Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is an essential vitamin that’s used to prevent birth defects, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and protect your brain from degenerative disease.
Folate is so important and so difficult to get in adequate amounts in a normal diet that many foods are fortified with it, but for some people this is not enough.
A folate supplement is the easiest and most efficient way to bring your folate intake up to adequate levels. Looking for the best folate supplement on the market?
Our researchers have looked in-depth at your options and have come up with the ten best choices.
1. Pink Stork Folate
Pink Stork makes an excellent high-dose folate supplement that contains 1000 mcg of folate, and aside from the cellulose that makes up the vegetarian-friendly capsule, the only other ingredient is leucine.
This highly pure and high-dosage supplement is a great choice for women who are pregnant and have a need for high folate intake, as well as others who need a pure and simple way to take large doses of folate.
Thanks to its purity and dosage, it’s our number one pick.
2. Life Extension Optimized Folate
Life Extension provides a supplement with a high dose of folate (1000 mcg per tablet) in a cellulose-based capsule. While the dosage level is great, the ingredients list could be a little cleaner.
There are a couple of extra ingredients that you won’t find in the top-tier folate supplements, which hurts its ranking slightly
3. NOW Methyl Folate
NOW Methyl Folate is a 1000 mcg, high-dose folate supplement that uses the same highly bioavailable form of folate as many of the top folate supplements.
The supplement design isn’t top-tier, however, as this product suffers from the presence of a few extra ingredients and binders. For most people, this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, but purists may want to look elsewhere.
4. Pink Stork Liquid Folate
Pink Stork Liquid Folate is a good option if you need to administer folate to someone who can’t swallow capsules, or if you want to blend your folate into a shake or smoothie.
Each dropperful has 800 mcg of folate, a solid dosage that isn’t excessive. There are two drawbacks with this supplement: first, the liquid form has some extra flavoring agents, additives, and preservatives, such as potassium benzoate.
Second, as with any liquid supplement, getting a precise dose is going to be more difficult than with a capsule. Pink Stork has the advantage of being somewhat dilute—an entire dropper-full is one serving, so you don’t have to be quite so precise with your measurements.
5. Thorne Research 5-MTHF 1 mg
Thorne Research reliably provides some of the most chemically advanced supplements out there, which definitely applies to this folate product.
5-MTHF is a highly bioavailable form of folate, and it’s provided at a dose of 1000 mg. This gives it a very high equivalent folate dose, which makes it well-suited for people who are looking for a higher dose.
6. Pure Encapsulations B12 Folate
Pure Encapsulations drifts towards being more of a B complex supplement with this product, as it provides both vitamin B12 and folate.
The B12 content is vastly higher than the folate content, probably because there are some fairly definite upper limits on folate intake, while that is not necessarily the case with B12.
Each capsule contains an equivalent amount (800 mcg) of folate and B12, but since your B12 needs are lower than your folate needs, the B12 content represents over 13,000% of your recommended daily intake.
If you’ve read up on vitamin B12 and know that you want a high dosage alongside a strong dose of folate, it’s a good choice, but this isn’t the best folate supplement for everyone.
7. One Elevated Methyl Folate
One Elevated makes a folate supplement that’s provided alongside several other B complex vitamins, but its folate content, at 1000 mcg, is still very solid. This is a great choice if you know you need folate as well as the other B vitamins, but don’t need a full-fledged multivitamin.
8. MethylPro L-Methylfolate
MethylPro L-Methylfolate is an exceptionally-high folate supplement. It has the equivalent of 2500 mcg of folate, which is two and half times greater than any other folate supplement in these rankings.
This is far beyond the recommended upper daily intake limit for most people, so this should definitely not be used by pregnant women without medical direction.
Nevertheless, for the rare individuals who are under doctor’s orders to vastly increase their folate intake, MethylPro is the way to go, which is why it’s still in the rankings.
9. EZ Melts Folate
EZ Melts Folate comes in dissolvable tablets for people who don’t like or can’t take regular capsules that you swallow. These dissolving tablets include a range of noncaloric sweeteners and flavoring agents, like mannitol, monk fruit extract, and natural flavoring and coloring.
For people who are on medical advice to increase their folate intake and don’t want capsules, EZ Melts could be a good choice. However, supplement consumers who care about purity and don’t want sugar substitutes should look elsewhere.
10. Solgar Folate
Solgar is usually a pretty reliable source of pure and straightforward supplements, but they drop the ball a bit on this one. Even though this is a capsule-based supplement, it still uses the sugar substitute mannitol.
This supplement also has a number of extra binders and fillers that you won’t find in top-ranked supplements, so although the 800 mcg dosage is spot-on, these extra ingredients make it harder to recommend.
Folate benefits and side effects
Folate is an essential nutrient that ensures proper regulation of hemoglobin levels in your blood, and it’s vitally important for preventing birth defects in pregnant women.
