Eating the right foods and making sure that your body is well nourished is a very important part of fertility. If are you looking to conceive a baby, you will need to take a close look at your diet to make sure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs.
There are specific nutrients that are needed by the fetus as it develops and a deficiency in these nutrients could cause birth defects. The hormones within your body build themselves from the ingredients that you feed yourself. One of the most common causes of infertility is a lack of ovulation, which can often be remedied by a change in the diet.
Let’s take a look into nutrition and fertility so that we can learn how the food we eat will affect our reproductive health. Here are a few things that you should know about nutrition and your fertility. Changing your diet can be a very effective way to improve your fertility. When you are eating the right foods it will help your body to maintain the ideal hormonal balance that is needed for conception. It will also decrease the chances of a miscarriage and improve the health of the foetus.
Read on to find out more about nutrition and fertility and what you should be eating if you want to increase your chances of conceiving a healthy baby and having a successful pregnancy.
Cut Down on Carbohydrates and High GI Foods
The amount and the quality of the carbohydrates that you eat will have an impact on your fertility. According to a study by Harvard1, women who ate more carbohydrates and less naturally occurring fats had a higher risk of infertility. If women got 60% of their daily energy from carbohydrates, they were at a 78% greater risk for infertility than those who got 40% of their energy from carbohydrates.
The study also found that high glycaemic foods such as white rice, cold breakfast cereals, potatoes and French fries were associate with a high risk of infertility. There has also been a lot of other research that has linked high Glycaemic Index (GI) foods with infertility.
There are a few reasons for this. High GI foods can affect mental health, due to the surge in blood sugar levels from the sugar and simple carbohydrates. This will lead to stress, which will then lead to irregular hormone level. A result of irregular hormone levels is problems with ovulation and a decrease in fertility.
Another reason why high GI foods are detrimental to fertility is because the more of them you eat, the more your insulin response to meals increases. This can reduce insulin sensitivity over time, which is very bad for your health as a whole but especially for your fertility.
When it comes to eating grains, try to only eat them in their whole and natural form. Whole grains are filled with fiber and they also offer very helpful vitamins. The fiber in the whole grain products will help to keep your blood sugar balanced and will also help the body to get rid of excess hormones. Plus, a slice of dense and rich whole grain bread tastes a lot better than plain white processed bread.
Eat More Organic Foods
Eating more organic foods will help you when it comes to improving your fertility health2. Conventionally grown produce will contain a lot of pesticides and herbicides that have been shown to negatively affect many aspects of health – including fertility. Also, many studies have shown that organic fruits and vegetables have a much higher nutritional value.
When you are choosing meat, it is important to select meat that is grass fed and organic. Cattle that is conventionally raised will have a lot of added antibiotics and hormones that will negatively affect fertility3. However, grass fed meats are low in saturated fats, a great source of essential fatty acids and a great source of protein.
Why You Need More Minerals
You have probably heard that the foods we eat are not as mineralised and full of vitamins as they used to be. You might have also heard about people having strange cravings to eat non-food things such as wood, clay, dirt or bricks. This is a sign that the body is craving particular minerals and wants those minerals so much – regardless of whether they are in edible form. This often happens with pregnant women, as the demands for minerals are very high during pregnancy4.
Minerals are just as important as vitamins, as they need each other in order to be absorbed and used by the body. Minerals are crucial for every cell and reaction within the body, including tissues, bones, nerves, metabolism, receptor sites and much more. Also, minerals help your body to keep the right Acid-Alkaline balance. If your body is too acidic (which most people are) this will have an effect on the sperm being able to reach the egg. Sperm requires an alkaline environment in order to survive and to be able to receive messages about what to do and when.
It is a good idea to try to build up stores of nutrients before pregnancy, as this will ensure that your baby is healthier and your pregnancy goes smoothly. Starting before you even get pregnant will ensure that there is a store of nutrients within the body that will support you during the pregnancy.
Adding More Minerals to Your Diet
There are a lot of ways that you can make sure that you are getting more minerals. People in cultures where a lot of seafood and seaweed are eaten, such as Japan, get a lot of their minerals from their diet. Also, eating more organic food will help because organic gardeners use fertiliser containing a lot of minerals such as seaweed manure, leaf mould and ground volcanic rock. Water and food from the mountains will contain some minerals from the mountain rocks.
It is also possible to get the minerals you need from taking baths in spas with highly mineralised water. Also, many people rely on supplements to get their minerals, such as powders, pills and liquids.
Your male partner should also be increasing the amount of minerals in his diet, because this affects male fertility as well. Zinc is one of the most important minerals for sperm health, mobility and life force5. Oysters contain a lot of zinc, so why not that your partner on a date to an oyster bar so that you can both replenish your zinc levels?
Avoiding Trans Fat
Trans fat is a type of saturated fat that has been scientifically modified in order to make it taste better and improving its shelf life. This usually includes foods which contain “hydrogenated oil” or “partly hydrogenated oil”.
Foods that contain trans fats usually include breakfast cereals, crackers, bread, baked goods, breaded fish products, pastries, frozen pizzas, margarine, microwave popcorn, peanut butter, sauces, tortillas and ramen noodles. When it comes to fertility and your chances of conceiving, eating trans fats can have a very detrimental effect.
Researchers believe that the reason for this is because trans fats reduce insulin sensitivity. This will negatively impact female fertility. Also, trans fats have been linked to systemic inflammation, which will also have a negative effect on fertility6.
