Let’s Talk Fertility and Diet
How what you eat can impact your conception journey
This is NOT an easy topic for most people, let alone someone who has unexplained infertility, is undergoing fertility treatments or has experienced loss along the way.
For some women, fertility can be a part of what makes us feel like we have succeeded as women, it’s a part of our womanhood. Even as young girls, many of us start to pretend we are moms, caring for our dolls as we see our moms care for our siblings.
Fertility challenges are not rare
I am not saying even women feels this and that is 100% cool; but for those of us who have dreamt of holding our baby for the first time, the desire to get pregnant is strong once you are ready to have a baby. You are desperate to try anything and everything that will increase your chances of getting pregnant and give you some sort of control. 15-30% of couples face unexplained fertility (that number is HUGE!). This means that if you can relate to anything I’ve said, you are NOT alone. You are also are definitely not alone if you have already started eating certain foods daily or in excess in the hopes that it may improve fertility.
I want to start by saying, I have been extremely fortunate to have not had to undergo fertility treatments myself. When my husband and I started trying, I thought we would get pregnant within a couple months. We were not that lucky, so I did experience some heartbreak when I got my period in the months we were trying, along with the feelings of failure and desperation. I know these feelings only intensify as the journey goes on. I have walked alongside friends who have tried to get pregnant for years with no success and have undergone fertility treatments. I have seen the emotional and physical toll it takes on both the women and the men. Each couple has a unique fertility journey. Not everything I post about, including what comes below, will be helpful to you. This is not to discourage you, just to remind you that everyone’s fertility puzzle will come with different pieces (who knew I could be so creative with my metaphors?).
Enough lead up… is there a relationship between fertility and diet
If only there was a magic diet that could make our ovaries dance and sperm act as supermen! There are hundreds of fertility blogs, forums and Facebook groups, all with messages promising if you eat or drink this, or follow diet X, it will help you get pregnant. Is there any truth to these claims?
YES.. there is a ‘diet’ or style of eating that actually carries some solid weight when it comes increasing your chances of getting pregnant. The tried and true Mediterranean Diet. This diet has been around for decades; the Mediterranean’s seem to know what they are doing – minus the wine. It’s true, not only do you have to not drink for 9 months, there are a few studies that have found drinking more than 2 drinks a day may reduce your chances of getting pregnant. I say if there is any chance of reducing your chances, skip it!
The Mediterranean diet and fertility
I want to break this diet down into a few take away points to get you started and make it WAY simpler for you when you head to the grocery store.
#1 Make it Whole…Grains!
Research has linked choosing fiber rich grains while avoiding easy to digest grains (like pastries, white flour, sugary cereals, white rice) to reducing ovulatory infertility. These slower digesting carbohydrates help to manage blood sugar and insulin levels which can improve chances of fertility. This means, do not ditch the grains, but get your carb fix from barley, oats, quinoa, wild rice, and wheat bran instead of grabbing a white bagel or pastry.
#2 Colour your plate
Fruits and vegetables are superfoods because they contain ANTIOXIDANTS and the more variety in colour, the better. If there is one thing we know for sure, it is that we want to reduce oxidative stress in the body to improve fertility for both males and females. Sperm are also extremely sensitive to oxidative stress, so one thing I cannot emphasize enough is, men, your diet plays a major role in this as well! Okay, back to these antioxidants, what are the big ones we are looking for and where can we find them?
- Lycopene– this lovely antioxidant has been found in some research to help with sperm motility. Some everyday food sources that contain lycopene are tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon and red bell peppers.
- Vitamin E, C and CoQ10– these warriors are packed together as they can sometimes act as a team. In general, these antioxidants have been found to improve rates of pregnancy and sperm quality. Vitamin E can be found in nuts or avocado, Vitamin C is in citrus, berries, red pepper and kale, and lastly CoQ10 in sardines, mackerel or spinach but a supplement is also a great option.
- Selenium– many of you who have already started your own research on foods for fertility have probably heard about Brazil nuts. These guys are helpful for sperm mobility and ovary health because of the antioxidant selenium. Luckily, Brazil nuts aren’t the only option to get in selenium although they are loaded with it. It is also found in other nuts as well as oysters and many other fruits, veggies and whole grains in smaller amounts.
#3 Add in the Pulses (beans, lentils, spilt peas)
Plant based protein is a hot trend right now but one reason I love these guys so much is (aside from the fact that Saskatchewan is the largest producer of them) is that they reduce the risk of ovulatory infertility. One study even found that eating just 5% of your protein from pulses can reduce this risk by 50%!
#4 Make your dairy FULL Fat
A massive 8-year study found that women who consumed 2 of more servings of low-fat dairy products increased their risk of anovulatory infertility by 85% while including full fat dairy reduced infertility by 27%. These numbers are HUGE! Seriously, bring on the full fat yogurt and homo milk!
These 4 points are just to get you started, the tip of the iceberg if you will, but there is definitly a link between fertility and diet. I hope this at least gives you a better understanding of some of the research that is coming out and where to get yourself started on deciding what to eat on your fertility journey.
Now I want to hear from you:
- Have you or someone you know struggled with infertility?
- Have you tried eating any specific foods or diets while trying to get pregnant?
- Leave me your comments! I would love to hear your thoughts.
Need more support with fertility and diet?
Contact our Calgary Nutritionist / Online Dietitian team for help
As Registered Dietitians that specialize in meal planning, weight concerns, emotional eating, eating disorders, digestive health, heart health, diabetes, sports nutrition and fertility we can help you with personalized nutrition counseling. Find out more about our Dietitian Nutrition Counseling Programs here.
As university trained Registered Dietitians, you can count on us for credible advice and practical meal planning so you don’t have to stress about food anymore. You can achieve a healthy and joyous relationship with food and your body. Let’s talk about what this can look like for you. CONTACT US.