Eating right to conceive

Eager to nurture a bump? Eating right not only sets your body in an optimal state for pregnancy, it also has an effect on the time it takes you to get pregnant. The benefits of eating healthy are many; when you wish to conceive, eating right becomes all the more important.

After eight years of study amongst more than 18,000 women, the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston published its findings on the link between diet and fertility. Through ten evidence-based suggestions for boosting fertility, it transpires that, ‘the true fertility foods are whole grains, healthy fats, excellent protein packages, and even the occasional bowl of ice cream’. Bet we’re all quite eager about the ice cream part!

Here’s what the study had to say about foods that can help you conceive.

1. Avoid trans fat

Trans fat is the worst type of fat: apart from lowering your good cholesterol (HDL), it also increases your bad cholesterol (LDL). Trans fat clogs arteries, harms the heart and blood vessels, as well as threatens fertility. This type of fat interferes with a cell receptor that affects inflammation, glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, increasing the risk of fertility issues. Basically, Go for whole foods rather than fast food such as fries and burgers.

2. Unsaturated vegetable oils

Improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin and cool inflammation is positive in terms of fertility. This can be improved by monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Introducing more vegetable oils, seeds, nuts and fish such as salmon and sardines provides a good boost to your baby-making efforts. Saturated fat as can be found in fatty beef, lamb, and lard and cream, is a no no.

3. Vegetable protein

Replacing a daily serving of meat with beans, peas, soybeans, nuts or tofu improves your fertility. The study concluded that replacing protein from animal sources with that from vegetable sources may reduce ovulatory infertility risk.

4. Yes to carbs, but the slow ones

Living with no carbs is not easy, but overdoing it affects blood sugar and insulin levels – two factors with a big say in fertility. Opt for carbohydrates which are digested slowly by the body and which are rich in fibre. Whole grains, vegetables, whole fruits, and beans can all improve fertility.

5. About whole milk

You may be surprised: low- and non-fat dairy aren’t so kind on fertility. When low- and non-fat dairy is being prepared, whole milk is processed by spinning at high speeds, separating the fat from water. Estrogen and progesterone stay in the fat, whereas androgens, insulin-like growth factor one (IGF-1), prolactin, and male hormones stick to the watery layer. This means that when you drink low- and non-fat dairy, you’re stocking up on male hormones rather than female ones. The solution? Go for whole milk, and if this does not tickle your fancy, opt for full fat yoghurt or a bowl of ice cream instead.

6. Multivitamins

Tracking ovulation may get slightly tricky if you’re not consuming enough nutrients. It is widely recommended to add 400 micrograms of folic acid a day, both for boosting your fertility as well as to create the best possible environment for your baby when pregnancy occurs. Taking folic acid before pregnancy decreases the chances of neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly in your baby. Although taking folic acid has wide-ranging benefits, taking too much of it can have detrminental effects. Speak to your GP or ObGyn before taking any supplements.

7. The importance of iron

Getting plenty of iron from fats promotes fertility so stock up on whole-grain cereals, spinach, beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, and beets. Low iron levels have a profound say on infertility: women who do not consume enough iron may suffer from lack of ovulation as well as poor egg health. This is because low iron levels may lead to an insufficient number of red blood cells, meaning that oxygen does not get adequately delivered to the ovaries and uterus, weakening the stored eggs and rendering them unviable.

8. Water

If you can do without, ditch the coffee, tea, and alcohol. If not, moderation is key. Water remains key in keeping your body hydrated and at its most optimal state. If you’re crazy on sugared sodas, it’s best if you cut back drastically. These have a profound effect on ovulatory infertility.

9. The ideal BMI

Weight and fertility have quite the relationship. Having the ideal body weight helps fertility in strides. If you’re underweight, it may mean that your body is not getting enough nutrients and that ovulation is only occurring sporadically or not at all. On the other hand, being overweight correlates with increased insulin levels. High insulin levels may lead to ovulatory dysfunction where ovaries reproduce male hormones and stop releasing eggs. Weight thus plays an important role in your journey to conception. Aiming for a body-mass index (BMI) of 20 to 24 ensures that you’re off to a good start.

10. Get moving

Exercise can help improve fertility, especially if you’re above the ideal BMI. Balance is key here: too much exercise can be as bad as no exercise at all as it can interfere with ovulation. Getting into an exercise routine that is kind on your body helps you stay positive and fit.

The male factor

Fertility – and the speed at which you become pregnant – depends on the male too. Your partner’s weight and diet, as well as habits such as smoking, and drinking alcohol affect sperm motility. Severe obesity is also linked to imbalances in hormone regulation involved in sperm production. Time to conquer that beer belly and stock up on foods high in Vitamins C and E!

What to eat to boost fertility

To summarize then, and in accordance with the Harvard Study, these are the items that you should be stocking up on:

– Nuts
– Seeds
– Salmon
– Sardines
– Beans
– Peas
– Soybeans
– Tofu
– Vegetables
– Whole fruits
– Whole milk
– Full fat yoghurt
– 400micrograms folic acid
– Water
– Whole grain cereals
– Spinach
– Pumpkin
– Tomatoes
– Beets

Written with insight from a study by the Harvard School of Public Health and adapted from, The Fertility Diet (McGraw-Hill) by Jorge E. Chavarro, M.D., Walter C. Willet, M.D., and Patrick J. Skerrett.

All content on Dreaming Of Baby is solely for informational purposes and should not be considered as a specific diagnosis or treatment plan.

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