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Folate - Folate Rich Foods

Child Nutrition Basics

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Updated May 17, 2014

Bowls of assorted dried beans
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Folate is an important vitamin, which most parents are aware of because of the association of low folate levels with premature babies and birth defects. These defects of the brain or spinal cord are the major defects associated with inadequate folate intake. Folate is necessary for women of childbearing age and at the beginning of pregnancy for a healthy child. Once born, infants and children continue to need adequate levels of folate otherwise they may not grow properly and have a slower than normal growth rate.

Folate

Folate is a B vitamin, such as thiamine, niacin and vitamin B12 — all of which have important roles in a child's normal growth and development.

Children who don't get enough folate (folate deficiency) can develop anemia (low red blood cell counts), diarrhea, weight loss, weakness and irritability.

Although many children don't eat foods with naturally high sources of folate, such as leafy green vegetables and dried beans, they often do meet their recommended dietary allowances by eating foods fortified with folic acid — the synthetic form of folate.

How much folate do kids need?

The recommended dietary allowances for folate vary by age but include recommendations that each day:

  • infants younger than 6 months get 65 micrograms (which they get from breast milk or baby formula)
  • infants 6 to 12 months get 80 micrograms
  • toddlers 1 to 3 years old get 150 micrograms
  • children 4 to 8 years old get 200 micrograms
  • preteens 9 to 13 years old get 300 micrograms
  • older teens 14 to 18 years old get 400 micrograms

These recommended dietary allowances increase to 500 micrograms of folate for women who are breastfeeding and to 600 micrograms for women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant.

Folate Rich Foods

Foods that are naturally good sources of folate include many beans and vegetables and some fruits:

  • Black-eyed peas
  • Lentils
  • Okra
  • Kidney beans
  • Great Northern beans
  • Broccoli
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Beets
  • Lima beans
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Spinach
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Corn
  • Asparagus
  • Baked beans
  • Green peas
  • Baked potato
  • Cabbage
  • Avocados
  • Peanuts
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Tomato Juice
  • Orange juice
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Eggs
  • Bananas

You can read food labels to see how much folate your kids are getting from each of these foods.

Folate-Fortified Foods

In addition to the many vegetables, fruits and beans that are naturally good sources of folate, many foods are fortified with folic acid. Serving your kids folate-fortified foods is a good way to make sure they are getting enough folate in their diet:

  • Malt-o-Meal cereal
  • Fortified Breakfast cereal (Total, Product 19, Special K, Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran, Wheaties, Honey Nut Cheerios, etc.)
  • Fortified soy milk
  • Enriched pasta
  • Enriched egg noodles
  • Enriched bread, bagels and muffins
  • Enriched white rice


Sources:

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 20. Folate Content of Selected Foods per Common Measure, sorted by nutrient content.

National Institutes of Health. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Folate.

Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, and choline. National Academy Press. Washington, DC, 1998.

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