Foods that are often in short supply in the American diet. Folic acid also is a very fragile vitamin and easily destroyed. In the past, folic acid rarely got any press because it was one of the few vitamins regulated because high doses could mask a deficiency of another B vitamin, B12. BUT, in the last 20 years we have realized that folic acid has critical roles in cell division. Research in the 1980s indicated that low folic acid prior to and in the first few weeks of pregnancy could contribute to birth defects involving the spinal cord and brain, primarily spina bifida which can cause paralysis, learning disorders, kidney defects and a variety of other life long chronic concerns.
Folic acid is now added to many of our staple foods such as breads and grains. Since fortification, the incidence of spina bifida HAS decreased over 50% (in Canada) and there has been a parallel decrease in heart defects and anencephaly. The important point to remember is that supplementation should start prior to pregnancy and continue throughout the first trimester. Many public health organizations recommend supplementing the diets of all women of child bearing age.
So drink your orange juice and if pregnancy is in your near future, take a supplement (about 400 mg prior to pregnancy) and talk to your OB-GYN about supplementation!