Fertility Foods: What to Eat If You're Trying to Get Pregnant
These 10 foods may boost fertility for couples trying to conceive.
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It's no secret that what you eat when you’re pregnant is important. And research now shows that what you eat when you’re trying to conceive is another important factor for pregnancy overall. Research has found that the foods you eat can influence various aspects of fertility including ovulation, sperm count and sperm vitality. What you eat before pregnancy can also influence how the baby develops while in the womb. Here are 10 foods that support fertility for both women and men, and may be worth adding to your diet if you're trying to conceive.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, vitamin C can help trigger ovulation for women and supports healthy sperm motility and count for men. One bell pepper provides more than 100 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C. Other foods that are excellent sources of vitamin C include oranges, strawberries and kiwi.
Plant-Based Protein Like Lentils
"Plant based proteins are highly recommended for those who are trying to conceive," says Liz Shaw, MS RDN CPT Author of Fertility Foods Cookbook, The 14 Day Fertility Meal Plan & The Stress-Free IVF Nutrition Guide. "Research from the Nurses Health Study II found that women who ate higher amounts of animal protein were more likely to experience ovulatory infertility compared to those who ate less animal proteins." Before you start researching vegetarian meal plans, Shaw says that the key is to eat animal proteins in moderation. "Animal proteins are still very nutritious and provide nutrients like iron and vitamin B12 that is important for preconception," she says. Try making a blended burger using plant-forward lentils in place of some of the ground meat in your patty.
Eggs are a great way to get quality protein in your diet, and they contain the nutrient choline, "a B-like vitamin that is essential for women who are trying to conceive to support a healthy pregnancy and baby," says Shaw. Recent research shows that even pregnant women tend to fall short of the daily recommendation for choline, which is "crucial for fetal growth and development," says Shaw. Don't forget to eat the yolks of the eggs, since that's where most of the nutrients are.
"Incorporating seafood into one’s diet at least twice a week is crucial for those moms-in-the-making," says Shaw. Fish, like salmon, provide essential fatty acids and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that help with fertility for both men and women. Incorporating salmon into your preconception diet could benefit the health of your future baby because healthy fats are shown to support fetal development during pregnancy.
Beans provide folic acid which has been shown to reduce the baby’s risk of neural tube defects once mom is pregnant. It is important to have adequate folic acid before becoming pregnant. Although prenatal vitamins do contain the B-vitamin, eating beans and other foods with folic acid like whole grains, nuts and citrus fruit are more ways to take in this important nutrient.
"Making a baby isn’t just about the health of the woman; men need to look at their diets too!" says Shaw. "According to new research, walnuts, specifically intakes of at least 75 grams, can improve sperm vitality, motility and morphology in men. Plus, they are also a great way to get your omega-3 fats in."
A study published in the journal Human Reproduction found that women who drank three or more glasses of whole milk a day were 70 percent less likely to be infertile due to failed ovulation. However, whole milk does contain more calories and saturated fat, and should be consumed in moderation. A 2014 study published in Fertility and Sterility found that low-fat dairy was associated with increased sperm concentration and motility in males with infertility. So both the male and female can enjoy a combination of both whole and low-fat milk and dairy products when trying to get pregnant.
Tomatoes are filled with lycopene. Preliminary findings show this antioxidant may assist with sperm motility and reduce free radicals in the body that can cause damage to reproduction in males. "Plus, more antioxidants are always a great thing for females too!" says Shaw. She recommends tossing fresh tomatoes over your salad when in season or using canned tomatoes (with a BPA-free can) during the off-season. Canned tomatoes actually have a higher lycopene content compared to fresh.
Yogurt provides numerous nutrients that are beneficial for fertility. According to the American Pregnancy Association zinc deficiencies have negative effects on fertility for both men and women. One cup of nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt provides 15 percent of the daily recommended amount of zinc. It is also thought that the mother’s gut influences baby’s microbiome, and although more research is needed, eating yogurt can help provide the good-for-you bacteria to help mom maintain a healthy gut.
Berries, such as blueberries, strawberries and blackberries, are a great addition to any diet, but especially for those who are trying to conceive because of their antioxidant content. "While there aren’t studies to date that specifically pinpoint one group of berries over another, research surrounding fertility does support a diet high in antioxidants to help rid the body of free radicals that can disrupt reproduction," explains Shaw. "Plus, recent research showed that when women consumed three or more fruits a day, they became pregnant quicker than those who consumed less fruit and relied on fast foods."