Vitamin B9 or folate belongs to the B-complex family, which includes eight vitamins. They are all responsible for energy metabolism, meaning they help the body produce energy by breaking down carbohydrates, fats, and protein and converting them into usable energy. If you keep on reading, you will find out more about other vital roles of folate and how you can improve your health with vitamin B9 foods. Since it is crucial to have a balanced diet including all the important nutrients, it’s a good idea to check out this comprehensive infographic provided by our team of experts from MedAlertHelp.com and learn about the benefits of other vitamins.
What Is Vitamin B9?
As we already said, vitamin B9 is also known as folate. This vitamin is water-soluble, which means that it is carried through the bloodstream and excreted in the urine if not used. The term folate or vitamin B9 refers to several compounds (folates) that are naturally found in food, added to some food products, and found in dietary supplements. Folic acid is also a form of this vitamin, but it doesn’t exist in nature. Instead, it is synthetically made and usually used as a supplement.
Folate is a coenzyme that is of great importance for a number of reactions in our body. One of the most important functions it has is its role in the metabolism of amino acids and the synthesis of DNA and RNA.
Vitamin B9 Benefits
Apart from taking part in the synthesis of RNA and DNA, vitamin B9 contributes to cell division and growth. It is also responsible for the production of red blood cells and improving brain health. Besides these important functions, it is used for the prevention of several medical conditions.
Although further research is needed to confirm this link, there is a connection between folic acid and autism spectrum disorder. Namely, taking a folate supplement before conception and during pregnancy may decrease the risk of this developmental disorder.
Since vitamin B9 and other B vitamins lower the levels of homocysteine, which is related to cardiovascular disease, it was expected that these vitamins decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, according to a recent study, supplements of folic acid can only reduce the risk of stroke.
Vitamin B9 and Pregnancy
As folate plays a major role in the synthesis of DNA, it is very important that pregnant women increase their intake of this essential nutrient. Moreover, folic acid has proven to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs). Since they happen in the first month of pregnancy, it’s recommended that women who want to conceive take folate as a supplement and consume more folic acid foods before pregnancy.
Furthermore, this vitamin might reduce the risk of preterm birth and minimize the risk of congenital defects, especially heart defects. Therefore, in addition to consuming sufficient amounts of foods rich in vitamin B9, pregnant women are advised to continue taking supplements containing folic acid.
Vitamin B9 Sources
There is a range of foods naturally rich in folate, from fruit and vegetables to meat and dairy products. Dark green leafy veggies, like spinach, and legumes, like lentils and black-eyed peas, have an especially high content of this vitamin.
Thanks to the fortification program in the US, a wide variety of food products is enriched with folic acid in order to lower the risk of NTDs. This vitamin is mostly added to grain products, such as bread, cereals, pasta, rice, and flour. Food manufacturers in many other countries are also obliged to add folic acid to various food products.
Here we provide you with a list of foods that contain this important vitamin so you can include them in your eating plan.
Not only is beef liver one of the foods high in vitamin B7, but it is also rich in folate. Three ounces of braised beef liver provide you with 54% of your daily value (DV) of this essential nutrient. Besides B vitamins, this type of meat is a great source of minerals, such as phosphorus, copper, and selenium.
Another type of meat that contains folate is lamb. A three-ounce serving of lamb shank has 5% of your DV of vitamin B9. Moreover, lamb is a rich source of other B vitamins, including niacin and riboflavin. It’s also high in various minerals, such as selenium, zinc, and phosphorus.
If you are looking for foods high in folate and B12, blue mussels are a perfect choice. Three ounces of cooked blue mussels can cover 16% of your daily value of folate and 340% of your DV of vitamin B12. In addition to these B vitamins, mussels are high in selenium and manganese.
Blue crab is another type of seafood rich in vitamin B9. In one cup of canned blue crab, you will get 15% of the recommended daily value of folate. Furthermore, crab meat is a great source of vitamin E, vitamin B6, and niacin. Among other minerals, it contains selenium, copper, and zinc.
Atlantic salmon is a rich source of folate. If you eat a six-ounce filet, you will cover 14% of your daily need of this vitamin. This fatty fish also belongs to vitamin B7 rich foods, and it is a great source of niacin, thiamin, vitamin B6, and selenium. Thanks to these valuable nutrients and a high content of omega-3 fatty acids, salmon has a number of health benefits.
Eggs are highly nutritious as they are rich in various vitamins and minerals. One large hard-boiled egg serves 6% of the recommended daily value of folate. It’s also a great source of vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B5, phosphorus, and selenium. Since eggs can be prepared in a number of different ways and combined with a wide range of foods, you can easily add them to your eating plan.
In addition to belonging to vitamin B12 foods, non-fat yogurt is a good source of folate. In one cup of this dairy product, you get 7% of your DV of vitamin B9. Like other milk products, yogurt is great for your bones and teeth as it is high in calcium and phosphorus.
