When struggling to conceive, our first thoughts are often of sophisticated diagnostic testing, strong medications, high-tech medical treatments and a lot of dollar signs. But fertility, in its essence, really comes down to a healthy reproductive system, and that can be developed and supported through certain vitamins, minerals and nutrients. After decades of medical research focusing on fertility enhancing technology, scientists have come full circle and have taken another look at how nutrition can improve fertility and support pregnancy. Research has found specific foods and eating patterns can significantly increase your chances of conceiving, and there are also certain foods you should avoid…
Can I Really Increase Fertility Through Food?
There have long been myths passed down through families about foods like oysters and champagne, garlic, ginseng, yams and kelp increasing fertility. While these don’t have much, if any, scientific backing, there are a number of other nutrients and food types that have been proven to assist people trying to get pregnant. A study from Harvard found that whole grains, healthy fats, high-quality protein, and, funnily enough, an occasional bowl of ice-cream, can actually boost fertility. The comprehensive research looked at the diet and fertility of more than 18,000 women over an eight-year period, and discovered that fertility could be improved through diet.
What Is A Fertility Diet?
A natural fertility diet is a way of eating to support your body’s reproductive health. It includes nutrient-dense foods that feed your hormones what they need to function and produce properly, as well as supporting balance, fetal development, egg health, sperm health and blood health. As well as improving your chances of conceiving, a fertility diet provides the nutrients necessary to grow a healthy baby and support your body through pregnancy.
Why Follow A Fertility Diet?
Nutrition is a powerful tool in helping women get pregnant and a fertility diet can help you prepare for pregnancy, boost fertility and support a healthy pregnancy. The building blocks for hormones come from the food we eat, and the antioxidants that help protect the egg and sperm from free radicals make their way into our bodies through food. Eating a balanced healthy diet is fine, but when it comes to eating a fertility diet, that can look very different, so it is important to know what to consume, when to consume it, and what not to consume. Unlike most fertility treatments, following a fertility diet is something that is available to just about anyone, regardless of location, fertility issues, age, time and money.
The Significance Of Breakfast
Research has discovered a link between eating a big, healthy breakfast and an increased chance of conceiving. According to a 2013 study, a high-calorie breakfast can actually increase the chances of women with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) fall pregnant. Researchers found that timed caloric intake could influence insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism in lean PCOS women.
Of the 60 participants, half were given a larger breakfast and smaller dinner (980 kcal breakfast, 640 kcal lunch and 190 kcal dinner) for 90 days, while the other half ate a large dinner and small breakfast (190 kcal breakfast, 640 kcal lunch and 980 kcal dinner). There was a significant decrease of AUC glucose and AUC insulin in the high caloric breakfast group, which meant their resistance to insulin had dropped. The male hormone testosterone also decreased by 50 per cent in the same group. These women also had an increased ovulation rate, improving their fertility, and the sex hormone-binding globulin increased by 105 per cent. No changes were observed in the low caloric breakfast group. Researchers concluded that the amount of calories consumed throughout the day is important for women trying to conceive, but the timing of that caloric intake is even more important, with breakfast being the most important meal.
An Easy Breakdown (Fertility Diet Tips To Live By)
There are a few guidelines to follow when eating a fertility diet and here are some important ones to remember…
Avoid Trans Fats – Trans fats can clog arteries, threaten the heart and blood vessels and threaten fertility, so it’s best to keep these foods to a minimum. Even a small daily intake can increase insulin resistance, which can potentially cause metabolic disturbances and affect ovulation.
Aim For Variety – Think of food as rainbows and try to get as many colors, especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables, throughout the day as possible. On top of that, make your intake of fruits and vegetables abundant every day – taking in as many of them as you can!
Think Fresh – The fresher the food, the better. As food ages, it loses its nutrient density, so when trying to get as many vitamins and minerals into your body as possible, aim for fresh food.
Ditch The Processed Food – Try to minimize your consumption of fast foods and processed foods as much as possible. Avoid them altogether if possible, but if you can’t quite manage that, at least be aware of the amount you are consuming and try to significantly decrease it.
Eat Organic – Where possible, try to eat fresh, organic food to minimize your intake of any additives and chemicals.
Use Unsaturated Vegetable Oils – Coconut, avocado, nut and seed oils are great options because these monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help improve sensitivity to insulin and cool inflammation, which both benefit fertility.
Eat Vegetable Protein – Cut down a little on your consumption of meat and replace with vegetable protein options, like beans, peas, tofu and nuts. Choosing vegetable protein over animal protein has been found to lessen the risk of ovulatory infertility.
Eat Complex Carbohydrates – Carbs that are high in fiber and digested slowly in the body, like whole grains, vegetables, whole fruits and beans, control blood sugar and insulin levels, unlike easily digested carbs such as white bread, pasta and cakes. High insulin levels are understood to inhibit ovulation, so it is important to keep them controlled.
Drink Whole Milk – If you drink milk, choose full fat instead of skim while trying to get pregnant, or eat a small dish of ice-cream or full fat yogurt every day. These dairy products provide the body with plenty of nutrients to help support your baby’s development, including calcium and vitamin D.
