There’s a plethora of information on the effects of diet during pregnancy, but what about before pregnancy? Infertility in women (and men) is on the rise. The foods that a woman (and her partner) eat while trying to conceive do actually make a difference in fertility and the overall success of pregnancy.
The older she is, the more diet matters. In fact, about one-third of couples over the age of 35 have issues with conceiving. There’s no such thing as being too diligent about the factors that may impact fertility. This article is part of a larger guide for all women trying to get pregnant and improve their overall health. I’ll explore the top ten recommended foods and the nutrients that they contain for women trying to conceive.
10 Best Foods For Fertility
1. Wheat Bran
Kicking off this list of foods for fertility is the outer shell of wheat grain, more commonly known as wheat bran. Wheat bran contains several of the key micronutrients that help boost fertility. It’s full of magnesium and selenium, and contains omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
Omega-3s and antioxidants help fight inflammation, which can negatively impact chances of conceiving and the fetus’ development during pregnancy. Wheat bran is also high in phytoestrogens, which act like estrogens in the body. It’s been shown that these particular compounds can actually help thicken the endometrial wall in the uterus. This is beneficial for healthy eggs and embryos.
Farro is another grain that is beneficial for fertility. It’s extremely high in fiber and protein, much higher than grains like rice and wheat.
Farro is also high in zinc, which is a nutrient that is crucial for fertility. Zinc helps with the division of cells and ensures that a woman trying to conceive is producing healthy eggs. Zinc deficiency can lead to complications during birth as well as fetal loss, so it’s clear that this is a very important nutrient for improving fertility and live birth rates.
Fruits are great fertility foods. Avocados, for example, are a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. They’re very calorie and nutrient-dense, so they can help ensure that you are eating enough calories during the day (undereating can decrease chances of conception).
There are many types of fat, including saturated (like canola and corn oils) and trans fats (also known as partially hydrogenated oil), that you want to avoid during pregnancy. On the other hand, eating enough unsaturated fatty acids is important to boost fertility. Avocados also have other nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, and magnesium.
Pomegranates are rich in flavonoids like quercetin and anthocyanin. These are both powerful anti-inflammatory compounds and may help fight against environmental pollutants that can negatively impact fertility.
Flavonoids also have been shown to boost the immune system and can help to keep the body healthy during times of the year like winter when falling ill is very common.
5. Whole Grain Bread
Whole grain bread contains fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants that white bread does not contain, so it is a much healthier way to eat morning toast. Additionally, whole grain bread also contains phytic acid, a compound that has been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and reduce inflammation. Which I’ve mentioned above impacts fertility.
Whole grains also help to control blood sugar and insulin levels, since they provide a steadier stream of glucose than white bread and other processed carbs. Steady blood sugar levels are very crucial to overall health and this can help to increase rates of fertilization.
6. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins and antioxidants. Their bright orange color indicates they have high levels of vitamin C and A, along with potassium and vitamin B3.
Replacing white potatoes with sweet potatoes is an excellent way to increase daily nutrient consumption and make sure that the body is properly nourished. A healthy body means a higher chance of conceiving!
Bell peppers boast a high number of phytochemicals, minerals, and vitamins, like vitamin C and beta-carotene. These are all great nutrients to help reduce inflammation and balance ovulation. The high amount of vitamin C in peppers also helps with the absorption of iron.
A great pairing is peppers and hummus, which contains iron-rich garbanzo beans. This snack will pack a powerful punch of nutrients since iron is a key mineral when it comes to regulating menstruation.
Cauliflower may have an unassuming appearance, but it is packed with essential nutrients. Vitamin C and K can be found in cauliflower, alongside folate, which is the superstar of nutrients when it comes to pregnancy. Folate helps with cell division, neural tube formation, and can even help lower chances of autism in children when taken early enough along during pregnancy.
Cauliflower is also a great replacement for rice, pizza crust, and chips, all of which are known to cause spikes in blood sugar. Erratic blood sugar levels are associated with complicated pregnancies and difficulty conceiving.
Spinach is another powerhouse food when it comes to nutrients. It contains iron, folate, magnesium, choline, and vitamin A. Spinach also contains nitrates, but these are different from the preservatives used in deli meats. These compounds are actually extremely beneficial to us when they are not exposed to high temperatures.
Nitrates on their own can actually improve blood pressure and increase blood flow, which improves the flow of oxygen to different parts of the body. Reproductive organs, just like everything else in the body, need oxygen to do their job properly, and eating dark, leafy greens on a regular basis can help with this immensely.
10. Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are a superfood when it comes to reproductive health since they contain high amounts of selenium, vitamin C, and unsaturated healthy fats.
Selenium has been shown to promote the development of healthy ovarian follicles, and can even boost testosterone in men. Selenium is extremely important, but consuming high levels of selenium can be toxic. Four to five brazil nuts per day is all the average adult needs to meet their recommended allowance.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to your fertility, you can’t control everything. But, you can control your nutrition and what you eat. Making wise choices about what you eat can help when you are trying to conceive, especially when you focus on healthy, fertility-promoting foods like the examples above.
**adapted from Dr. Avena’s new book, What to Eat When You Want to Get Pregnant
Dr. Nicole Avena is a research neuroscientist and expert in the fields of nutrition, diet and addiction, with a special focus on nutrition during early life and pregnancy. She is written several books, including the bestseller, What to Eat When You’re Pregnant, What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler, and What to Eat When You Want to Get Pregnant. She has a popular TED-Ed talk, with over 11 million views, How Sugar Affects The Brain. Dr. Avena regularly appears as a science expert in the media.
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