It’s no surprise that more women are experiencing challenges when it comes to fertility. Factors like waiting longer to start a family, our increasingly busy lifestyles, poor dietary patterns and high psychological stress all contribute to ovulatory infertility.
At this year’s Food for Your Whole Life health symposium, Dr. Victoria Maizes, Professor of Medicine, Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of Arizona, spoke about changing to a healthier diet and lifestyle to increase your chances of getting pregnant. She recommends these changes to help boost fertility:
1. Eat more vegetable protein: Protein type matters when you’re in your 30s. Increasing vegetable protein intake (instead of meat protein) is associated with a 50 percent lower risk of infertility for women over 32. This means eating more walnuts, beans, legumes and lentils.
2. Add omega-3s: Consuming foods rich in omega-3 is not only heart healthy but also keeps your hormones functioning properly, and positively affect your baby’s IQ. Results from the ongoing ALSPAC study show that mothers who consume less than 340 g of fish per week are associated with children with lower IQ’s.
Dr. Maizes suggests eating two 6 oz servings of low-mercury seafood per week, such as scallops, salmon and shrimp. Also, don’t discount walnuts and flax.
3. Opt for iron-rich foods: Results from this Harvard study show that women who consumed iron supplements had a significantly lower risk of ovulatory infertility than those who did not. Consuming iron supplements (the ideal dose during pregnancy is 27 mg a day), or non-heme iron from plant sources such as lentils, spinach and quinoa may decrease the risk of ovulatory infertility.
4. Eat whole dairy products: This is a case where you should avoid the low-fat aisle. Your hormones actually need fat to function properly. Be sure to avoid trans fats however, which can not only threaten your cardiovascular health, but also increase inflammation interfering with ovulation, conception and early embryonic development.
5. Consume low-glycemic carbs: Carbohydrates affect your insulin levels, which inversely affects your sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone). High-GI foods (think white bread, white potatoes, white rice) increase insulin, which decreases the necessary sex hormones needed for conception. Trade in your white carbs for more low-GI foods like chickpeas, bright coloured vegetables, whole-grain foods, tofu. (Click for more information on the glycemic index.)
6. Supplement wisely: Some micronutrients can increase fertility, so Dr. Maizes recommends consuming prenatal multivitamins to boost fertility. In addition, most people don’t eat balanced diets, so taking a multivitamin will ensure your body is getting the nourishment it needs. Make sure the multivitamin you’re taking contains: iron, folic acid, vitamin C, iodine, vitamin D and omega-3.
Did you change the way you ate when trying to conceive?