Even before you conceive, what you eat plays a big role in your fertility and the health of both you and your baby once you are pregnant. A nutritious and healthy diet can help boost your fertility and lower the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida and preeclampsia during pregnancy. It may not always be easy to eat healthy, but adding a few items here and there will make all the difference in the world.
There are plenty of great foods and vitamins you should make a part of your diet; let’s look into some.
We’re always promoting the benefits of Folate for any mother-to-be–as it’s one of the most important nutrients you can take before and during pregnancy.
When you take Folate before and during pregnancy, you can help protect your baby from:
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Poor growth in the womb
- Cleft lip and palate
You should be trying to get 400 mcg (micrograms) of Folate a day at least one month before getting pregnant and during pregnancy.While there may not be many foods to choose from to get your Folate fill naturally, you should supplement with a prenatal vitamin containing 400 mcg to 600 mcg.
There are a few food types you could find Folate in, such as:
Fortified cereals: You’ll want to look for a cereal with 100 percent of your recommended daily value. Food for Life, Ezekiel, Cascadian, and Kellog’s Smart Start have some good options.
Leafy green vegetables: Spinach and kale are great options for Folate. They go great with most dishes and to eat alone.
Calcium really keeps your body MOO-ving. Jokes aside, Calcium is essential for keeping your reproductive system functioning smoothly. A steady supply of Calcium can also benefit your little one as it supports your baby’s bone health and development. You should set a goal for about 1,500 mg of Calcium each day.
There are a few food types you could find Calcium in such as:
Milk: Probably the most understood source of Calcium, but milk is not for everyone. Just one cup of 1 percent milk will give you 305 mg (milligrams). That’s about one-third of your daily needs!
Cheese: Cheese is such a craveable food. Cheese is a rich source for calcium, protein and Vitamin B. If you’re already pregnant, cheese cravings could be an indication your body needs more calcium for the baby. We recommend some sort of serving of part-skim mozzarella cheese. Ideally, you’d want 1.5 oz, which will give you 333 mg of calcium. Think cheddar or 1 percent milk-fat cottage cheese, also.
Yogurts: Get simple with your yogurt and opt for a plain, low-fat yogurt to enjoy. Top it with some fruit, or use it as a base for a delicious smoothie. One cup of plain yogurt will give you 415 mg per serving.
If dairy isn’t for you, you can also find calcium in soy milk, almond milk, and some fortified juices.
Dark Green, Leafy Vegetables: Vegetables high in Calcium include collard greens, spinach, kale, mustard greens, and broccoli raab. Sometimes, you just want veggies.
Omega-3 Fatty AcidsOmega-3 fatty acids help in regulating essential ovulation-inducing hormones in your body. Great for a pre-pregnancy diet as it will also increase blood flow to your reproductive organs. Try to avoid trans fats and try to cut back on saturated fats, typically in red meats and butter to give your body a boost.
You’ll find supplements containing DHA, a type of Omega-3. Don’t exclusively rely on supplements, you’re going to want to make sure to complement your supplements with whole foods, also.
FiberIncreasing fiber in your diet by just 10 grams per day can reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes by 26 percent. A slow-digestible carbohydrate like fiber not only helps “move” things along in your body but also keeps you feeling fuller longer.
There are a few food types you could find Fiber in, such as:
Cereals with high-fiber: You can find a number of great high-fiber cereals that will pack a big punch in just one serving.
Beans: Lentils, black, kidney, and lima beans are all delicious additions to any meal and are chockful of Fiber. Looking for some legumes? Split peas and chickpeas are also go great with salads and can be readily eaten during the day.
Whole grains: Wheat bread, bulgur, oats, and quinoa all contain Fiber. A piece of whole bread can have upwards of 2 grams of Fiber.
We often hear about the importance of Iron while pregnant. But, what does Iron do? Iron shuttles oxygen throughout your body (and to your baby!). If you’re planning to have a preconception checkup, you can ask your doctor about screening for iron deficiency.
Women need about 18 mg per day, and that amount increases to 27 mg per day while pregnant. There are many good supplements for Iron, but like most things, your body absorbs Iron better through food.
Iron-rich foods include:
Spinach: Spinach is a great way to get your daily recommended intake. Just ½ cup of spinach has 3mg of Iron per serving – 17 percent of your daily recommended intake.
Lean meats: Turkey, chicken, or even beef are great sources of Iron. Keep it lean and keep it delicious. Each of these contains about 1 mg of Iron per 3 oz serving.
ProteinThere are a few food types you could find Protein in, such as:
Fish: Why not get some Omega-3 with your Protein? High-fat fish like salmon is a great option.
Some safe seafood options are:
- Canned light tuna
Black beans: Just one cup of black beans can contain 15 grams of protein. We’d recommend putting them in a breakfast burrito or even a delicious veggie burger.
Lean meats: Most lean meats will be good for a steady diet of protein. We recommend chicken, turkey, lean beef, and bison are great options.
What are the best tips for a successful fertility diet?Introduce new foods, but keep them fresh. It can be easy to get stuck in a rut with your fertility diet, but making sure you're getting fresh foods can get you over your daily nutrient need hump.
Fruits and Vegetables
Loading up your plate with fruits and vegetables is a great way to support your fertility health. A Harvard study found a higher incidence of the ovulatory disorder in women who ate more trans fats and sugar from carbohydrates. This was remedied by making sure half of each meal was composed of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Finding healthy plant-based fats is an essential part of your balanced diet. Adding nuts, avocados, grapeseed oil, and avocados can help you reduce inflammation in the body and promote general fertility.
Too much of a good thing isn’t always a good idea. Mixing your diet with new whole foods and delicious fresh foods will keep your nutrient gaps at bay.
Complex CarbsYou’ll want to get your complex carbs from whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. Throw away those refined carbs like cookies, white bread, and white rice. Try to specifically find some with Fiber, as it’s always best to get a bit of everything with your meals.
Gluten has been shown to create inflammatory responses in the body. If you’re suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome, you’ll want to cut back on gluten altogether. Make sure to talk to your doctor before planning for a diet without gluten.
Foods to limit or avoid during your fertility journey
Caffeine: Complete elimination of caffeine may be challenging, but it’s always best to have it in moderation. While some studies say that coffee and tea could have little effect on ovulation problems, they could keep you dehydrated, which is never good for your body's health.
Sugary drinks and processed sweeteners: Avoid processed sweeteners and super sugary drinks. They’re never a good option for you.
When you consume concentrated doses of sweet treats, you can throw your blood sugar out of whack. This creates issues with your hormonal balance, insulin and general wellness. If still need something sweet, you can load up on lower glycemic foods like stevia, maple syrup, and honey.
Soy: Throw away the powders and energy bars–as most contain some form of processed soy. In a 2010 study in the Journal of Nutrition, it was found that your ovarian function can be negatively impacted by high soy diets. Protein powders containing soy protein isolate have estrogen-mimicking properties that can disrupt your hormonal balance.
Alcohol: For some lifestyles, you may regularly consume alcohol. Try to minimize your alcohol consumption to two to three glasses over a week. Drinking too much alcohol will also lead to dehydration and work against your pregnancy journey. Did we mention before that dehydration is bad? Dehydration is bad.
Don’t be overwhelmed! When in doubt, keep your diet simple and start to prioritize healthy eating habits now. You don’t have to eat perfectly. Do the best you can!