Beyond this, folate also plays a role in improving your cardiovascular health and preventing cognitive decline. Since it’s so important, particularly for fetal health, United States law actually requires that cereals and grains be fortified with folate during the manufacturing process.
However, for some people (especially those who are, for good reason, avoiding refined grain products), this isn’t enough. That’s where a folate supplement comes in.
Folate helps prevent birth defects. Having adequate levels of folate during pregnancy is absolutely essential for ensuring the health of your baby.
It was this reason above all others that spurred the government to require cereal and grain manufacturers to fortify their foods with folate.
One of the landmark studies that established the importance of folate for preventing birth defects was published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet in 1991 (1).
The study was massive, involving 33 different locations in seven countries. Patients at each center were randomly assigned to one of four groups: a folate supplement group, a general multivitamin group (but without folate), a multivitamin with folate, or a placebo.
The folate dosage was large, at 4000 mcg of folic acid per day, though it was delivered in the less-bioavailable form of folic acid—modern folate supplements use more bioavailable forms that deliver an equivalent amount of folate with smaller amounts of folate.
The goal of the trial was to enroll 2000 women and administer the supplement during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, but as the evidence accumulated, the advantages of taking the folate supplement became so clear that the researchers ended the trial early.
The folate supplement reduced the rate of neural tube defects by 72%—once these protective effects became clear, the only ethical decision was to end the trial and distribute a folate supplement to all of the pregnant women in the study.
It was this randomized trial that made the definitive case for folate supplementation to prevent birth defects. This is why you’ll find this supplement in any prenatal vitamin worth buying.
Folate can reduce your risk of heart disease. Don’t think that folate is only important during pregnancy. Folate helps protect your heart from cardiovascular disease as well.
Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrates that low folate levels are directly linked to an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease (2).
Follow-up research published in 2015 found that folic acid supplementation helps prevent strokes in high-risk patients (3). Folate may be linked to maintaining healthy levels of homocysteine, a metabolic byproduct that’s associated with cardiovascular disease risk.
High levels of homocysteine can damage cardiovascular tissue, so excessively high homocysteine is bad from a heart health perspective. This is the same pathway, incidentally, that TMG supplements use to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Folate can protect your brain from cognitive decline. In addition to heart disease, low levels of folate has also been associated with an increased risk of degenerative diseases of the brain, including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
That’s according to research published in 2002 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (4). This study found that people with low folate levels were much more likely to have cognitive decline compared to healthy controls.
Moreover, a randomized and placebo-controlled clinical trial published in The Lancet found that folate supplementation slows the progression of cognitive decline (5).
The study randomly assigned elderly subjects to either an 800 mcg folate supplement or a placebo and followed them for three years.
The results showed that the folate supplement group were better able to maintain their memory, information processing speed, and sensorimotor speeds compared to the control group.
The precise mechanism for how folate protects brain tissue isn’t entirely clear, but these results make a convincing case that older adults should ensure they have adequate folate intake, and may need higher folate levels than currently recommended.
Since folate is a heavily-studied supplement, its side effect profile has been scrutinized closely, and its safety profile is excellent, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements (6).
Folate interacts with a few obscure prescription medications used to treat cancer, seizures, and ulcerative colitis, but other than this, it’s very safe.
Your folate intake should be at least 400 mcg per day, unless you are pregnant—in this case, your recommended folate intake increases to 500 mcg per day.
This dosage has been established as an effective dose to prevent birth defects and improve health, but some people may benefit from a higher dose. Most clinical trials on folate supplementation have used higher doses, though the Office of Dietary Supplements recommends not exceeding 1000 mcg of supplemental folate per day.
This level does not extend to foods rich in folate, such as legumes, beets, and eggs, as no negative effects have been reported from high intakes of these foods.
For preventing cognitive decline, clinical research has used a dose of 800 mcg of folate per day.
Some people have a genetic mutation to an enzyme called MTHFR, and these people may need higher doses of folate to keep their blood levels of homocysteine low (and thus lower their risk of heart disease) (7).
Unfortunately, the jury is still out when it comes to how much more folate people with the MTHFR mutation need. Folate is also better-absorbed on an empty stomach, so it’s best to take it before bed, or at another time where you can absorb it without food in your stomach.
Folate is a vital nutrient for preventing birth defects, maintaining heart health, and staving off cognitive decline.
Though folate is used to fortify cereals and grains, many people don’t get enough folate, which is where supplemental folate comes in.
You should shoot for at least 400 mcg of folate per day, though you can take up to 1000 mcg of supplemental folate with no ill effects.
Folate is an exceptionally safe supplement, and for pregnant women, it’s an absolute necessity. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that folate is only for pregnant women—folate is also an excellent way to move yourself towards better cardiovascular and cognitive health.