Folate, or Vitamin B9, also known as folacin, is an essential vitamin that is part of the B-complex group. Chemically, folate consists of para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and glutamic acid (also called glutamate). It serves multiple important functions in the human body, including contributing to normal healthy cell formation and proper functioning of the circulatory system and nervous system. Folate is especially important during pregnancy due to the critical role it plays in preventing birth defects.
The name “folate” comes from the Latin word “folium” (meaning “leaf), which makes sense given the high concentration of this nutrient in leafy green vegetables. Other foods, including calves liver and various other fruits and vegetables, along with grain products that have been fortified with folate, are also good dietary sources of this vitamin.
Sometimes the terms folate and folic acid are used interchangeably, but they are not identical. Folic acid is the most oxidized and stable form of folate. It is rarely found in foods naturally, but used for fortified foods and folate supplements.