Tortillas, tortilla chips, taco shells, tamales — these aren’t just delicious dishes at your favorite neighborhood Mexican restaurant. They all share the foundational ingredient of corn masa flour, which is considered a staple food for many Latin Americans, including the large number of people who live in the United States who are of Mexican and Central American descent. After four years of study, the March of Dimes and the American Academy of Pediatrics petitioned the FDA to enrich corn masa flour with folic acid, and corn masa flour manufacturers just got approval from the FDA to add the synthetic form of folate to this common ingredient in an attempt to reduce the number of babies born with neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Hispanic women are 20% more likely than other women to give birth to a child with neural tube disorders, so it makes perfect sense to add folic acid, which has been associated with a reduced risk of these birth defects when consumed before or during pregnancy, to a staple food that gets consumed with regularity. Grains, rice, bread, and pasta have all been enriched since 1998 (and have been linked with a 35% decrease in babies born with neural tube defects), but corn masa flour’s recent folic acid boost comes after several years of investigating the right amount to include. It turns out to be up to .7 milligrams per pound of corn masa flour. Whether you are of Latin American descent or not, feel free to indulge your corn masa flour product cravings while pregnant. Just check to make sure the flour used is indeed fortified. Other naturally rich sources of folate include dark leafy greens, beans and lentils, citrus fruits, asparagus, and broccoli.
Lead image via Babycenter