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10 Simple Tips to Boost Your Fertility with Food

We know more than ever on how food can boost your fertility. Individuals who suffer from infertility know how frustrating and overwhelming it can be, especially when everything seems out their control, but one thing you can control is what you feed your body.

In a landmark study, researchers looked at the possible links between the nutrition qualities of over 18,000 nurses and their fertility. To date it is the largest study done on nutrition and infertility in women. For any research nerds like me, this study was part of the Nurses’ Health Study.

Here’s a summary of the top 10 tips on how to boost your fertility with food based on their research findings.

1. Eat the rainbow! A variety of fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants which work to improve egg quality and prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy. When possible, choose organic produce and animal proteins.

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Organic foods have not been shown to be different in their nutrient profile compared with conventional counterparts. However, eating non-organic foods have been shown to negatively affect fertility. Non-organic foods increase exposure to antibiotics, pesticides, and other contaminants that can affect hormones.

There’s no doubt organic foods are expensive. To save money buy in season or buy organic for the dirty dozen, a list of the most pesticide laden fruits and vegetables. Generally produce that you eat with the skin on (berries or apples for example), contain the most pesticides. Also choose grass fed organic eggs, meat and dairy when able.

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2. Avoid trans fats, the artery-clogging fats found in many commercially prepared products and fast foods which can raise inflammation and affect egg quality.

Instead, use more unsaturated vegetable oils, such as olive oil or avocado oil and monounsaturated fats like nuts & nut butter, seeds, avocado and olives.

3. Eat more vegetable protein, like beans, soy, and nuts, and enjoy fish and eggs rather than other sources of animal protein.

Women in the NHS who ate the highest intake of protein were 41% more likely to report infertility.

Women who ate the most animal protein (red meat, ckicken, turkey) had 39% more ovulatory infertility, commonly seen among PCOS women.

The women in the study who consumed the most plant-based protein had the lowest rates of infertility.  The exceptions were for eggs, dairy and fish which were found to increase fertility.

A bonus: eggs are a great source of choline. Like folate and folic acid, choline is needed in the first several weeks of pregnancy for fetal brain development and prevention neural tube defects.

4. Choose whole grains and other sources of carbohydrates that have lower, slower effects on blood sugar and insulin rather than low fiber or high sugar carbohydrates that quickly boost blood sugar and insulin.

When looking at food labels look for high fiber foods that are low sugar and contain the word ‘whole’ in the first ingredient. Examples include: Quinoa, brown rice, slow cooked oats, chickpea pasta

5. Go ahead and enjoy some slices of full-fat cheese or full-fat yogurt every day. Findings of the NHS showed that 1 or 2 servings/day of full fat dairy was linked to better fertility. Why? When the fat is removed from dairy it alters its hormone composition. Not to mention vitamin D, a hormone and a vitamin, has been shown to improve ovulation and egg quality.

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6. Take a prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement that contains choline, methylated folate, iron, vitamin B12 and other B vitamins. This will help to insure your body is best prepared to fully meet the increased nutrient needs to support a healthy pregnancy.

Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate in supplements. Folate is naturally found in foods, especially leafy green vegetables. If you have the MTHFR gene, however, you can’t properly use folic acid which could lead to miscarriage or poor egg quality.

7. Get plenty of iron from fruits, vegetables, beans, soy, and supplements, less from red meat.

Women in the NHS had better chances of conceiving when they consumed iron from these foods. Women who regularly took a multivitamin or prenatal supplement with iron were 40% less likely to have trouble conceiving.

8. What you drink matters: Water is great; coffee, tea and alcohol are OK in moderation; Sugary sodas and other drinks tend to increase insulin and may make carbohydrate cravings worse. If you are trying to conceive, keep your coffee intake to 1 cup (8 ounces) or less each day.

9. Talk to your doctor or dietitian nutritionist about other supplements that may increase your fertility. Vitamin D, Inositol, N-Aceytlcystine, Co-Enzyme Q10 and fish oil have all been shown to improve egg quality and ovulation in the PCOS population. Visit the PCOS Nutrition Center Store for information on these and more.

10. Avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals. If you smoke: stop. Use glass bottles or containers whenever possible. Never heat food in plastic containers. Wash hands after touching paper receipts. Avoid skin or hair care products that contain phthalates, parabens, or sulfates.

Sources

Karayiannis D1, Kontogianni MD1, Mendorou CAdherence to the Mediterranean diet and IVF success rate among non-obese women attempting fertility. Hum Reprod. 2018 Mar 1;33(3):494-502

Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner B, Willett WC. A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility. Hum Reprod. 2007;22(5):1340-7.

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