12 Feb Is There a Fertility Diet That Helps With Getting Pregnant?
As much as some people would like to believe they might diet their way to conception, there is no confirmed diet to ensure fertility.
But we do know that healthy food choices can improve the chances of conception by helping to eliminate food consumption-related effects that can harm fertility, such as being overweight or underweight. These choices lead to proper vitamin and mineral intake as well as a healthier body mass index (BMI).
Experts weigh in on body weight, fertility diet “pattern” & ovulation
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) states that 12% of all primary infertility cases are due to the woman either being obese or underweight, both of which can negatively affect ovulation. Obesity in women also lowers pregnancy rates of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment, and obesity in men may lead to male infertility.
Infertility caused by weight concerns can sometimes be reversed. Certain foods have been proven to help the body balance weight while providing necessary vitamins and healthy fats.
Another direct link to diet and fertility can be found in a study published in the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal. It concluded that, “Following a ‘fertility diet’ pattern may favorably influence fertility in otherwise healthy women. Further, the majority of infertility cases due to ovulation disorders may be preventable through modifications of diet and lifestyle.”
That certainly makes the case for a link between diet and fertility. Consider that the World Health Organization reports that ovulation disorders, which are no ovulation or disrupted ovulation, account for 25% of couples’ infertility worldwide. It’s clear that diet affects fertility.
And it’s not just food intake. The proper intake of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can help a couple who is trying to conceive become and stay pregnant. It also impacts the health and development of their unborn child.
Fertility Specialists Medical Group’s recommended resources on nutrition
Good, whole nutrition and a healthy BMI are the keys to overall health, but we recognize that there is not one lifestyle or diet that works for everyone. There are several resources we recommend with different philosophies regarding health and weight loss.
View nutrition resources
Good fertility foods to eat if you’re trying to conceive
While there’s not a specific “fertility diet” you can follow step by step, there are some foods that are better for you and your fertility than others. The following are the good foods to include in your dietary intake while trying to conceive.
Complex carbs found in certain fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains are slowly digested and have a more gradual effect on insulin and blood sugar. Barely refined grains contain vitamin E, B vitamins and fiber, which aid with fertility. Buckwheat is one such grain and contains d-chiro-inositol, a chemical signal chain that helps the body dispose of sugar while improving ovulation.
Whole grains like millet, amaranth and quinoa satisfy hunger longer. They also assist in healthy blood sugar levels and weight loss for those trying to achieve or maintain a lower BMI.
Women trying to conceive should eat four to five servings of vegetables a day, with at least two servings coming from leafy greens. Vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals that help support fertility.
Spinach and kale contain iron, which can help lower the risk of ovulatory infertility. Dark leafy green vegetables also contain folic acid, one of the most important vitamins in the development of a fetus.
Vitamin C is another important nutrient for fertility and can be found in bell peppers, kale, cantaloupe, orange juice and broccoli. Fiber helps boost fertility levels by stabilizing blood sugar levels that affect the balance of important reproductive hormones. Fiber can be found in many foods including beans, peas, corn and broccoli.
The recommended daily consumption of fresh fruit is three to four servings. Fruit is another integral part of a healthy fertility diet.
Watermelon is a great source of glutathione, which is important for egg quality. Oranges not only contain vitamin C but are a natural source for folic acid and potassium. Pears, blueberries, raspberries and peaches are high in fiber, which can improve fertility.
Healthy, unsaturated fats like those found in avocados, olive oil and healthy nuts like almonds have been shown to have positive effects on cardiovascular health. They can also reduce inflammation in the body, helping promote regular ovulation and fertility. Studies have shown that women who ate good plant-based fats, especially avocados, during the IVF cycle increased their success rates by 3 ½ times.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, including salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring, are loaded with high-quality proteins and important nutrients. Most healthy fat sources contain several different vitamins and antioxidants that have numerous health benefits, including reducing the risk of several diseases and improving egg quality.