Drink Less Soda
Another study found that women who drank more soda had an increased likelihood of experiencing fertility problems. The researchers believe that these sugary drinks are detrimental to fertility because they are linked to reduced insulin sensitivity.
In case you are thinking of replacing those sodas with fruit juice – don’t. Any bottled fruit juice will contain a lot of concentrated sugar, which will be detrimental to your blood sugar levels and negatively effect your immune system. The only fruit juice that you should drink is freshly juiced with no sugar added. Also, instead of using sugar or artificial sweeteners you can switch to using natural alternatives such as honey, maple syrup or stevia. The taste is slightly different, but your tastebuds will get used to it quite quickly and it will be a much healthier alternative.
Other Important Fertility Vitamins and Nutrients
It is recommended that you start making healthy changes to your diet at least three months to a year before you conceive. Here are some other important vitamins and nutrients that you should be getting during this time.
- Folic Acid – This important vitamin helps reduce the risk of birth defects7. Eat more leafy green vegetables such as spinach, as well as legumes, nuts, citrus fruits and whole grains.
- Calcium – Try to get eat more low-fat yogurt, salmon and cheese to increase your levels of this important vitamin.
- Vitamin C – Get more of this immune system and cell-health boosting vitamin by eating more citrus fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C will also promote iron absorption and encourage progesterone production8.
- Beta-Carotene – This is an essential nutrient that will help to regulate your hormones and prevent an early miscarriage9. Get it by eating more sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cantaloupe, carrots, broccoli, spinach and kale.
- B-Vitamins – This group of vitamins is known for helping your ovaries to release an egg during the ovulation part of your cycle. Vitamin B6 is very helpful in particular, as it increases the levels of progesterone, which helps to maintain the pregnancy once the baby is conceived. You can get more B-vitamins by eating whole grains, chickpeas, leafy greens, eggs and meat.
- Vitamin E – This vitamin is found in the fluid around your developing eggs, so it is important to your fertility. Also, Vitamin E is good for your male partner as well – it will help him to boost his sperm health. To increase your levels, eat more sweet potatoes, avocados, leafy greens, almonds, seeds, peanuts, whole grains and wheat germ oil.
- Choline – This is a nutrient that is water soluble and it is great for the brain health of the baby and the mother. Also, it has been shown to reduce birth defects. It is found within egg yolks and cauliflower.
- Vitamin D – This vitamin is very important for the proper production of sex hormones10. Research has shown that infertile women tend to have lower levels of Vitamin D. When your levels are low this reduces inflammation in the body which improves your overall fertility. You can get more vitamin D in fortified dairy products and fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon and tuna.
- Coenzyme Q10 – This helpful natural enzyme is known promoting heart health, but it is also very important for fertility. It will improve the quality of the egg and sperm and can help to reduce some of the signs of age related reproductive problems. You can get more of Coenzyme Q10 by eating wheat germ, fish and organ meats such as kidneys and heart.
- Iron – Low levels of iron prior to conception will actually make your body less likely to conceive. Ask your doctor about taking an iron supplement on top of a multivitamin, which might help you to increase your fertility and avoid pregnancy-related anaemia. Also, make sure that your diet includes eggs, fish, beans, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, pumpkin, whole grains and healthy meats.
- Omega 3 fatty acids – It very important to make sure that you have these in your diet, because your body cannot produce them naturally. They help to balance out your hormones, increase blood flow to the uterus and assist with foetal brain development. You can get more by eating salmon, mackerel, sardines, cod, flaxseed oil, eggs and walnuts.
- Selenium – This nutrient is excellent for helping to make sperm more mobile in men, as well as encouraging oestrogen metabolism in women. Also, it can help to protect your eggs against free radicals that will affect their health and quality. Get more selenium by eating more whole grains, leafy greens, Brazil nuts and fish.
The foods you eat today will impact the health of your eggs or sperm 90 days from now, so it’s very important to focus on good nutrition when you are trying to conceive!
- Newsweek. How Diet Affects Fertility. http://www.newsweek.com/how-diet-affects-fertility-94591 (Accessed April 2016) ↩
- Natural Fertility Info. How Important is Going Organic to My Fertility. http://natural-fertility-info.com/organic-fertility.html (Accessed April 2016) ↩
- Natural Fertility Info. The Natural Fertility Diet. http://natural-fertility-info.com/fertility-diet (Accessed April 2016) ↩
- American Pregnancy Association. Pregnancy and Pica. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/unusual-cravings-pica/ (Accessed April 2016) ↩
- Natural Fertility Info. Minerals: The Missing Link to Getting Pregnant. http://natural-fertility-info.com/minerals-the-missing-link.html (Accessed April 2016) ↩
- Muscle For Life. How to Improve Female Fertility with Diet. http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-improve-female-fertility-with-diet/ (Accessed April 2016) ↩
- MedlinePlus. Folic Acid and Birth Defect Prevention. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002092.htm (Accessed April 2016) ↩
- Miscarriage Research. How To Increase Progesterone. https://sites.google.com/site/miscarriageresearch/hormones-and-miscarriage/progesterone-research/how-to-increase-progesterone (Accessed April 2016) ↩
- Parents. Best Vitamisn and Nutrients to Aid Conception. http://www.parents.com/getting-pregnant/fertility/best-vitamins-and-minerals-to-aid-conception/ (Accessed April 2016) ↩
- Dr. Sara Gottfried MD. The Benefits of Vitamin D. http://www.saragottfriedmd.com/the-benefits-of-vitamin-d-why-its-the-sexiest-vitamin-around/ (Accessed April 2016) ↩