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Boost Your Fertility With Diet

Katlyn Joy | 2, September 2014


When you decide to start a family, you want to make sure you've done all you can to get healthy including following a nutritious diet. However, a healthy diet may do more than just add to your overall wellness; it may actually boost your fertility.

"Establishing a healthy eating pattern and weight is a good first step for women who are looking to conceive," said Brooke Schantz, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN of Loyola University Health System.

Schantz continued, ""Not only will a healthy diet and lifestyle potentially help with fertility, but it also may influence fetal well-being and reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy."

Be aware that healthy eating and optimum weight are not just women's issues in fertility; being overweight or obese is a common factor in men with low sperm counts and motility. Males are indicated as the issue in approximately 40 percent of infertility cases.

Weight Issues and Fertility

Being overweight or obese is a common culprit among women with PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome. Making matters worse, women who might be good candidates for assistive reproductive technologies such as IVF, or in vitro fertilization may be rejected as unsuitable candidates due to weight. Extra fat tissue is linked to chronic inflammation which in turn has negative effects on conception. However, even lowering weight by 5 percent can increase fertility.

The Harvard Study and the Fertility Diet

In November, 2007, Obstetrics and Gynecology published a study out of Harvard School of Public Health. For the study, researchers followed over 17,500 nurses who were part of the Nurses Health Study II and concluded that women who changed 5 aspects of their lifestyle in regards to diet and exercise reduced their risk of infertility by 80 percent. From this data, Walter Willett, M.D., a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and Jorge Chavarro, M.D. came up with the plan found in The Fertility Diet, a book published in 2007.

Their recommendations:

  • Reduce intake of trans fat and sugars from carbohydrates.
  • Obtain more protein from vegetable rather than animal sources.
  • Increase fiber and iron consumption.
  • Eat less sugar.
  • Take a vitamin.
  • Increase high-fat dairy foods.
  • Lower your body-mass index.
  • Stay physically active.

Other Tips for Boosting Fertility Through Diet

  • Eliminate processed foods in favor of organic foods.
  • Opt for healthy fats like omega 3s such as ALA, EPA and DHA.
  • Eat vitamin D foods like wild caught fish, organ meats, oysters, and cod liver oil.
  • Get vitamin A from pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, beef liver, spinach, collard greens and organic butter and cream.
  • Have healthy vitamin E intake from organ meats, sunflower seeds, dark green leafy veggies, almonds, olive oil and eggs.
  • Eat more salmon.
  • Go for whole grains rather than refined.
  • Drink more water, and cut out sugary drinks.
  • Limit caffeine drinks like tea, coffee, and soda.
  • Only drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
  • Be wary of herbal teas, as some are harmful in pregnancy and may impede conceiving.
  • Eat choline, although you may not know what it is. It's found in egg yolks, and the main source; cauliflower.
  • Get iodine in your diet from sources such as blackstrap molasses, seaweed, kelp, coconut, spinach, eggs and dairy.
  • Work nuts into your food intake. Choose walnuts, seeds, almonds and also add beans to your diet.
  • Avoid certain fish such as albacore tuna, sushi and raw fish, swordfish, king mackerel, shark and tilefish.

Limit exposure to pesticides by avoiding the so-called dirty dozen (the foods highest in pesticides): apples, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cherry tomatoes, celery, grapes, hot peppers, cucumbers, peaches, strawberries, potatoes, and spinach.

According to Dr. Willett, of the Harvard Study, the American diet is tied to the rising rate of infertility, "Americans' high consumption of sugary sodas and fruit drinks, starches, red meat and trans fats is a big factor. In terms of fertility, the mediterranean diet has been shown to be effective at helping achieve pregnancy. The sad reality is that even in our study of nurses, fewer than 5 percent of the women had an optimal diet."

Related Articles

Mediterranean Diet May Boost Chances of Conception

Antioxidants Won't Boost Female Fertility

Olive Oil In Women's Diets Can Boost Fertility

Fertility Smoothies To Boost Your Chances of Conceiving

The Dad's Preconception Diet


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