We’ve heard it all – you are what you eat. The links between your diet and stress, sleep, productivity at work, happiness and even sex, are well documented. What about food and fertility? Whether you are a man or a woman, if you’re thinking about or trying to conceive, now is the time to make some changes to your diet that could make all the difference.
For men, it’s all about sperm quality. Not all sperm are created equal and well-nourished sperm has a higher chance of producing a viable pregnancy.
For women, it’s all about creating the ideal environment to nurture and support a new life.
More fruits, veggies and daily vitamins are standard doctor’s orders, but what exactly should you be eating more (or less) of to aid conception? Here are 10 foods to eat when you are trying to conceive:
1. Red Meat
Hemoglobin-rich red meat is an excellent source of iron and protein, two essentials for replenishing your supply after menstruation and in preparation for conception.
Careful! Red meat should be consumed in moderation to avoid consuming high levels of cholesterol. Choose leaner cuts such as tenderloin, round, flank, tip, or rump steak – for lower cholesterol.
For vegetarians, tofu provides a good alternative for getting your required iron intake.
High in antioxidants, fiber, protein, B vitamins, iron and several other vitamins and minerals, beans are an excellent food for building the immune system and maintaining a healthy body weight. Excessive weight gain or loss is widely known to affect women’s menstrual cycles. Beans are also a great alternative protein source for vegetarians and vegans.
Fish, particularly oily fish like salmon, is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that not only keep your hormones functioning properly but also support your baby’s brain development after conception. Other great sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds.
4. Yogurt And Milk
Dairy is great for preparing your body for conception because it provides both calcium and protein. If you typically have low-fat or non-fat dairy products, consider swapping one low-fat serving for the full-fat version as this has been shown to increase fertility by reducing the chances of ovulation failure.
5. Leafy Greens
Broccoli, spinach, romaine, kale, arugula and other dark leafy green vegetables are an excellent source of folic acid and other B-vitamins, which are critical for supporting the development of a new baby, preventing birth defects and premature delivery. This is especially important in older women trying to conceive.
Leafy greens are also great for men as men with higher doses of folic acid in their diet produce healthier sperm, reducing the chances of a miscarriage or birth defects.
6. Whole Grain Bread
Although implicated in many undesirable health conditions, the right kind of bread can be great for preparing your body for a baby. Whole grain breads are complex carbohydrates which the body digests more slowly. This helps to maintain more stable blood sugar and insulin levels; important because high insulin levels have been known to disrupt reproductive hormones.
7. Brown Rice
In the same way that whole grain bread creates a favorable baby-making environment, brown rice supports healthy body weight and stable blood sugar.
The rule of thumb is simple when you are trying to conceive: go darker; brown rice instead of white, whole wheat pasta over white, dark chocolate instead of milk.
8. Olive Oil
Olive oil helps reduce inflammation in the body while increasing insulin sensitivity. Inflammation can interfere with most of the major reproductive processes including ovulation, conception and even the baby’s early development. Instead of high-fat, processed salad dressings on your greens, sprinkle on a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
This sweet, yellow fruit provides an excellent source of vitamin B6 which regulates hormones. Shortage of vitamin B6 can be disastrous to your conception efforts as it can lead to irregular periods, poor egg and sperm development.
Bananas aren’t the only fruits that are great for conceiving. Also incorporate citrus fruits, rich in vitamin C, into your diet. For men in particular, vitamin C has been shown to boost their sperm count and motility (ability to move properly towards an egg).
Boiled, scrambled, poached or friend, eggs are great source of vitamin D, shown in studies to be deficient in infertile women and in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a health problem that affects women’s hormone levels, periods, and of course, fertility. Eggs are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids however beware of loading up on them as they can lead to undesirably high cholesterol levels.
Now that you know the good things to eat, let’s make sure you also avoid the not-so-good stuff. Smoking, excessive alcohol use and recreational drug use are a complete no-no. While the research on the impact of caffeine on fertility is mixed, experts recommend moderate caffeine consumption at most. This means no more than two 8oz cups of coffee a day. Other foods to avoid include fish with high mercury content such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, and raw and smoked meats. While it may not be easy or even possible to achieve the perfect diet, small changes can go a long way in preparing your body for a baby. Good luck!
For any woman who is unhappy or demoralized by her quest to have a baby; click here to find out how a certified nutritionist has helped over 137,000 women worldwide to conceive without drugs, surgery or any kind of gimmicks.