What is vitamin B9?

Vitamin B9 (commonly known as “folate”) is naturally present in many foods. Folate is primarily needed to make DNA and other genetic material. It also enables cells to divide. A form of folate, called folic acid, is used in fortified foods and most dietary supplements. At least 85% of folic acid is estimated to be bioavailable when taken with food, whereas only about 50% of folate naturally present in food is bioavailable.

Folate helps to form DNA and RNA and is involved in protein metabolism. Folate is also critical during periods of rapid growth, such as during pregnancy and fetal development.

Vitamin B9 benefits

  • Assists red blood cell formation
  • Promotes cell growth
  • Reduces the risk of birth defects 
  • Reduce cardiovascular disease risk
  • May reduce the risk of some cancers
  • May help treat depression

How much vitamin B9 do you need per day?

The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) defined average daily recommended amounts in micrograms (mcg) of dietary folate equivalents (DFEs) because our body absorbs more folic acid from fortified foods and dietary supplements than folate found naturally in foods. For example, 240 mcg of folic acid and 400 mcg of folate are both equal to 400 mcg DFE.

  • Adult Women: 400 mcg DFE
  • Adult Men: 400 mcg DFE

Pregnant/Breastfeeding Women: 500-600 mcg DFE

Natural sources of vitamin B9

  • Dark green leafy vegetables: turnip greens, spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli
  • Beans
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Fruit
  • Whole grains
  • Liver
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Vitamin-fortified foods

Learn about vitamin B9 deficiency symptoms.

Further reading: Harvard School of Public Health (1),(2), Mayo Clinic