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The Fertility Diet: Natural Foods for Pregnancy

Eating to Increase Fertility when You’re Trying to Conceive

It’s no secret that what you eat plays a critical role in your health, and it’s especially important to have an optimized fertility diet when you’re trying to become pregnant.  Just as natural, healthy foods can support your heart and fight against cancer, your eating habits have a huge impact on your reproductive health. While there may be differing opinions from various medical experts regarding what constitutes an optimal fertility diet for preconception planning, there are several ideas that nearly all can agree on.  You should boost your body’s available energy through a healthy fertility diet, eat nutrient-rich food, and avoid potentially harmful substances when trying to conceive.

Eliminate Foods that Negatively Impact Fertility and Pregnancy Chances

When eating to increase your fertility, the main goal is to raise the availability of nutrients that will support your reproductive capacity as well as your overall health. You’ll also want to eat to support your hormonal well-being, because your body’s finely tuned balance of hormone production is absolutely critical to boosting fertility and conception. To achieve these objectives, you’ll want to eliminate foods that will harm your reproductive well-being, overall vitality, or upset the healthy hormonal balance of your body. These “bad” foods overly tax or stress your body, unlike fertility-boosting “good” foods, which provide plentiful nutrients and support optimal health.

It’s actually more critical to get rid of the harmful foods first. Furthermore, avoiding these as part of your new fertility diet tends to be an easier task to achieve, so let’s look at the foods you should immediately take out of your diet. The main foods (or substances) you’ll want to eliminate entirely include alcohol, caffeine, trans fats, processed sugar, artificial sweeteners, and overly processed foods (including all those bottled sodas and beverages!) These foods have a conclusively negative impact on your fertility. Most are harmful to your energy levels and overall health as well:

  1. Processed sugar, for example, negatively affects blood sugar and insulin levels, which causes them to rise and results in hormonal imbalance. This fertility-harming substance also causes inflammation in the body and suppresses your immune system, making your body work even harder to process the sugar.
  2. Alcohol disrupts the absorption of nutrients, weakens our immune system, and raises prolactin levels. This harms our reproductive health and lowers chance of pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation.
  3. Overly processed foods can be full of additives, preservatives, sugar (which goes by many names), trans fat and other substances that can disrupt your hormones and are not good for your health.

You’ll also want to avoid or eliminate most wheat and dairy for your fertility diet. Both of these are particularly hard for your body to digest, are highly allergenic, and many of us have a sensitivity to them. If you have uncommon sensitivity to certain foods, it is tough on your body to utilize their nutrients. While trying to conceive, you want to conserve the energy used for digestion (the most labor-intensive function in the human body) so there is more available to nourish and heal your other biological systems. Most importantly, your reproductive system.

Adding Fertility-Boosting Healthy Foods to Your Diet

Woman Eating TomatoTo rejuvenate your eating habits with a fertility diet plan, you will want to eat an organic, natural diet that includes plenty of vegetables (at least five servings a day!), lean protein, beans, “good” carbohydrates, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. Select fresh, whole fruits instead of buying fruit juice, which contains too highly concentrated amounts of sugar.  Instead, add natural forms of sugar like all-natural honey, maple syrup, and brown rice syrup to your diet - always in moderation. Be sure to check nutritional labels to make sure only ingredients you can recognize have been added.

If you eat meat, do so sparingly and choose lean forms of it. Furthermore, by eating meat that’s organic you can avoid added growth hormones that negatively affect our own natural hormones, along with any antibiotics used on the animals. By eating lean, you avoid many of the typical dioxins commonly present due to meat production practices. Dioxins are industrial chemicals ingested by livestock, regardless of organic farming practices, that often settle into the fat of those animals.

The importance of eating healthy fats cannot be overemphasized.  Healthy fats can be found in vegetable oils, such as olive oil; nuts and seeds; and avocados. Since some of your estrogen is made and stored in fat, you really need it while trying to conceive, and sticking to the healthy kind is great for your fertility.  Healthy fats also help stabilize blood sugar levels, ease inflammation and even prevent premature births.

The Fertility Diet: 3 Foods to Increase Chances of Conception

People always ask fertility specialists “What are the top fertility-boosting foods?” While an all-around healthy, balanced, organic diet is the first priority, these are what Imany consider to be the top three fertility-boosting foods:

  1. Beans –  Not only are they packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients (such as calcium, iron and potassium) important for fertility and pregnancy, they also contain a high percentage of folate (a B vitamin), which boosts fertility in both men and women, preventing neural tube defects at birth.  Beans are also low in fat, great for digestion, and a bountiful source of antioxidants.
  2. Nuts and Seeds – These are high in protein, positive for fertility, and are all-important healthy fats for your diet. They also contain essential minerals and fiber, which is important for the health of the digestive system and lowering cholesterol. Good choices for seed variety are pumpkin and sesame, which also contain zinc. As for nuts, try nutritious almonds and walnuts.
  3. Avocados – This fruit is great for fertility! Not only is it packed with folate, it’s also high in monounsaturated fat. That’s the good, healthy kind, which helps to lower cholesterol and plays such an important role in our endocrine system - which regulates the hormones involved in reproduction. Avocados contain enzymes that aid digestion and are high in fiber as well, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. Other great nutrients found in Avocados are potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.

Eating a great fertility diet not only optimizes reproductive well-being and boosts your chances of conception, it’s great for your overall health as well. Remember to give yourself ample time to adjust to the new diet, ease into your more positive eating habits, and don’t skip visiting your doctor to assess your particular needs along the way

What are your favorite fertility diet tips and foods to eat when trying to conceive? Leave a comment to let us know, and share this with someone in need of help starting their own preconception diet plan.

This is an updated article based on the excellent work of Cindy Bailey in her article “Eating to Optimize Fertility” from the Fall issue of Lane Fertility Magazine.

Dr. Danielle Lane Danielle E Lane, MD, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist

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