If you’re ready to start a family, you’ve probably already begun to look into ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant – or even begun to wonder what sorts of fertility issues you may need to overcome. Before you worry any longer, it’s important to remember that your fertility depends on a range of factors. And most importantly, a number of things that could impact your fertility can be controlled and managed right at home!
For example, good nutrition plays an extremely important role in addressing potential fertility issues. In fact, one of the best things you can do to help increase your chances of pregnancy is evaluate your diet and confirming that you’re meeting a number of basic nutritional needs. So if you’re ready to start a family, you need too integrate these six fertility-related nutritional tips into your meals and snacks:
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Less than 15% of Americans eat the amount of fruit and vegetables that experts recommend eating each day. Fruits and vegetables provide a natural supply of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients, all of which contribute to creating a healthier you. This already existing deficit can become an even bigger issue when trying to conceive. Some women find that failing to eat enough produce impacts their ability to ovulate – or, in some cases, even increases the chances of an ova being damaged before ovulation. To begin to correct these potential fertility problems and to help your body support an eventual pregnancy, you should aim to eat at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of veggies a day, if not more. Fruits and vegetables with lycopene, folate and vitamin C are especially recommended, as each of these nutrients have been linked to increased fertility.
- Up your iron intake (with your doctor’s approval). Iron is an extremely important mineral for good health, even when women are not trying to conceive. It’s also a mineral that needs to be replenished regularly, as women lose iron during their menstrual cycle. Failing to replenish your body’s reserves can definitely impact fertility; research has even shown that taking iron supplements reduces a woman’s risk of suffering from ovulatory infertility (an inability to produce healthy baby-making eggs). The trick is knowing just how much iron you ought to consume to stay healthy. Multiple factors can affect your iron needs, including how heavy your periods are, if you are on a diet currently limited in iron, or whether you deal with medical issues that affect iron levels or not. To ensure that you’re getting exactly what you personally need, meet with a doctor or nutritionist who can test your iron levels, examine your medical history, and determine how much iron would best benefit your health.
- Eat the right kinds, and right amounts, of protein. Though iron is important when it comes to fertility, it’s just as important to not go overboard when eating common meat sources of both iron and protein. Too much protein, particularly protein that’s high in calories or fat, has been linked to decreased fertility. To avoid this issue, you should at least stick to about two or three daily servings of lean animal protein sources. But there are other things you can do to make sure you’re getting the most out of your protein sources. For example, it’s recommended that you avoid processed, smoked and raw meats. It’s also recommended that you eat more than beef, pork or chicken to get your protein servings in. Seafoods, particularly those with omega-3 fatty acids, are highly recommended when boosting fertility, as long as you avoid fish known to be high in mercury. You may even be able to improve your fertility by replacing a serving of meat each day with a vegetable or dairy source of protein instead. Beans, peas, soybeans or tofu, or nuts are all great options for this!
- Don’t skip the dairy (or a good replacement). The calcium found in dairy is a must for good reproductive health. Currently experts recommend consuming around 1,000 mg of calcium daily, and advise that it’s best to get your calcium from your food rather than a supplement. To do this, try to include more milk, yogurt and cheese in your diet; and if you absolutely can’t stand dairy, be sure to up your intake of other high-calcium foods, including leafy greens, tofu, almonds, and fortified juices. One final thing to consider is that while it’s generally best to stick to low-fat dairy, some experts believe that one daily serving of whole milk can reduce your risk of ovulatory infertility. (But if you make this adjustment in your diet, be sure to stick to just one serving of high-fat dairy, as any more may lead to unintentional weight gain and even weight related fertility issues.)
- Choose your carbs carefully. When dealing with carbohydrates, it’s always important to consider the kind of carbohydrates you’re eating. White breads, pastas and white rices will not reduce fertility directly, but also often do not supply adequate amounts of nutrients that mothers-to-be want to eat while trying to conceive. To ensure that you get plenty of nutritional value from the carbohydrates you eat, stick to whole grains that have not been refined and stripped of key nutrients, including B-vitamins and iron. Currently the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recommends a serving of roughly 6 ounces of grains a day – the rough equivalent of a cup of cereal and a couple slices of toast. (All whole grain, of course!)
- Consider adding a supplement. While a good diet can help boost fertility now, a key part of preparing to start a family is to provide your body with the reserves it will need to support a growing child. For example, a developing child can deplete its mother’s normal iron and calcium levels quickly if she does not take steps to replenish them quickly. And since it can often take around a month to confirm a pregnancy, you may not know right away that you need eat more calcium, iron, or other nutrients. Because of this, it’s worth considering supplementing your balanced diet with a multivitamin. Prenatal vitamins are a particularly good source of much needed nutrients, and can be especially helpful for women who already eat limited or special diets. However, it’s important to remember that supplements are just that: a supplement that assists and supports your already existing diet efforts. And to ensure that you take the right supplement for you, it never hurts to meet with a healthcare provider or a nutritionist that can review your personal health needs.
Good nutrition impacts our health in many ways, and ensuring that you obtain the nutrients that you need becomes more important than ever when trying to get pregnant – and after you get pregnant, too. And this isn’t just true for the ladies! Be sure to check in again next week when we explore how men, like women, can make dietary changes to help start a family.