Fertility Boosting Foods
When most of us think of fertility treatment, we imagine sophisticated diagnostic testing, powerful medications, and high-tech procedures. Choosing certain foods and drinks as a way to influence your ability to become pregnant sounds more like folktale wisdom than medical advice.
Yet, science now is coming full circle to take another look at the role nutrition may play in improving fertility and supporting healthy pregnancies. While many women don’t start getting serious about eating healthfully until after they’ve become pregnant, there’s increasing evidence that diet matters long before conception.
Watch Your Weight
Unhealthy foods —whether too much or too little—has been recognized as a contributing factor to infertility for many years.
Too little or too much weight can make your reproductive cycle irregular.
“Your ovaries and your fat cells regulate estrogen, which affects ovulation. If you’re too thin, you may not be producing enough estrogen, and if you’re overweight or obese, you may be producing too much,” says Maria Biasucci-Vianna, MS, RD, CDN, a New Rochelle, NY, dietitian who has counselled women with infertility problems in her private practice.
Foods to Improve Ovulation.
Switch Protein Sources
Replace some of the beef, pork or chicken you eat (animal protein) with vegetable protein sources, such as cooked dried beans and nuts. When five percent of total calories eaten come from vegetable protein instead of animal, the risk of ovulatory infertility drops by more than 50 percent.
Add Some High-Fat Dairy.
Call it the Chunky Monkey Effect. The more low-fat dairy products you eat, the greater your risk of ovulatory infertility. Yes, you read that right—although the study’s authors caution against using this to justify late-night freezer raids for a pint of premium ice cream. Instead, try replacing one low-fat dairy serving per day with one high-fat serving, such as a glass of whole milk.
- Whole grains.
- Fruits, vegetables.
- Lean meats, beans.
- Low-fat dairy.
- B vitamins, vitamin E, fiber.
- Vitamin C, antioxidants.
- Protein, zinc, iron.
- Protein, calcium.
- Benefits baby’s brain and nervous system development; reduces risk of premature birth.
- Reduces risk of spinal cord and brain defects, especially in weeks before conception and first trimester of pregnancy.
You may never have heard of it, but choline is a nutrient with the potential to reduce harmful gene effects that may result in birth defects. It also is important for brain function, among other benefits. Most women don’t get enough choline; many prenatal vitamins don’t even contain it. Egg yolks are rich in choline; only beef liver contains more. Cauliflower, the highest choline-containing veggie, has 25 percent of the choline found in one egg yolk.
Fertility problems may be due to the male partner’s weight or diet. Johnson says that vitamins C and E, zinc and folic acid help improve sperm health. Sperm motility can also be damaged by smoking, drinking alcohol (including beer) and recreational drug use.
Don’t eat sushi or any raw fish. Avoid fish that have high mercury content due to their environment—including swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and shark.
When you don’t drink enough water, your cervical fluid (the stuff that helps the sperm find the target egg) becomes sluggish, Johnson points out. The same goes for a man’s ejaculate fluid. Drink enough water so that your urine is a light yellow color.
High caffeine intake interferes with conception. You may want to consider eliminating it from your diet altogether by avoiding caffeinated coffee, tea and soft drinks (decaf is fine). Once you’re pregnant, caffeine also crosses the placenta and can affect the fetus and even cause miscarriage. Stick to no more than two five-ounce cups of regular coffee a day.