Take A Folic Acid Supplement – By getting extra folic acid during the month leading up to conceiving, you could actually reduce the risk of neural-tube defects like spina bifida by up to 70 per cent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Consume Plant Iron – Spinach, whole grain cereals, beans, pumpkin, tomatoes and beetroot provide a plant-based source of nonheme iron, which appears to promote fertility, according to research from Harvard.
Drink Lots Of Water – When it comes to fertility, water should always be your first choice for hydrating the body. Contrary to popular belief, coffee, tea, and even alcohol are okay in moderation, but sugary sodas are in the no-go zone.
Add Fertility-Boosting Herbs To Your Meals – There are a number of healthy herbs available that can actually enhance fertility when added to a healthy meal. These include chaste tree berry, maca, red clover, red raspberry leaves, shatavari and stinging nettle. These herbs have different powers, including improving ovulation, balancing hormones, and supporting the absorption of certain nutrients.
Reach A Healthy Weight – When trying to get pregnant, weighing too much or too little can cause problems. Being over or underweight can interrupt your menstrual cycle, throw off ovulation, and in some cases, stop it altogether. By reaching a healthy, normal weight, which can be measured on the BMI calculator, you can increase your chances of conceiving. This measurement system should not be taken as gospel, and there are certainly flaws with it, but it does offer a useful system for the means of fertility health.
Get Fit – Maintaining a good level of fitness by exercising every day can improve fertility. However, too much physical exercise, especially if you are quite lean, can actually impede fertility by stopping you from ovulating. Too much or too little exercise varies from person-to-person, but a good guideline is to keep your exercise moderate rather than hardcore. For example, two-and-a-half hours of brisk walking per week, or 30 minutes of power walking at least five days a week, is a good start. While this is not technically about your nutrition, it is an important part of your overall health, and eating healthy, natural foods will increase your energy, helping you feel more motivated to exercise.
When looking for recipes that will support your fertility diet, follow the guidelines above, and aim for plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Here are some breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas to get you started…
Almond Buckwheat Pancakes – Full of natural complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, calcium and protein, these calorie-rich pancakes are a delicious, and, let’s face it – very tasty way to start your day! Enjoy with some maple syrup and berries or bananas.
Mushroom & Herb Omelet – Featuring eggs and mushrooms as the main affair, this protein and vitamin-rich breakfast option is another great idea for mornings. This omelet is seasoned with parsley, oregano and basil or thyme for a refreshing burst of herby goodness and is super quick and easy to whip up! You can add Swiss or cheddar cheese for a bit more flavor and dairy.
Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa – With the goodness of quinoa, milk, almonds, blueberries and cinnamon, this sweet, satisfying breakfast will give you a mega boost of protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Ricotta Frittata – With eggs, ricotta, parmesan, basil, nutmeg, olive oil, butter, shallots and spinach, this tasty, cheesy breakfast option could work for any meal during the day! It is protein-rich, vitamin-rich and tastes delicious – the perfect option if you prefer savory for breakfast.
Avocado & Tomato Breakfast Scramble – This tasty savory breakfast is nutrient-rich, protein-rich and has plenty of healthy fertility-boosting calories. It will keep you energized throughout the day, with all natural ingredients. And it couldn’t be easier – simply scramble some eggs and chop some avocado and tomato!
Quinoa With Veggies – This tasty, refreshing lunch is packed full of nutrient-rich ingredients, including quinoa, olive oil, garlic, bell pepper, corn, cumin, oregano and onions. It provides lots of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, with a colorful variety of vegetables.
Buckwheat Teff Wraps – Again, this recipe features colorful vegetables, providing a range of essential, fertility-boosting nutrients, including beetroot, rocket leaves (arugula) and broccoli & alfalfa sprouts. And that tasty medley is served in a heart-healthy buckwheat wrap!
Spicy Garbanzo Beans – Beans have so many fertility-boosting health benefits, from improving heart health and lowering bad cholesterol to providing vegetable protein. Whipped up with garlic, onion, turmeric and olive oil, this delicious lunch option is full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Smoked Maple Tofu Salad – Another beautiful, colorful dish that you just know is bursting with nutrient-rich fertility-boosting ingredients! Carrots, red peppers, cabbage, cucumber, radishes, chili, onion, mint, coriander, lime, maple syrup, sesame oil and tofu make up this bright, happy salad – the perfect summer dinner option.
Chili Garlic BBQ Salmon – A nice fish-based dinner can give you a much-needed omega-3 boost, but just make sure you choose fresh cuts. This recipe includes immune-strengthening ginger, chili, garlic and lime for a healthy system.
Porcini Crusted Black Cod With Garlic Spinach – This tasty, restaurant-quality dish is full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and powerful vegetables, including mushrooms and spinach. The omega-3 found in cod helps regulate reproductive hormones and contains docosahexaenoic acid, which is critical to your baby’s development.
Tomato Rice With Coconut Milk – This tasty Indian-inspired dish is full of healthy herbs, protein-rich nuts, and vegetables. Coconut is a powerful fertility-boosting food for both men and women. The lauric acid found in coconut has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. This rare medium-chain acid is currently under the microscope, with researchers predicting it will become as famous as omega-3 one day. Lauric acid is also found in breast milk, and supports healthy metabolism. For men, lauric acid can assist in preventing erectile dysfunction because of its hormone-balancing properties.
Note: If you work from home or don’t work and have time to cook lunch, you can swap the dinner and lunch options around!
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