There’s one thing you can’t ignore if you want to start a family: what you put on your plate. The foods you choose to eat (or not) and when you choose to eat them, can go a long way to preparing your body for pregnancy. What do you need to do to add to your pre-pregnancy check-list?
Here are my top 10 tips to boost your fertility. Don’t worry, it’s not all about greens and salad, in fact, I reckon #3 will make you smile!
The fewer toxins your body has to deal with, the better it can grow a new life. Non-organic produce is grown in soil that is pumped full of artificial fertilizers and sprayed with insecticides and herbicides that remain in the finished product. A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who ate high-pesticide fruits and vegetables were 18% less likely to become pregnant than women who ate organic (1).
This affects men too. Research has found that men who eat fruit and vegetables with high pesticide residue suffer from poor quality semen (2).
Does this mean you have to go 100% organic? In an ideal world, yes but this can be a challenge. A good place to start is to look at the EPA’s dirty dozen (fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residues) and get the organic versions (3).
Antioxidants fight free radicals that can otherwise damage sperm or egg cells. They also help your body to neutralize and eliminate toxins. Where can you find them? The best sources are berries and brightly coloured fruits and vegetables such as kale, raspberries, blueberries, beetroot, tomatoes, and red cabbage. Nuts and seeds also packed with a good amount as is cacao, which is incredibly rich in antioxidant flavonoids. Make sure you pick good quality, dark, organic and raw cacao for the best benefits or you could even make your own.
One of the major causes of infertility is PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). PCOS is caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones which results in ovarian cysts, irregular menstrual cycles and high levels of testosterone, all of which reduce your likelihood of conceiving. Regulating insulin production can help manage and reverse PCOS. One study found that eating a larger breakfast reduces insulin levels by 8%(4) compared to women who ate most of their calories at dinner. It’s time to swap that slice of toast with something more nutrient-dense and satisfying such as scrambled tofu, avocado on seeded sourdough, porridge with nuts & seeds…
Carbohydrates are not the enemy… but that depends on how much you eat and the type you eat. Refined carbohydrates (like sugar, fizzy drinks, refined grains like white bread and pasta) cause a spike in blood sugar levels and hormone problems. A study of over 18,000 women found that those who ate a high-carb diet had a 78% higher chance of infertility (5).
A low-carbohydrate diet, on the other hand, reduces insulin levels, helps to maintain a healthy weight, and improves menstrual regularity. Avoid refined carbs and instead opt for complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, beans, pulses and root vegetables.
Your digestive system is one of your body’s detox pathways. Eating high-fibre foods helps your digestive system to eliminate toxins and excess hormones, thereby helping you improve your reproductive and overall health. Fibre also keeps you satisfied and can, therefore, help you maintain or achieve a healthy weight. The best high-fibre foods to add to your plate are beans and legumes, flax and chia seeds, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
The research is mixed on caffeine. Some studies suggest that drinking coffee negatively impacts your chances of conception while others didn’t find a link between caffeine and fertility. One thing’s for sure: too much coffee tends to increase anxiety levels and that’s the last thing you need when you’re trying for a baby. Therefore, it’s a good idea to rethink your caffeine intake, perhaps swap your latte for a calming cup of herbal tea, like rooibos, chamomile or white tea.
Eating too much animal protein can increase your risk of infertility by over 30% (6). While swapping the meat, eggs and fish in your diet with plant protein can dramatically improve your fertility (7). Scramble tofu instead of eggs, make your own bean burger instead of choosing beef and use a nut-based cheese for your sandwich. There are now countless vegan options to choose from - but if you’re buying pre-made, check the label and go for minimally-processed products made with natural ingredients only.
Iodine deficiency can have a devastating effect on your pregnancy and your new-born. When you’re pregnant, your Iodine requirements increase because the foetus depends on it to develop a healthy brain and thyroid; women who are deficient in Iodine are 50% less likely to conceive than women with adequate iodine levels (8).
So how can you address this? A good prenatal multivitamin containing iodine will help or you can also add seaweed to your diet. Most health food shops now offer a variety of seaweeds to try. Add a piece of kombu to your soups, sprinkle some dried sea vegetables onto your salad or use agar-agar to make vegan jellies.
It takes two to make a baby so it’s important to improve your partner’s fertility as well. Sunflower seeds and walnuts are a great source of Vitamin E (a handful will give you around half your recommended daily intake). Research has found that Vitamin E can boost sperm motility and improve sperm count. (9) So if you’re looking to get pregnant, make sure you add these fertility-boosting foods to your partner’s dinner. You could make a delicious vegan sunflower seed pesto or some raw walnut brownies…
How you eat today affects your eggs and fertility in 90 days. It’s never too early to prepare your body for pregnancy. The healthier you are, the better the chances of conceiving. So don’t wait until next week, pick one or two of these tips to boost your fertility and start setting the scene for motherhood today.
Are you trying for a baby? What has helped you to prepare of motherhood? Let me know in the comments!
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