For many women, getting pregnant isn’t as easy as just doing the deed. According to the Center for Human Reproduction, 20 to 30 percent of all infertility cases are a result of problems with egg maturation or its release from the ovaries each month, a condition called ovulatory infertility. The Nurses’ Health Study, a long-term research project following 18,000 women trying to get pregnant, shed some light on the relationship between diet and conception, proving that good nutrition is key.
The Fertility Diet
Though the word “diet” connotes a restrictive list of do’s and don’ts, researchers involved in the Nurses’ Health Study compiled data to come up with what is known as the Fertility Diet. Though the Fertility Diet does not guarantee you’ll conceive a baby, following the guidelines could increase your chances of overcoming ovulatory infertility if you are otherwise healthy. What this essentially common-sense diet promotes is a reduction in the consumption of bad-for-you foods such as refined carbohydrates, animal-based proteins and trans fats. This “diet” is all about eating whole fruits, vegetables and plant-based sources of protein.
Carbohydrates are responsible for controlling blood sugar and insulin levels. However, eating too many refined, or simple, carbohydrates can cause blood sugar to spike. In turn, this can upset the hormones responsible for reproduction. According to the Nurses’ Health Study, women who consumed carbohydrates with high glycemic totals were 92 percent more likely to suffer ovulatory infertility problems. The trick to maintaining blood sugar levels is to choose slowly digestible carbohydrates that are also high in fiber. These types of carbohydrates are found readily in whole fruits and vegetables. Lay off the comfort foods while trying to conceive by limiting your consumption of white bread, white rice, potatoes and cold cereal.
The higher their consumption of animal-based protein, the more likely women are to suffer ovulatory infertility. Instead of centering your meal on chicken, pork or beef, serve up a heaping helping of beans. Soybeans and soybean-based foods, such as tofu, that contain isoflavones are especially beneficial. Although fish and eggs are animal-based sources of protein, they do not negatively affect your chances of conceiving, and they even contain beneficial nutrients essential to fertility.
It’s no surprise that trans fats are bad for you, but they’re especially bad if you’re trying to conceive. According to the Nurses’ Health Study, all it takes is 4 g of trans fat a day to compromise your chances of conception. Four grams, less than the average American consumes on a daily basis, is roughly the equivalent of 2 tbsp. of margarine or a doughnut from your local bakery. What might come as a shock, however, is that whole milk and whole-milk products actually boost fertility. Watch out for the extra calories in whole milk, though. Just one serving in place of skim or fat-free milk is enough.
Vitamins and Minerals
D. Milton Stokes, a registered dietitian, says in a “Ftness” article that it’s the quality of food you eat while trying to conceive that’s most important. The vitamins and minerals you should pay particular attention to are zinc, vitamins B6 and E, calcium and manganese. Excellent sources of these nutrients include yogurt, corn, eggs, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, bananas and nuts.