Often it’s the simple things in life that hold the most value. It’s for this reason a good diet is commonly overlooked as a vital component in fertility. Returning to natural foods loaded with basic life-giving properties can fortify your conception chances and effectively optimize your body for pregnancy.
Beyond eating a generally healthy diet, researchers have found some foods particularly helpful when trying to conceive. Likewise, there are some foods, not-so-healthy that may be especially harmful in your efforts to get pregnant.
Healthy Foods that will Increase Fertility
When it comes to getting pregnant, the old adage “you are what you eat” certainly rings true. What you eat affects every cell in your body, including your precious hormones. Women who follow a fertility diet along with the right combinations of treatments can recover that vitality seemingly lost within the womb.
Steps you can take now: according to Harvard researchers, the fertility diet “is based on solid scientific data” compiled from a landmark study that followed 18,000 women over an 8 year period. Coming out of the study are these five key recommendations adapted from the women’s diet regimen, which you can incorporate immediately into your lifestyle:
Fertility Diet Recommendations:
- Eating more protein from vegetables like beans, peas, lentils and nuts and consuming less animal protein.
- Avoiding trans-fat found in many commercial products (cake mixes, spreads, Ramen noodles and soup cups) and fast foods varieties. Note: refined foods stifle blood flow, prevent nutrient absorption and creates an unhealthy, harmful environment for baby.
- Increasing your intake of calcium rich foods (yogurt, cheese, ice cream, tofu, salmon and leafy greens) known to decrease the risk of ovulatory infertility. Aim for 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day.
- Getting into the “fertility zones” for weight management and physical activity.
- Taking specific supplements to help your body prepare for conception. Recommended supplements include: folic acid, prenatal vitamins, omega -3 fats and iodine.
Taking Supplements—Folic Acid, Prenatal Vitamins, Omega-3s and Iodine
Why take folic acid, 400 micrograms daily?
- Folic acid is the B9 vitamin essential in cell division, DNA and red blood cell production (crucial in fetal development!). It’s important in reducing the risk of spina bifida or neural tube defects in babies. Folic acid not only encourages fertility in women, but also male fertility. For men a dose of 700 mcg daily is recommended; for women–400 mcg (or 0.4 milligrams) and higher is generally recommended.
Foods containing folic acid: whole grain foods, such as wheat, brown rice, oats and breakfast cereals; green leafy vegetables (think spinach and kale), most fruits including avocados, beans and peas. A Mexican dish of burritos and a side of guacamole are great guy-friendly options, so too are Indian meals (like vegetable stuffed wheat roti with hummus) black bean chili, pumpkin soup and Mediterranean salads.
Should you be taking a Prenatal Vitamin?
- Yes! Most women do not absorb enough folic acid and iron from their foods despite having a balanced diet. Invest in a folic acid supplement or start a course of prenatal vitamins (as insurance) before pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins contain other nutrients besides folic acid and may include iron and calcium, important in building your bones, cardiovascular and nervous system, as well as those of your developing fetus should you become pregnant.
What Important Nutrients are Not in Prenatal Supplements?
- Omega-3s—DHA and EPA, which are important for a baby’s brain, eye and nerve cells are not added into prenatal vitamins. Omega-3s are important in regulating sex hormones and promoting ovulation. It’s a good idea to talk with your doctor on whether you need a supplement.
- Vitamin D– A deficiency in this vitamin can lead to baby fractures and deformity and can increase the risk of preeclampsia (elevated blood pressure). New studies also suggest that a Vitamin D deficiency (especially D3) can lead to infertility and miscarriages (read our article). Speak with your doctor on vitamin D in your pregnancy diet.
- Iodine. Recommendations for iodine only came out in the last two years. Deficiencies in iodine are linked to mental retardation and autism in children. Iodine also assists with the production of sex hormones. It is best found in seafood, fruits and vegetables grown by the sea, including kelp, seaweed and coconut products.
Foods that boost overall health
To boost overall health incorporate more foods rich in antioxidants. Kiwi, cantaloupe, broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, yams, spinach and berries are excellent choices for men and women, acting as immune system chargers. Where possible, increase your plant based portions by creating tasty blends of juices, smoothies and shakes. Consider taking a daily multivitamin for added protection.
By making minor changes, eating healthy can become part of a lifestyle you’ll soon come to enjoy. Wholesome foods contain life-giving enzymes, the building blocks conducive to conception and overall health promotion.