100-120 25-30
Kidney beans 1/2 cup 115 29
Cereal bars 1 bar 40-100 10-25
Baked beans with pork 1 cup 92 23
Lima beans 1/2 cup 78 20
White rice, cooked 3/4 cup 60 15
Tomato juice 1 cup 48 12
Brussel sprouts 1/2 cup 47 12
Orange 1 medium 47 12
Broccoli, cooked 1/2 cup 39 10
Fast-food French fries large order 38 10
Wheat germ 2 tbsp 38 10
Fortified white bread 1 slice 38 10

* based on Daily Value for folate of 400 micrograms
(Source: Food Values of Portions Commonly Used, 16th edition)

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