Diet for Fertility

It seems as though every time I open my email inbox, I am privy to reading a new story about what constitutes healthy food in general and specifically, for women trying to conceive.  There seem to be so many different camps extolling the virtues of various extreme diets – raw food, vegan food, traditional/Paleo diets, etc. for women trying to get pregnant.  So I wanted to put together a short list of suggestions culled from what has actually been born out by research, rather than advocacy.  Here ya go:

1.  Eat more slow to digest, low glycemic carbohydrates.  Avoid refined, easily digested ones that can cause ovulatory infertility.  This means more whole grains, a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, seaweed and legumes and less or no refined sugar and white flour.  For sweeteners, try using very small amounts of honey, maple syrup and unprocessed stevia or cane sugar.  Better yet, avoid sweeteners entirely and just eat more fruit.

2.  Stay within your recommended body mass index.  Use whatever combination of diet and exercise help bring your weight into a normal range slowly and safely.  It is not always safe to diet while trying to conceive or newly pregnant, so talk to your care provider about your specific situation.  It may be safer in your case to take a few months to bring your body into a safe BMI range before trying to get pregnant.

3.  Take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid.  This will greatly lower your baby’s risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects.

4.  Eat three servings per week of full fat dairy.   Examples include 8 oz of cow or goats milk or 6 oz of yogurt.  No one knows why, but study after study has shown that women who have a few servings a week of full fat dairy are more likely to get pregnant.  So, even if you normally avoid dairy, eat  non or low-fat dairy, or are mildly lactose intolerant (like many adults), see if you can incorporate full fat plain yogurt or goats milk, which are both easier to digest than cow’s milk, into your diet a few times a week.  A cup of ice cream or frozen yogurt could count for this if you are really struggling to find a way to eat full fat dairy.

5.  Eat more monounsaturated fats.  Avoid trans fats.  You need fat in your diet, especially when you are trying to get pregnant, but you need healthy fats in healthy quantities.  That means more nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil and less processed fatty food.

6.  Eat lean protein every day including sources high in omega 3’s.  Good protein choices with high levels of omega 3’s include fatty fish, walnuts, flaxeed and hempseed.  Other good protein sources include eggs, fermented soy products, legumes, and small amounts of hard cheese and lean meat if you like those things.

7.  Reduce your caffeine and alcohol consumption.  Drink more water and herbal teas that are safe for pregnancy.

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