Maybe you’ve heard that a significant number of infertility cases are associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or concerns with male semen quality or quantity, but did you know that diet and lifestyle choices play a significant role in the fertility outcomes for both males and females? The following suggestions can aid in increasing your chances of conception but also improve overall health for you and your future children’s overall health.
Don’t wait until Monday to make these changes! Switching your eating and lifestyle habits at least three months before conception can help create healthier sperm (sperm is produced in a three month cycle- what you eat today creates the sperm you will be using three months from now!) and can create a healthier environment for the fetus in the womb. For women, levels of B-vitamins and vitamin D are associated with fertility outcomes as well as research on antioxidant and mineral levels. To help ensure the best pregnancy outcomes it’s important that both partners are fueling their bodies for fertility!
Eating for fertility:
Choose a variety of colors when choosing fruits and vegetables- each color has a different phytonutrient which acts differently in your body to promote overall health. Aim for 2-3 fistfuls of non-starchy vegetables per day and 1-2 fistfuls of fruit. These are rich in antioxidants which can help fight reactive oxygen species which has the potential to compromise sperm function, including sperm motility, altering DNA and decreasing membrane integrity. Men should be concerned about protecting the health of their DNA as this will be passed on and be responsible for creating half of the child.
Choose whole grains instead of white processed grains. Try a bowl of unsweetened oatmeal with your breakfast or brown rice with your dinner. Eat low-fat dairy or fat-free dairy instead of full fat dairy products.
Choose leaner sources such as skinless chicken breast, turkey, and fish and reduce red and processed meat intake. Try incorporating vegetable protein sources such as beans, nuts, and seeds.Limit saturated fats from milk and meat products and choose healthy fats instead which can be found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, and wild salmon. Avoid fried foods, pastries and desserts, and processed snack foods which are low in nutrients and high in calories.
Keep a healthy weight:
Being overweight or obese can lead to fertility problems by creating hormonal disturbances, a decrease in sperm concentration or motility, and an increased chance in having DNA damage in the sperm as well as concerns for ovulation for females. Being underweight can also have negative effects on one’s sperm (such as decreased sperm count and poor function) and ovulation patterns.
Try plugging your height and weight into a BMI calculator online to determine your BMI. Aim for a BMI between 18.5-24.9 for optimal fertility. Is your BMI outside of the optimal range? Try incorporating some of the dietary recommendations discussed above and make sure to hit that gym or find a physical activity that you enjoy.
Underweight = <18.5
Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
Overweight = 25–29.9
Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater