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Vitamin B-9 -- known as folate in its organic form and folic acid in its synthetic form -- is a water-soluble nutrient that’s as important to normal growth and development as it is to nerve health and red blood cell function. While oats are a natural source of folate, only the enriched variety supplies folic acid.
You’ll get about 14 micrograms of folate -- and no folic acid -- from a 1-cup serving of plain, unenriched oatmeal, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Because most adults are advised to get about 400 micrograms of folate a day, unenriched oats aren’t a significant source of the nutrient.
What Is Fortified Oatmeal?
An average 1-cup serving of enriched oatmeal supplies about 90 micrograms of folic acid, according to the USDA. Because the synthetic vitamin is more readily absorbed than its natural counterpart, this amount of folic acid is actually equivalent to about 155 micrograms of folate -- and the total amount of folate provided by the serving is close to 170 micrograms.
The amount of folate in unenriched oats isn’t affected by processing -- steel-cut, rolled and instant oatmeal all provide about the same amount 2. Enriched oats contain varying amounts of folic acid, however, depending on how they’re manufactured. Any food product enriched with folic acid will list the vitamin among the ingredients and tell you how much is in each serving.
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- Linus Pauling Institute: Folic Acid
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Cereal, Oats, Regular and Quick and Instant, Unenriched, Cooked With Water (Includes Boiling and Microwaving), With Salt
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Cereal, Oats, Instant, Fortified, Plain, Prepared With Water (Boiling Water Added or Microwaved)
- American Cancer Society. "Folic Acid."
- Harvard School of Public Health, The Nutrition Source. "Three of the B Vitamins" Folate, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12."
- Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. "Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Folate." http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/
- Zhou YH, Tang JY, Wu MJ, Lu J, Wei X, Qin YY, Wang C, Xu JF, He J. "Effect of folic acid supplementation on cardiovascular outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis." PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e25142.
Based just outside Chicago, Meg Campbell has worked in the fitness industry since 1997. She’s been writing health-related articles since 2010, focusing primarily on diet and nutrition. Campbell divides her time between her hometown and Buenos Aires, Argentina.