Folate (usually referred to as 'Folic Acid' or Vitamin B9) is essential for a healthy pregnancy because it protects against neural tube defects. According to the National Institute of Health, if you are pregnant or trying to conceive, your daily folate requirement increases from 400 mcg to 600 mcg (source: NIH).
Few know that it is best to avoid synthetic folic acid supplements and instead eat a diet rich in natural folate instead. Why is that? Folic acid is actually the synthetic, man-made form of folate, which can be found abundantly in whole foods. A subset of the population has trouble metabolizing folic acid. For these people it can stay in the body and even do harm, a process that several studies have linked to cancer. Folate, in contrast and even in excess, is perfectly safe - for more information, read more here.
The 25 best folate rich plant-based whole foods:
100% = 600mcg of folate (what you need daily before and during your pregnancy)
1. Asparagus 1 cup has 45%
2. Edamame 1/2 cup has 40%
3. Chickpea Flour 1/2 cup has 34%
4. Lentils 1/2 cup cooked has 30%
5. Black eyed peas 1/2 cup cooked 30%
6. Turnip Greens 1 cup broiled has 28%
7. Broccoli 1 cup cooked has 28%
8. Avocado 1 whole avocado has 27%
9. Wheat Germ 1/2 cup has 27%
10. Mung Beans 1/2 cup cooked has 27%
11. Pinto Beans 1/2 cup cooked has 25%
12. Chickpeas 1/2 cup cooked has 24%
13. Adzuki beans 1/2 cup cooked has 23%
14. Beets 1 cup cooked has 23%
15. Black beans 1/2 cup cooked has 21%
16. Broccoli rabe 1 cup cooked has 11%
17. Kidney beans 1/2 cup cooked has 19%
18. Green soybeans 1/2 cup cooked has 17%
19. Brussels Sprouts 1 cup cooked has 16%
20. Kale 1 cup raw has 16%
21. Parsnip 1 whole parsnip has 23%
22. Parsley 1 cup raw has 15%
23. Great northern beans 1/2 cup cooked has 15%
24. Fava beans 1/2 cup cooked has 15%
25. Peanuts 1/4 cup raw has 15%
Source: Wholesome sources it's data from the USDA
Are you getting enough folate from your diet for a healthy pregnancy?
The Wholesome app can help you get what you need from your diet and visualize your progress tracking toward your 600 mcg goal. Simply update your profile to 'pregnant' and the app and it will set your goal to 600 mcg per day. You can also customize your goal higher should you desire to do so.
An easy way to calculate the folate in your recipe
Want to know how much folate is in your recipe? You can add the recipe to Wholesome and it will analyze it for 90 nutrients. It also generates a score out of a possible 10 points to give you a sense for how nutritious and healthy the recipe is per the calories.
View and track 90 nutrients in your foods and recipes
Wholesome tracks a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega 3's and 6's:
Macronutrients and the usuals: Protein, Fat, Carbohydrate, Sugars, Fiber, Water, calories
Vitamins: Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Retinol, Vitamin B6, Folate (Vitamin B9), Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Choline, Pantothenic Acid, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin.
Minerals: Calcium, Iron, Iodine, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Selenium.
Omega 3's and 6's: Linoleic Acid, α-Linolenic Acid, EPA, DPA, DHA.
Sterols: Phytosterol, Stigmasterol, Cholesterol.
Carotenoids (antioxidants): β-Carotene, α-Carotene, β-Cryptoxanthin, Lycopene, Lutein.
Tocopherols (antioxidants): β-Tocopherol, γ-Tocopherol, δ-Tocopherol, α-Tocotrienol, β-Tocotrienol, δ-Tocotrienol, γ-Tocotrienol.
Flavanoids (antioxidants): Cyanidin, Petunidin, Delphinidin, Malvidin, Pelargonidin, Peonidin, Catechin, EGC, Epicatechin, ECG, EGCG, Gallocatechin, Eriodictyol, Hesperitin, Naringenin, Apigenin, Luteolin, Isorhamnetin, Keampferol, Myricetin, Quercetin, Daidzein, Genistein, Glycitein, Isoflavones, Proanthocyanidins, Gingerol, Glucosinolates, Pterostilbene, Diallyl Disulfide, Molybdenum.
Other: Cysteine, Betaine, Curcumin, L-DOPA, Resveratrol.
How to set Wholesome app to pregnant setting
Click on the menu icon on the top left, then click on "My Profile". Change the setting to Pregnant as shown on the right. The app will auto-adjust your nutrients goals for the recommend amounts for pregnancy, such as 600 mcg of folate per day and 27 mg of iron per day. To customize your goals further, click on the 'daily goals' tab and click 'edit goals'.
What is the difference between folate and folic acid?
Folic acid is the synthetic form whereas folate is the natural form commonly found in whole foods. After ingesting the synthetic form, it must go through a complex metabolic pathway in order to turn it into the useable form, folate. But not everyone is able to process folic acid properly. Read more in my post about the differences between folate and folic acid. I also recommend that you find out whether you have any genetic variants in your MTHFR gene that would impact your ability to process folic acid - find out an easy way to check for the variant in my post here.
About the author
Jessica Glago is the CoFounder of the Wholesome App. After having two different cancers in her childhood she developed the app with the help of her husband to get more healthfulness out of her diet. To date, Wholesome for iOS has had over 250,000 downloads and over 1.5 million whole foods tracked. The app has been featured on BuzzFeed, LikeHacker, CultofMac, and The Seattle Times.