Dark green leafy vegetables are high in folate. For example, half a cup of boiled spinach provides 33% of your daily value of this vitamin. Besides being a rich source of other B vitamins, such as thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6, it also has a high content of vitamin A and vitamin K.
Legumes, such as various types of beans and peas, are also foods high in folate. Half a cup of boiled black-eyed peas can cover up to 26% of your DV of vitamin B9. Moreover, they are a great source of dietary fiber, potassium, and iron.
Asparagus is another vegetable rich in folate. Four boiled spears of asparagus provide you with 22% of your daily value of this nutrient. Furthermore, this veggie is a very good source of vitamin K, A, and E. It also contains copper, manganese, and selenium.
Brussels sprouts are a very healthy vegetable belonging to folate rich foods. Half a cup of boiled Brussels sprouts covers 20% of the recommended daily need of vitamin B9. What’s more, they have a high vitamin K content. This veggie is also a great source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin B6.
You can also increase your folate intake by eating lettuce as one cup of shredded romaine lettuce can provide you with 16% of your DV of this vitamin. Moreover, it is a rich source of vitamins A, C, and K, and various minerals, including potassium and iron.
Artichokes are great sources of folate. In half a cup of cooked artichokes, you will get 19% of your DV of vitamin B9. They are also rich in vitamins C and A. Besides vitamins, they provide you with a number of minerals, such as manganese, magnesium, and potassium.
Broccoli offers a number of health benefits as it’s packed with vitamins and minerals. Half a cup of cooked broccoli contains 13% of the recommended daily value of folate. In addition, it’s especially rich in vitamin K and vitamin C. When it comes to minerals, it’s a great source of manganese and phosphorus.
In addition to belonging to foods with vitamin B7, peanuts are a very good source of vitamin B9. Namely, one ounce of dry roasted peanuts provides 7% of your daily value of folate. Interestingly, although they are often classified as nuts, they are actually a type of legume.
Folate can also be found in some fruits. For instance, half a cup of sliced avocados can cover 15% of your DV of this vitamin. Among other things, they are healthy for your heart, vision, and digestion since they contain dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and other important nutrients, including vitamins C, E, and K.
An easy way to add foods with folate to your diet is to eat fresh mangoes. One cup of sliced mangoes will cover 6% of your daily need of this vitamin. They are also loaded with vitamin C and vitamin A. Furthermore, they can provide you with some important minerals, such as copper and potassium.
Pomegranates are another type of fruit rich in folate. One pomegranate serves 27% your daily value of vitamin B9. In addition, they are high in vitamin C and vitamin K and a rich source of copper, potassium, phosphorus, and manganese.
In addition to being an excellent source of vitamin C, oranges are also one of the folate foods. One small orange contains 7% of the recommended daily value of this vitamin. Thanks to their vitamin content, they can boost your immune system and improve your health.
Besides their fresh taste, strawberries offer numerous health benefits. They are great for pregnant women as they are one of the fruits which contain folate. In one cup of fresh strawberries, you will get 9% of the DV of this vital nutrient. Furthermore, they are a rich source of vitamin C and manganese.
Vitamin B9 is added to a number of foods, mostly grain products. Therefore, fortified cereals belong to folic acid foods. Depending on the brand, one serving of breakfast cereals can cover from 25% to 100% of the DV of folate. They are usually enriched with other B vitamins as well, but try to choose the ones without added sugars.
Another type of food that is often fortified with folic acid is white rice. Half a cup of cooked white rice contains 14% of your daily value of vitamin B9. It’s also a good source of other B vitamins, including thiamin, niacin, and vitamin B5.
Egg noodles are also usually enriched with vitamins from the B-complex family. In one cup of cooked egg noodles, you will get 34% of the recommended value of folate. Moreover, they contain thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B12. This food is also rich in minerals, such as selenium, manganese, and iron.
Enriched spaghetti is a good source of B vitamins and some minerals. Half a cup of cooked spaghetti serves 11% of the daily value of folic acid. In addition, this type of pasta provides you with thiamin, selenium, and manganese.
Various types of bread are good sources of vitamin B9. For example, one slice of white bread enriched with folic acid contains 8% of your DV of this vitamin. It’s also a great source of other B vitamins.
Recommended Daily Intake
The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) created the Dietary Reference Intakes which lists the recommended daily values for all the nutrients, including folate. Below you can see the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for this vitamin. They are expressed in mcg of dietary folate equivalents (DFEs), which can be converted to mcg of food folate or mcg of folic acid as follows:
- 1 mcg DFE = 1 mcg food folate
- 1 mcg DFE = 0.6 mcg folic acid from fortified foods or dietary supplements taken with food
- 1 mcg DFE = 0.5 mcg folic acid from dietary supplements taken on an empty stomach
RDAs for vitamin B9 vary depending on age.
- From birth to 6 months – 65 mcg DFE
- From 7 to 12 months – 80 mcg DFE
- From 1 to 3 years – 150 mcg DFE
- From 4 to 8 years – 200 mcg DFE
- From 9 to 13 years – 300 mcg DFE
- 14+ years – 400 mcg DFE
It’s important to underline that pregnant women should take 600 mcg DFE, while women who are breastfeeding need 500 mcg DFE.
