When couples decide that they are ready to become parents, they often implement lifestyle changes to improve their health and help prepare themselves for parenthood. One of the biggest changes women make to prepare for pregnancy is the switch to a healthy diet. But when it comes to conception, not all diets are created equal. Eating healthy may not be enough for couples who may have difficulty conceiving. There are some very specific foods that have been associated with a possible increase in fertility. Following a fertility diet is one of many steps that couples can take in order to increase their odds of getting pregnant.
How Food Boosts Fertility
Many studies have shown that eating fertility-friendly foods can increase conception rates by improving ovulation, decreasing the chance of a miscarriage and improving the overall health of the reproductive system and the body in general. Foods do more than stave off hunger and fuel the body. The foods you eat are the major source of hormone regulators that you come into contact with. When hormones are not properly balanced, it can be difficult or even impossible to conceive. In addition, fertility-friendly foods contain high levels of antioxidants, which not only improve overall health, but also protect both the sperm and egg from free radicals. Cutting back on unhealthy fats, preservatives and artificial ingredients while boosting your intake of the following fertility-friendly foods is a key step in improving your chances of conceiving.
1. Milk, Cheese, Yogurt And Ice Cream
Calcium is an important nutrient for women during all stages of life, including pregnancy. Most expectant mothers understand the importance of getting enough calcium to support the development of the baby’s growing bones, as well as to maintain her own calcium supply. But calcium is equally important during the preconception phase to help boost fertility. Adding calcium from full-fat dairy sources, such as milk, yogurt, ice cream and cheese, not only helps strengthen bones, but actually helps the reproductive system to function more efficiently.
The reason for the link between dairy and increased fertility rates is not yet understood, but scientists have conducted numerous studies on the subject, all of which point to the reproductive benefits of high-calcium foods. Women trying to conceive should aim for 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, the equivalent of three, 8-ounce glasses of milk. Recent studies conclude that the dairy products should be full fat to enhance fertility. Although the reason is not known, according to these recent studies, low-fat dairy products do not have the same positive effect. In fact, women who participated in the study actually had a decrease in fertility when low-fat dairy was consumed instead of full-fat or whole dairy products. As long as your weight is within the normal range, choose full-fat dairy for at least one of your daily calcium servings.
2. Whole Grains
In recent years, carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap. With a reputation for sabotaging the waist line, many people avoid carbohydrates at all costs. Some women who are trying to conceive mistakenly think that they should avoid carbs in order to maintain their weight. But all carbohydrates are not created equal, and when it comes to boosting fertility, healthy carbs are an important nutrient that is required for optimal health.
Complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, are not only healthy, but can help boost fertility, unlike the carbohydrates that are found in refined breads and white rice. When refined carbohydrates are consumed, blood sugar levels increase and insulin rises. This can interfere with the hormones that are responsible for reproduction, which can delay or prevent conception. Additionally, a lot of vitamins and minerals are stripped from the grains during refining, many of which are tied to improved fertility.
Whole grain foods break down much slower. The longer digestion process keeps blood sugar and insulin levels in check. In addition, there may be a link between whole grains and improved ovulation. Women who suffer from irregular ovulation often have an insulin imbalance. By opting for slow digesting whole grains, insulin levels are kept in check, which often results in improved ovulation.
3. Bright Colored Fruits And Vegetables
It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables are a nutritional powerhouse for both men and women, alike. Rich in vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients, fresh fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants and phytochemicals that help eliminate free radicals. When free radicals accumulate in the body, they can cause a plethora of health problems, including a disruption in reproductive hormones. Consuming fresh or frozen produce when trying to conceive will flood your body with nutrients while also eliminating toxins that can interfere with conception.
When choosing fruits and vegetables, fill your plate with as many bright colors as possible. As a general rule, the more intense the color, the more nutrients the fruit or vegetable contains. Berries are especially nutritious, as are vegetables such as kale and red peppers. These foods help shield your cells from damage and prevent cell aging. This affects not only your body, but the eggs in your reproductive tract as well. Fresh is best, but frozen fruits and vegetables come in a close second. Steer clear of canned varieties which have very little nutritional value and are full of preservatives and artificial sweeteners.
Lean animal protein that is high in iron, such as that found in chicken, is important for women who are trying to conceive. Iron and protein are essential for women both before and during pregnancy. Although iron can be found in both animal and non-animal sources of protein, there is a significant link between consuming animal protein and increased fertility. Research shows that women who are iron-deficient are more likely to suffer from infertility than those who are not.
This does not mean that all of your protein should come from lean animal meat, but aim for at least one serving per day. Be sure to choose chicken that is prepared using healthy techniques such as grilling, baking or broiling and steer clear of chicken that is fried or prepared with a lot of fat.
Many people are surprised to learn that eggs are a powerful super-food that can dramatically improve reproductive health. Eggs are brimming with vitamins and essential nutrients such as protein and choline. Choline is important during preconception and pregnancy because it improves the body’s ability to absorb folic acid. Folic acid is crucial during the preconception and early pregnancy stages to prevent neural tube defects such as Spina bifida. Consuming just one egg per day can boost choline levels enough to nearly double the absorption rate of folic acid.
6. Green Leafy Vegetables
In addition to all of the antioxidants found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, these veggies are also chock full of iron. Iron is crucial for maintaining a balanced menstrual cycle, as many women who are iron-deficient tend to have irregular periods. When women experience a disruption in their menstrual cycle, they are less likely to be able to conceive. By incorporating just 3-cups of green leafy vegetables into your meals each day, you can raise your iron levels significantly within just one month. In doing so, you will improve your chance of conceiving.
7. Nuts and Seeds
Much like whole grains, nuts and seeds are also digested slowly, which helps regulate insulin levels and improve ovulation. In addition, nuts and seeds contain high levels of Omega-3s, essential fatty acids that have a direct effect on hormone levels. Nuts and Seeds are also very high in antioxidants. In addition to eliminating free radicals, antioxidants help to boost the immune system and decrease the chance of the female body from attacking the male’s sperm.
8. Olive Oil
As mentioned above, Omega-3s are believed to have an enormous effect on improving fertility. Omega-3s are commonly found in healthy oils such as olive oil. Studies suggest that Omega 3’s can actually improve the quality of both sperm and egg, so they is an important part of the fertility diet for both men and women trying to conceive. Replace unhealthy oil varieties with olive oil to boost fertility. Olive oil can be added to sauces and salad dressings or drizzled over sandwiches and wraps.