The Mediterranean Diet
Although being at a healthy weight is important for conception, how you get there and maintain it is just as important. Fad diets often deprive the body of necessary nutrients and can be more harmful than helpful. However, anti-inflammatory, nutrient-rich diets like the Mediterranean Diet provide the proper vitamins and minerals that fuel fertility, while cutting out the processed junk that leads to ovulatory issues and weight gain.
Whether or not a woman chooses to follow the Mediterranean Diet, it is a good reference for what to include in daily consumption and what to avoid, while closely following the nutrition guidelines for fertility.
When trying to get pregnant, eat less of these foods that can reduce fertility
Most of your protein should come from fish and not red meat. Other great sources of protein include turkey, chicken and pork. These meats contain zinc and iron that are important for a healthy pregnancy. Fatty red meats cause excess weight gain, which creates unbalanced estrogen levels. Chemicals called organochlorine pollutants also are found in animal fats and may cause delays in conception.
Women can reduce the risk of ovulatory disorders by half when 5% of their total calorie intake is derived from plant proteins such as beans, nuts and seeds.
Too much sugar can create issues with insulin and negatively affect hormonal balance in general including reproductive hormones. High levels of sugar are not only found in sweets but also hide in fruit juice, sodas, sweetened teas and energy drinks. Steer clear of drinking your sugars.
However, artificial sweeteners are not a healthy substitute for the real thing. They create a cortisol response that inhibits ovulation. Less-processed sweeteners like agave syrup, stevia, maple syrup and honey can be used as safer alternatives to artificial sweeteners.
Caffeine & alcohol
When a woman is trying to conceive, she should drink coffee, tea and alcohol in moderation. Two cups of coffee or one alcoholic drink per day will likely have little effect on ovulation but may lead to dehydration. Exceeding these numbers can cause fertility issues. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics and, in excess, can affect the consistency of cervical fluid by preventing mucous membranes from staying moist. This can impede sperm’s ability to move to the uterus.
Although the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends pregnant women take in no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day, the same recommendation can be made for women attempting to become pregnant.
Processed soy, particularly powders and energy bars, should be avoided when trying to get pregnant. The large amount of soy protein isolate in these products contains estrogen-mimicking properties that may disrupt hormonal balance. Men’s fertility can also be compromised by processed soy as it may influence their testosterone levels.
Whole soy products like edamame and tempeh can be eaten in moderation, as can fermented whole soy products such as miso paste or natto.
Women should avoid trans fats, which are primarily found in foods like commercial baked goods, French fries and some margarines. These “bad fats” increase insulin resistance and make it harder for the body to move glucose into the cells. This increases insulin levels, which negatively affects ovulation.
Processed carbs can be found in foods like white bread and white rice. The body digests highly processed carbs quickly and turns them into blood sugar. The pancreas reacts by releasing insulin into the bloodstream to try to lower the blood-sugar spike these foods cause. This increases your insulin levels and, like trans fats, can inhibit ovulation.
Processed carbs also have a high glycemic index (GI) which has been found to cause a greater risk of ovulatory infertility.
Most processed carbs also contain gluten. Gluten can invoke an inflammatory response in the body, heightening C-reactive protein, which sends signals that it is not an ideal time to conceive.
Multivitamins, supplements & folic acid can protect fertility
Taking a daily multivitamin containing at least 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid and 40 to 80 milligrams of iron helps avoid ovulatory infertility. Folic acid improves the chance of achieving and maintaining pregnancy and prevents neural tube defects in an unborn child. The neural tube develops into the spine and brain only three to four weeks after conception, so prenatal folic acid is crucial for a woman trying to conceive.
A woman trying to get pregnant should also consume at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium to support her nervous, circulatory and musculoskeletal systems. Supplements containing chaste berry, green tea, vitamin E and vitamin B6 have also been found to improve the chances of conception.
Men should take the proper vitamins and minerals for fertility as well. Find a men’s multivitamin that contains zinc, which helps prevent testosterone from being converted to estrogen. Vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and lycopene also aid in male fertility. There are now male prenatal vitamins on the market that include many if not all of these vitamins and minerals.