Throughout history, there have been countless traditions and beliefs about fertility being inextricably linked to diet, with or without scientific basis. Many foods have been categorized as “fertility foods,” such as ginseng, oysters, garlic and even champagne. Although these foods may be part of a healthy diet that is diverse and nutritious, they may not contribute as much to women’s health as other foods.
For women who do not have infertility due to an underlying physical problem, here are ten easy rules that link diet and fertility.
- Take your vitamins. An extra 400 mcg of folic acid added to your diet when you and your partner are trying to conceive is beneficial in increasing your chances at success.
- Drink whole milk. Whole milk, ice cream, or full-fat yogurt has enough essential fat for proper bodily function, including normal reproductive physiology and a healthy immune system.
- Cut out trans fat from your diet. Trans fats are found in margarine and other chemically processed fatty products, and clog arteries and blood vessels. Not only do they threaten fertility, but they can cause damage to the heart.
- Use unsaturated vegetable oils. These are classified into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which improves fertility. These oils are found in nuts and seeds, as well as in fish such as salmon and sardines.
- Eat more vegetable protein. Cut down on beef, pork and chicken such that you essentially replace one serving of meat with a serving of vegetable protein, found in legumes such as beans and peas, or tofu. Nuts such as peanuts, walnuts and almonds also contain protein and improve fertility.
- Increase your iron intake. Aside from several meat sources of iron, it is also found in plant sources such as beans, whole grains, tomatoes, beets, pumpkin, and leafy green vegetables such as spinach.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. Avoid sodas with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, as studies have shown a linkage between high sugar intake and ovulatory infertility. Drink caffeinated beverages and alcohol in moderation, if at all.
- Eat plenty of fiber. Slow carbs are high in fiber, and are found in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes such as beans and peas. These can improve fertility because they regulate insulin levels and keep your blood sugar under control. Diabetes and pregnancy do not mix.
- Maintain a normal BMI. Fertility is at an optimum for women with a body-mass index between 20 and 24. This represents the fertility zone for weight. Women whose weights are too high or too low tend to face problems such as abnormal menstrual cycles, abnormal ovulation, or even failure to ovulate altogether.
- Stay active. Daily exercise improves fertility, especially for women who do not get enough physical activity and are overweight. Make sure this exercise is reasonable, as overdoing it can inhibit ovulation.