Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is a water-soluble B vitamin and one of the most important nutrients for your health.

It is found naturally in foods like leafy green vegetables, beans, citrus fruits and fortified grains.

Folate is essential for cell growth and development, and it plays an important role in a wide range of processes within the body, including the production of red blood cells, DNA synthesis and the metabolism of amino acids.

It is also essential for pregnant women, as it helps to prevent birth defects.

Folate is found in supplement form as well, and it is often recommended for people with certain health conditions.

The body has a limited ability to store vitamin B9, so it is important to include it in the diet on a regular basis.

Deficiency of folate can lead to anemia and other health conditions, so it is essential to ensure adequate intake of folate-rich foods.

All in all, vitamin B9 is an important nutrient that can have a significant impact on our health and well-being.

Foods High in Folate

Eating foods high in folate is important for a number of reasons, including reducing the risk of certain birth defects and boosting energy levels.

Fortunately, there are a number of foods that are high in vitamin B9, making it easy to get your recommended daily intake.

Some good sources of vitamin B9 include:

  • Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale 
  • Legumes like lentils, black beans and kidney beans
  • Fruits such as oranges, strawberries, avocados and papaya
  • Fortified breakfast cereals and grains
  • Nuts and seeds 
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bananas
  • Beef Liver
  • Eggs hardboiled

For added benefit, you can also take a folate supplement.

Health Benefits of Vitamin B9

Some of the health benefits of vitamin B9 are as follows:

  • Folate helps to produce and repair DNA, create red blood cells and convert carbohydrates into energy. 
  • It is also important for pregnant women, as it helps to prevent birth defects in developing babies. 

In addition to these health benefits, there are also numerous other benefits of vitamin B9.

  • It can help to reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer, including colorectal and breast cancer.
  • Folate has been shown to help lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
  • It has also been shown to improve cognitive function, reduce depression and anxiety and fight inflammation.

In short, getting enough folate is essential for optimal health. So make sure to include plenty of folate-rich foods in your diet, such as leafy green vegetables, legumes and citrus fruits.

Symptoms of Folate Deficiency

Folate deficiency is a condition in which the body does not have enough folic acid, an essential B vitamin.

The most common symptoms of vitamin B9 deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Poor appetite
  • Headaches 
  • Mouth sores
  • Poor memory
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Aches and pains in the muscles and joints
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression

Other symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia


There are several common causes of Vitamin B9 deficiency.

One of the most common is an inadequate dietary intake of folate.

Some people may not be getting enough folate from their diets due to poor nutrition, or they may be on a restrictive diet that doesn’t include folate-rich foods.

Other causes of vitamin B9 deficiency include:

Certain medical conditions can leads to the deficiency, such as:

Pregnant women and people with a history of gastrointestinal surgery may also be at risk for this deficiency.

It can also be due to a genetic mutation which prevents your body from absorbing folate.


A blood test the most ideal way to diagnose your folate deficiency.

If you suspect you might have low levels of vitamin B9, talk to your doctor about getting tested.


Treatment of folate deficiency can vary depending on how severe the deficiency is, but it usually involves taking extra folate in the form of supplements or foods.

Folate-rich foods include dark leafy greens, legumes and fortified foods like cereals.

In some cases, your doctor may prescribe a high dose of folic acid to help treat folate deficiency.

Additionally, if the cause of the deficiency is a health condition like Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, treating that condition can help restore folate levels.

Following a balanced diet and taking folate supplements can also help improve folate levels and reduce the symptoms of this deficiency.

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)

According to the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine (IOM):

  • Women ages 19–50 need 400 mcg per day
  • Men ages 19–49 need 420 mcg per day
  • Women who are pregnant, 600 mcg per day
  • Women who are lactating, 500 mcg per day

Side Effects of Vitamin B9

While folate is generally considered safe, there are some potential side effects to be aware of.

In high doses, it can interfere with the absorption of other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12 and zinc.

Side effects that can occur when taken in large doses also include nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Some people may also experience headaches, fatigue and skin rashes.

Additionally, people with a genetic disorder called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase deficiency should not take vitamin B9 supplements as they may make their condition worse.

Finally, high doses of folate can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea.

Before taking a folate supplement, it is best to consult your doctor for more clarity on your decision.

Genetics and Vitamin B9

Genetics can influence how effectively a person absorbs and metabolises folate, which can lead to a deficiency even when they are consuming enough dietary folate.

People with certain genetic disorders, such as MTHFR, may be more prone to folate deficiency due to their inability to properly convert folate into its active form.

Also, genetics may influence an individual’s dietary preferences, which can lead to inadequate folate intake.

Therefore, it is important to consider both diet and genetics when looking at the causes of folate deficiency.


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Sources: Medical News Today, Mayo Clinic, NIH, CDC, WebMD, Pregnancy, Birth and Baby and Mount Sinai.

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