Planning to grow your family can be an extremely exciting time and what you eat in the months leading up to conception can significantly boost your chances of falling pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. Your diet and lifestyle impact your fertility by contributing to the development of healthy, good quality eggs, the number and quality of sperm cells and also ensuring the uterus is healthy.
Did you know It takes around three months for an egg to develop to full maturity and for sperm to fully mature so investing in making some dietary changes for at least three months before trying to conceive is ideal.
Our guest blogger, Eatsense, local leading Accredited Practising Dietitians with sites across the Central Coast share valuable insights and their top five tips for boosting fertility.
1/ Aim to be YOUR healthiest weight
Nearly two thirds of Australian adults are overweight or obese, and as this rate has increased, so have rates of infertility in Australia. Infertility is not just associated with a high body weight, as being both over or under weight can significantly impact on regular ovulation and hormone production. Men who are overweight may also have reduced sperm quality. If you are overweight studies show that even losing just 5% of your body weight can significantly improve your chances of conceiving.
Choose to create healthy habits by enjoying nutritious foods and choosing to be more active on a daily basis. Keep accountable to your partner as a healthy diet will benefit his fertility and overall health too. Seeing an Accredited Practising Dietitian who specialises in fertility and preconception nutrition can also help with making small, sustainable changes instead of trying a crash diet.
2/ Boost your intake of plants
Choosing a plant rich diet, with plenty of vegetables, fruit and whole-grains is essential for optimising many key fertility nutrients. They provide us with an abundance of essential vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fibre and antioxidants that are vital for general health and wellbeing, but the importance of reaching our intake targets of these nutrients is paramount when trying to conceive and during pregnancy.
A Mediterranean-style diet focuses on vegetables, legumes, fruit, whole grains, nuts and extra-virgin olive oil; a moderate intake of fish and dairy; and infrequent (roughly once weekly) intake of red meats. This dietary pattern has been associated with improvements in egg quality, sperm quality and count, and can promote positive outcomes for couples undergoing IVF. This dietary pattern is good for fertility as it;
- contains slow digesting carbohydrates which can improve fertility by improving blood sugar and insulin levels
- is rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin and calms down inflammation, two things which improve fertility
- is lower in animal protein and higher in plant protein
- is low in refined carbohydrates, added sugars and saturated and trans fats which negatively impact fertility outcomes
Less than 50% of Australian adults meet the intake targets for fruit, and less than 10% manage to meet the intake targets for vegetable serves each day. Most people don’t consume any vegetables or salad until dinner, however, trying to fit a day’s worth of veggies on your dinner plate can be a struggle, so choose to let every meal be an opportunity for getting in some veggies. For example, add some sautéed mushrooms, spinach and avocado. Use avocado with your eggs at breakfast, add fresh salad to your sandwich at lunch, snack on fresh vegetable sticks and hummus in between meals and include plenty of fresh vegetables in a stir-fry at dinner. The more, the better.
3/ Ensure adequate folate intake
Folate, or folic acid, is one of our B-vitamins and is vital in both fertility and growing a healthy baby during pregnancy. While it's well known that folate can help prevent neural tube defects in a developing foetus, it is also evident that getting enough folate in the diet can reduce the risk of having a pre-term baby and may also limit the risk of congenital heart issues.
It has been associated with restoring normal ovulation and improving progesterone levels in women, while in men folate plays a role in the development of healthy sperm and can impact on sperm count. Folate is readily available in our diets in foods such as green vegetables, legumes, whole-grains, fruits, nuts and avocado, however a folate supplement is recommended for women who are planning to become pregnant (as well as iodine). A dietitian who specialises in fertility nutrition can help find the appropriate dose for your needs.
4/ Include oily fish 2-3x/wk
Regular consumption of oily fish has been linked with a shorter length of time to pregnancy in couples who are trying to conceive. The omega three fats in these oily fish seem to have many benefits in promoting fertility, such as enhancing sperm quality in men, contributing to good quality egg development in women and they also help fight inflammation that may interfere with implantation in IVF. These omega three fatty acids are also associated with normalising menstrual cycles in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) further adding to their list of benefits in improving fertility. Choose oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines regularly throughout the week, or if you don’t eat fish, talk to a dietitian that specialises in fertility to discuss appropriate alternatives or supplementation.
5/ Swap some animal protein for plant-protein
Harvard University researchers have found that higher intakes of animal protein can be associated with poor ovulation and infertility compared to people who have a higher intake of plant-based protein. This doesn’t mean it’s necessary to give up meat altogether - in fact, for people who include meat in their diets, consuming a small portion of lean red meat 1-2 times per week provides several essential nutrients, such as iron, zinc and CoQ10. Simply start by swapping out a meat meal or two per week for plant- based proteins, or even swapping half of the meat in your meal for legumes or other plant proteins. Even swapping just 25g of animal protein per day with plant-protein is enough to boost your chances of conceiving! Choose plant- based protein sources such as lentils, chickpeas, tofu, pulse pasta or kidney beans and get creative with your cooking such as making black bean burritos, chickpea patties, a tofu stir-fry or lentil Bolognese.
Eatsense dietitians specialise in fertility and pregnancy nutrition whether its optimising your weight, advising on what supplements are best, correcting any nutritional deficiencies or managing a medical condition which affects your chances of falling pregnant such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis.
Follow on social media