Eating For Fertility: 10 Do’s and 10 Don’ts
Studies now show that the nutritional status of a woman when she conceives is as important, or may even be more important, as her diet during pregnancy. Nutrition influences the hormones, the quality of eggs and sperm, successful implantation and growth of the embryo, and normal fetal development. The egg and sperm take 3 months to develop, so are influenced by diet and lifestyle for the entire 3-month period prior to conception.
The following guidelines below have been shown to be effective in fertility support. Along with nutritional suggestions, we recommend making sure you take a good prenatal vitamin with adequate methylated folate, get good exercise, spend some time each week in stress reduction activities such as yoga or tai chi, and get enough sleep – which experts say means 8 hours per night! Getting less sleep reduces the body’s ability to effectively clear toxins.
10 Do’s for a Fertility Friendly Diet
1) Eat 5+ servings of organic vegetables and fruits daily (mainly vegetables) – and especially produce high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help retard the cellular aging process and are especially high in colored veggies such as ones that are red, orange, yellow or purple.
2) Omega-3 fatty acids have been highly researched as one of the most recommended nutrients for fertility. Fish highest in omega-3 fatty acids are wild salmon and sardines. These fats support healthy cellular structure and optimal egg and sperm fertilization.
3) Eat whole foods, mainly of plant origin, especially dark leafy greens. As Michael Pollen says: “Eat food, mostly vegetables, and not too much”.
4) When you eat carbohydrates, make them complex carbs such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. They are nutritious and contain high fiber, so are digested slowly to have a gradual effect on blood sugar and insulin. Studies show high insulin levels have an adverse effect on ovulation. Low glycemic is best.
5) Eat organic whenever possible. For animal products such as meat and dairy, choose foods from grass fed animals, and antibiotic and hormone free. If eating dairy, it is best to choose whole, full-fat dairy as opposed to low-fat. With meat, choose lean cuts.
6) Eat enough protein – choose more from plant foods and less from animal sources.
7) Drink plenty of good quality purified water (avoid plastic bottled water)
8) Keep your weight in the “fertility zone” with a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5-24. Being too thin affects the ability of your body to store and use estrogen, and being overweight affect insulin regulation. Both too high or too low BMI can have a significant effect on fertility.
The formula: BMI = (weight in lbs X 703) / (height in inches)
9) Eat foods high in Vitamins C, E, B12 and Folate, which have been shown to be particularly good for fertility. Vitamin D and B6 are also important fertility vitamins. Methylated Folate has been converted to a form more useable in the body and can be a good supplement to take.
10) Zinc is necessary for egg maturation, stabilizing hormones, and low levels have been clearly linked to miscarriage. Eat foods high in zinc such as pumpkin and sesame seeds, tahini, oysters, yoghurt, spinach, beans, cashews, and mushrooms.
10 Things to Avoid for a Fertility Friendly Diet
1) Avoid processed foods, especially: soda, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol. Also high fructose corn syrup, agave sweetener, and pasteurized fruit juices, as these foods Increase insulin resistance.
2) Avoid non-organic produce as they will probably contain multiple pesticides and/or fungicides. Known as the dirty dozen, these fruits and vegetables, when conventionally grown, are the highest in pesticide content, so be particularly careful to eat these foods organic: apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, potatoes.
3) Numerous studies connect BPA in plastics with infertility, and poor response to IVF procedures, as well as developmental problems in pregnancy and early childhood. Minimize your BPA exposure by not buying foods like meats that are packaged with the food touching plastic wrap, don’t drink out of plastic water bottles, and don’t heat foods in plastic containers.
4) Trans fats are known to increase insulin resistance and cause metabolic problems, are connected with diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, and increase inflammatory markers – all issues that affect fertility. Trans fats are formed when liquid oils are turned into solid fats such as shortening and hard margarine, by “hydrogenating” vegetable oils. They are found primarily in processed food, commercial baked and snack foods, fried foods, and some margarine. Avoid these foods, and anything with “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on the label. Use olive, coconut or grapeseed oils for cooking.
5) Avoid fish that commonly have the highest mercury content (usually the big fish that eat smaller fish, therefore doubling their toxic load) such as Tuna, Swordfish, Mackerel (King, Spanish, Gulf), Chilean Sea Bass, Grouper, Orange Roughy, Halibut, Marlin, and Shark,
The fish with the lowest mercury content are Wild Salmon, Anchovies, Pacific Sole, Sardines, Flounder, Herring, Whitefish, Scallops, Mussels, and Shrimp
6) Avoid non-organic animal products because they will likely contain hormones and antibiotics as well as holding chemical pesticide residues in the fat of the meat or dairy.
7) Stop eating soy, unless fermented such as in miso and tempeh. Soy has estrogen-mimicking properties, which is especially problematic in processed soy such as soymilk, soy protein powder, soy cheese and other products that do not use the whole bean.
8) Avoid high glycemic foods, especially if you have PCOS. High glycemic foods disrupt hormone metabolism and insulin regulation.
9) Avoid simple carbs (like cookies, cakes, bread and white rice) as they will increase blood sugar quickly. To drive down the blood-sugar spike, the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin helps move glucose from the bloodstream to the cells but with simple carbs it makes it harder to move glucose into the cells, leaving high insulin levels that cause metabolic disturbances and adversely affects ovulation.
10) Studies show that for many people, gluten causes a cascade of inflammation beginning in the GI tract then affecting the reproductive system, decreasing healthy conception and implantation. It can be wise to avoid gluten, even for those who do not have celiac disease.