So, this article is going to be looking at the fertility diet. We will be asking what exactly is the fertility diet and can changing what you eat really help you conceive a little bundle of fun?
It makes sense, that in women with no major underlying problems, the healthier your body and body weight, the higher your chances of conceiving.
Trying but Not Conceiving? When to Worry!
Well, according to the 2013 NICE Clinical Guidelines, of women having regular unprotected sex,
- 84% of women will conceive within one year
- 92% of women will conceive within 2 years
- 93% of women within 3 years
The above statistics are for all women of all age-groups and include those with fertility problems.
Research shows that fertility does decline with increasing age. For example, a 35-year old woman has an 87% chance of conceiving within 2 years of trying. However, this drops to a 67% chance at 38-years.
In general, the study finds that women’s fertility declines after 30 years and is more marked after 35 years.
The Fertility Diet: Tell us about the Research
Well, in short, the fertility diet sprang from the incredible data collected from the Nurse’s Health Study. This phenomenal study began in 1976 and has included 238,000 female nurses aged 30 to 55 to date.
This study examines all sorts of aspects of health including:-
- Use of Contraceptives
- Smoking habits
- Incidence of cancer
- Cardiovascular disease
- Dietary habits (from 1980)
- Exercise routines (from 1980)
So, using data from the Nurse’s study, Dr’s Chavarro and Willet from the Harvard School of Public Health developed dietary advice that aims to improve fertility and therefore, the chances of conception.
Firstly, Fertility and Weight
One factor that plays a significant role in conception and fertility is body weight. Indeed, some critics of the fertility diet suggest that it may be the weight loss that aids conception rather than the diet.
So, both being overweight and underweight can negatively impact fertility. Firstly, find out your Body Mass Index (BMI).
With regards to optimal fertility, women should have a BMI of between 20 and 24.9. So, if you are thinking of trying for a baby find out your BMI HERE.
Indeed, been both overweight and underweight impacts fertility. So, if you are overweight think about a sustainable, healthy eating plan to lose weight.
Aim to lose between 5% to 10% of your body weight to hugely improve your chances of conception. Weight loss can improve the balance of hormones and restore normal ovulatory cycles.
Likewise, if you are underweight start following some healthy tips to get your BMI ideally above 20.
Key Points for the Fertility Diet
#1) Avoid Trans-fats
Unfortunately, the main culprits are all those fairly addictive, insulin spiking goodies such as:-
- All the C’s: Cakes, crackers and cookies
- Frozen Pizza
- Baked Pies, Rolls and Biscuits
- Microwave Popcorn
- Most Processed Foods – like frozen pies
#2) Eat More Unsaturated Fats: The Fertility Diet
Yes, the fats advice can get a little confusing, but the fertility diet advises to add more unsaturated fats to your diet.
So, think olive oil, coconut oil and unsaturated vegetable oils.
Throw in some fatty fish, such as freshly farmed salmon and mackerel.
Don’t skimp on the nuts and seeds either. Think peanuts, almonds, cashew nuts and sunflower and sesame seeds.
#3) Swap Red Meat for Vegetable Protein
The fertility diet recommends swapping one portion of meat each day with a vegetable protein.
Some examples of top sources of vegetable proteins are:-
- Greek yoghurt
- Hemp Seeds
- Chia Seeds
- Beans – black beans, kidney beans
- Green peas
So, why not make a nice bean salad and reap the health benefits? You don’t have to totally cut out meat just substitute more vegetable proteins which are great anti-inflammatory agents.
#4) Watch Which Carbohydrates you eat
Now with all the hype around the low-carb and keto diet, it’s hard to know quite what we should be eating.
Research suggests that women trying to conceive should cut out all refined carbohydrates totally. Furthermore, studies suggest that a diet high in refined carbs and processed foods adversely affects the reproductive system of women and reduces the quality of the eggs.
Rather they should choose carbohydrates that are slow to digest. These carbohydrates provide a gradual supply of energy, rather than a quick sugar rush which will spike your insulin response and upset metabolism.
So, what sort of carbs provide a slow burn?
- Wholegrain bread, cereals, pasta and rice
- basmati rice
- sweet potatoes
- fresh fruit and vegetables
#5) Drop the Skimmed Milk and swap to Full Fat
Well, our study also found that women who ate low-fat dairy products such as low-fat butter, yoghurts and milk more than twice a day were 85% more likely to be infertile due to ovulation problems.
Conversely, women who eat more than one portion of full-fat dairy foods a day had a 25% reduction in ovulatory problems in comparison to women who ate full-fat dairy just once a week.
So, the take-home message is, grab a bowl of ice-cream or a full-fat thick and creamy yoghurt and tuck in guilt-free. Be sure to drop the low-fat, semi-skilled dairy products.
#6) Take Folic Acid Before you Get Pregnant
Now, most women are aware that they need to take extra folic acid during pregnancy to help prevent spinal defects.
However, experts now advise taking a vitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid 6 months before pregnancy.
It stands to reason, that the healthier your body is, the more likely you are to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy. So, start looking after your diet and health BEFORE trying for a baby.
#7) Eat More Iron from Vegetable Sources on the Fertility Diet
There are two types of iron; one that derives from animal products (heme iron) and one that derives from plant sources (non-heme iron)
Increasing the amount of non-heme iron can improve your fertility. So, cutting down on red meat and substituting some of the following vegetables and grains may help:-
- Tofu or Tempeh
- Red Beans, kidney beans, chickpeas
- Nuts and Seeds
- Pumpkin, Sesame Hemp and Flaxseeds
- Nuts such as pine nuts and cashews
- Leafy greens especially kale and spinach
- Tomato Paste
#8) Other Important Health Tips
Here we have some last-minute important advice that you should be considering before you start trying for a baby:-
- Stop Smoking: Studies have cited smoking as a cause of infertility in both men and women. Furthermore, stopping smoking will improve your health on so many other levels – it really is a no-brainer.
- Drink plenty of water and cut down or cut out sugary soda drinks
- Add at least 30 minutes of exercise to your daily routine
Final Thoughts on the Fertility Diet
Although the authors of the above research suggest that adopting these habits above may increase your chance of conception, it is important to NOT get too obsessive with it.
So, will having the odd pizza make you less likely to conceive? probably not. Furthermore, the research regarding eating full-fat milk products has met with some controversy amongst researchers over the years.
The take-home point, however, is that this diet overlaps with others that promote healthy eating. In addition, health experts voted the fertility diet #11 in the healthiest diet overall rankings.
Finally, if you follow the above eating habits you will probably lose weight and improve your health into the bargain which can only be a good thing if you are thinking about embarking on parenthood.
- Healthy Habits: How to Live Longer and Lose Weight
- The Mediterranean Diet: Another diet that studies show may help with fertility
- Dash to Health with the Dash Diet
- Hashimoto’s Diet: What foods to eat and why
- The Anti-Anxiety Diet
Full Indexes of All our Articles
- ALL our Weight Loss Articles
- Index of ALL our Articles on Weight Loss Diets
- Healing Foods for Diseases
- Help with Anxiety
- Body Mass Index Calculator and Articles
Return to Homepage