USDA May Fortify Additional Food

Whether you’re pregnant or are hoping to be, you’ve probably heard about the importance of folic acid. What’s the deal with this particular vitamin, and where can you find it?

Pregnant woman eating folic acid fortified cereal

Folic acid is one of the B vitamins, and it provides your baby-to-be with some important protection. Without adequate intake during the early part of your pregnancy (including the early days when you don’t even know you’re pregnant), your baby could be born with neural tube defects. These can range in degrees of severity, from spinal bifida (which involves the spinal cord) to anencephaly, where the brain of the baby doesn’t form.

Spinach, a natural source of folic acidSources of folic acid

Folic acid is found in all prenatal vitamins, both over-the-counter and prescription varieties. Most prenatal vitamins contain at least 400 micrograms of the vitamin, but even if you’re simply trying to conceive, you should shoot for the same amount.

In 1996, the USDA made a recommendation that folic acid supplmentation should begin in enriched breads, cereals, flour and other grain products to help moms-to-be who aren’t planning a pregnancy get the proper amounts.

Natural sources include dark, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, turnip greens and asparagus. Legumes are a great source too, particuarly sunflower seeds, dried beans and lentils. Egg yolks, baker’s yeast and liver (if you’re up for it) are excellent sources as well.

New sources of supplementation

The USDA has received a petition from six different agencies to consider fortifying corn masa flour with folic acid. Hispanic women have a folic acid deficiency, and this makes them 20 percent more likely to have a baby with neural tube defects (when compared to a non-Hispanic white mother).

“The AAP strongly encourages the FDA to allow the fortification of corn masa flour so that a greater population of pregnant women and their unborn children can benefit from this critical nutrient,” said American Academy of Pediatrics President Robert W. Block, MD, FAAP in a written statement.

Corn masa flour is a popular staple in Hispanic kitchens, so it’s hoped that this additional fortification will help prevent neural tube defects in these mothers and their little ones.

More on pregnancy and folic acid

Why don't women take folic acid?
Taking folic acid during pregnancy may improve toddler behavior later on
There's no excuse for not taking folic acid

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