Whether you are planning your first pregnancy or thinking about having another child, trying to conceive naturally, or undergoing fertility treatment; the period of time before you conceive gives you a window of opportunity to evaluate your nutrition and general lifestyle. Small changes to your diet can help you to optimize your fertile ground.
Studies have shown that couples who have made changes to their diet and lifestyle improved their chances of having a healthy pregnancy and baby by 80 per cent, but research has shown that the benefits extend way beyond this. Indeed, how healthy your diet and lifestyle are during the preconception period is now understood to sow the seeds of health for your growing baby in infancy, such as reducing the risk of atopic conditions such as asthma and eczema, as well as chronic health conditions in adulthood, such as diabetes.
Here are my key tips for boosting your fertility through diet:
1. Eat protein with every meal
Protein provides the building blocks of the body and is especially important for hormone production and healthy cell development. Good sources of protein include free-range poultry, eggs, yoghurt, fish such as wild salmon and trout, lentils, nuts, seeds, quinoa and grass-fed red meats.
2. Eat healthy fats with every meal
Healthy fats are vitally important for health and fertility as they support hormone production and healthy cell formation. You will find them in avocado, linseed oil, nuts, seeds and fresh oily fish. However, limit oily fish to three portions a week because they may contain pollutants that could affect fertility if consumed in high amounts. These food sources are also excellent sources of vitamin E, vitamin D and important minerals, such as chromium and selenium.
3. Eat whole foods
Eat as close to nature as was intended by choosing whole grains such as brown rice, red rice, wild rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, rye and oats. These are also excellent sources of the B vitamin family, including B12, choline and minerals such as manganese, zinc and chromium.
4. Eat a rainbow every day
Eating a colorful variety of fruit and vegetables each day naturally increases your intake of important antioxidants and phytochemicals shown to support pre-conceptual health, such as beta-carotene from carrots, sweet potatoes and squashes. Adding spices, such as turmeric and ginger, to your cooking is also an excellent way to achieve this ‘rainbow’.
5. Eat green leafy vegetables
As well as being an excellent source of folate, green leafy vegetables provide a great source of fibre for healthy digestion, which helps to prevent hormonal imbalances. Steam them to retain their nutrients. Increase your intake by using them to make juices, soups and smoothies.
6. Eat mindfully
Digestion begins in the mouth and eating too quickly can reduce your ability to absorb and use the nutrients the food provides. Equally, eating slowly allows the body the time it needs to register its own appetite signals, making it less likely that you will overeat.
7. Eat seasonally if possible
Seasonal food grown in sync with nature’s cycle can improve the nutrient value of the food. Eating seasonally also means eating warmer foods in the colder, damper winter and autumn days, and lighter, less-cooked foods in the warmer and brighter summer and spring days.
8. Take supplements if you need them
It is now medically accepted that certain vitamins and minerals can increase your chances of getting and staying pregnant by supporting hormone balance, as well as healthy egg and sperm development. However, increasing research is showing us that today’s environment is not as fertile-friendly for both plant and human as it once was. Many of the foods we eat have been grown on exhausted soil, intensively farmed, picked before they are ripe and transported many miles from source before reaching our plates. As a result, a large proportion of our food is lacking in much-needed trace minerals and vitamins.