Vitamin B9 Deficiency
A poor diet lacking folate sources can result in a deficiency in this nutrient. Besides a low intake of vitamin B9, alcohol use disorder and malabsorptive disorders may also lead to this condition. That’s why people with a deficiency in vitamin B9 are usually deficient in other nutrients as well.
This type of deficiency can cause megaloblastic anemia, whose symptoms are weakness, fatigue, headaches, problems with concentration, and heart palpitations. Other signs of folate deficiency include ulcerations on the tongue, mouth sores, pigmentation changes, higher levels of homocysteine, and gastrointestinal problems.
Women with lower concentrations of folate are more likely to give birth to infants with NTDs. In addition, they are at higher risk of preterm delivery and giving birth to infants with low birth weight.
Who Should Take Vitamin B9 Supplements?
In order to lower the risk of NTDs and other birth defects, women of childbearing age are recommended to take supplements of folic acid. Also, considering the importance of folic acid for pregnancy, pregnant women need to increase their folate intake and take multivitamins or dietary supplements with folic acid as this vitamin is crucial for nucleic acid synthesis.
Not only do alcoholics have poor diets, but they also have problems with the absorption of folate because of alcohol. Therefore, they are likely to develop a deficiency in folate, so they can benefit from taking supplements of folic acid.
Furthermore, certain medical conditions can affect the levels of folate. For example, malabsorptive disorders, like celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease, may cause nutrient deficiency. Also, people with the MTHFR polymorphism should take supplements since this medical condition affects the conversion of folate to its active form.
Folic Acid Side Effects
Since a high intake of folate can alleviate some symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, there is a possibility that high doses of supplements can “hide” this deficiency, which can cause neurological damage if not treated. Moreover, a large amount of folic acid may increase the risk of certain cancers.
If you take high doses of folic acid, your body might not be able to transform it into the active form of folate, which results in unmetabolized folic acid in the body. This can affect your immune system as unmetabolized folic acid may reduce the number and activity of natural killer cells.
The FNB provided Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for the synthetic forms of folate used in supplements and fortified foods. They don’t apply to those who take dietary supplements under medical supervision. However, there isn’t evidence that folate from food can cause adverse effects on our health.
Folate is necessary for a number of key functions in our body, such as the production of red blood cells and the synthesis of DNA. Another vital vitamin B9 function is to prevent neural tube defects. Therefore, women of childbearing age and pregnant women should increase their folate intake. People with a healthy, balanced diet are normally not likely to develop a deficiency as a wide range of foods are rich in this nutrient, including meat, fish, dairy products, vegetables, as well as some fruits. Certain groups of people are recommended to take folic acid as a supplement, but you shouldn’t take dietary supplements without medical supervision as high doses of folate may have adverse side effects.
What does vitamin B9 do?
Vitamin B9 or folate plays a number of crucial roles in our body. It is responsible for the production of red blood cells, the synthesis of DNA and RNA, and cell division and growth. It contributes to our brain health and normal fetal growth and development. In addition, it’s proven that folate can prevent NTDs. That’s why it is of great importance to pregnant women, but also to women who are planning to get pregnant.
Is vitamin B9 the same as folic acid?
Vitamin B9 is the umbrella term for a number of folates naturally found in food and folates found in fortified food products and supplements, including folic acid. Therefore, folic acid is just one form of vitamin B9. It is synthetically made and used to enrich some food products. Also, most folate supplements contain folic acid.
Does folic acid have side effects?
It is believed that a high intake of folic acid can mask vitamin B12 deficiency, which can pose a major health risk since it’s very important to treat this type of deficiency on time. Otherwise, it can lead to serious neurological damage. Also, your body may not be able to transform high doses of folic acid into the active form of vitamin B9. Consequently, unmetabolized folic acid can damage your immune system.
What is vitamin B9 deficiency?
Vitamin B9 deficiency is a medical condition characterized by low levels of folate. It can be caused by a poor diet, alcoholism, and malabsorptive disorders, such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Some of the symptoms of folate deficiency are fatigue, mouth sores, and tongue swelling. This nutrient deficiency can cause anemia, whose symptoms include weakness, shortness of breath, and irritability.
How can I increase my folate intake?
You can easily increase your folate intake by consuming foods rich in this vitamin. However, if a balanced diet is not a sufficient source of this nutrient for you, but you need greater amounts of folate, a number of dietary supplements contain folic acid. Depending on your needs, there are multivitamins and prenatal vitamins with folic acid, or you can take supplements containing only this vitamin. Because of the adverse side effects that folic acid can cause, always first consult with your doctor.
What foods are high in vitamin B9?
Folate is naturally found in numerous foods, including meat, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy products, fruit, and vegetables. It is also added to most grain products, such as cereals, bread, pasta, and flour. Vitamin B9 foods that are particularly high in folate include various sorts of beans and peas, asparagus, spinach, turnip greens, and other green leafy veggies.