Can changes in your diet improve your chances of getting pregnant? In an attempt to answer this question, scientists from Harvard Medical School carried out an analysis of all the available research to identify the effect of diet, exercise and body weight on fertility. The results were put together in a book The Fertility Diet. It contains a set of simple eating advice that has been shown to aid healthy conception.
Dietary recommendations for you:
Full-fat dairy products
It was found that women consuming low fat dairy were less likely to become pregnant in comparison to women who included full fat alternatives in their diet. Of course that doesn’t mean that you can eat unlimited amounts of ice cream as this can lead to excess weight and sabotage your efforts. Instead, plan your meals around medium to full fat milk, natural yoghurt and cheese, and leave foods like ice cream or tiramisu as an occasional treat.
Drinking enough water is extremely important for healthy conception due to its role in regulating the production of hormones. The best choice is mineral water as it contains beneficial minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. If you usually drink tap water, make sure it is filtered to reduce the level of impurities it might contain. Experts recommend that you drink at least 2 litres of water every day. The consumption of coffee continues to be a subject of rigorous research and heated debates, but the intake of soft drinks has been linked to infertility and therefore should be avoided. That includes drinks that contain fructose and artificial sweeteners such as aspartam.
Another finding was that including plant-based sources of protein could greatly reduce the risk of ovulatory infertility. There is no need to completely withdraw animal products, but you can replace one portion of meat each day with a vegetarian option, such as tofu, beans or nuts.
Inadequate iron has been linked with ovulation problems. The best source of iron is red meat but the high levels of saturated fat mean it should be limited to no more than 500g per week. Also, make sure that you go for organically grown good quality cuts, and completely avoid processed red meat, including sausages and bacon. In addition, you should include dark poultry meat, fish and vegetarian sources of iron such as lentils, nuts and seeds. It is best to consume plant-based sources of iron together with foods that contain vitamin C to improve iron absorption.
Dietary recommendations for your partner:
Nuts and seeds
Zinc has an important role in male fertility due to its involvement in the production of testosterone and sperm. Meat, although high in zinc, has been linked to reduced sperm count if eaten often and can also be high in saturated fat. Nuts and seeds are therefore a better choice as they’re not only a good source of zinc, but also provide healthy fats. Additionally nuts and seeds also provide selenium and vitamin E, both involved in increased sperm quality and motility. Brazil nuts are particularly good source of selenium, with just one nut providing the daily recommended amount of this mineral.
Pulses can not only provide your partner with vital minerals, including iron, zinc and selenium, but they are also a great source of protein. Foods like beans, peas and chickpeas can be an excellent low-fat replacement for meat.
Dietary recommendations for both of you:
Couples thinking of having a baby should choose healthy fats found in olive and rapeseed oils, avocados, nuts, seeds and oily fish. Among many of their important functions, these fats are essential for production of hormones involved in reproduction. Other fertility boosting qualities include improved insulin resistance and prevention of inflammation. At the same time you should limit consumption of saturated and trans fats, found mainly in foods of animal origin and processed foods, such as biscuits, cakes and fried foods.
Fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are the richest source of essential nutrients, which protect the cells from damage and maintain hormonal balance. To get the full benefits, it’s best to consume these foods raw or steamed to preserve the nutrients. The Department of Health recommends that you include at least 5 portions of different fruits and vegetables every day. Green vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce, asparagus or broccoli, are particularly important as they provide folic acid in its natural form, known as folate. In addition to helping prevent birth defects in your unborn baby, this B vitamin also assists with egg production and reduces the risk of ovulatory failure. Furthermore, the studies showed that folate can boost sperm quality in men.
Replacing processed and refined cereal foods with wholegrain varieties can improve insulin resistance. In addition, wholegrain foods provide many nutrients, including vitamin E, zinc and selenium, which have a positive effect on fertility. Choose rolled oats, wholemeal bread and brown rice for your main meals.