As you’re trying to conceive (TTC), it can be difficult to know which nutrition guidelines to follow and you might be wondering about the best diet for fertility. Try to remember that nutrition is never one-size-fits-all. Everybody needs different things to feel nourished and satisfied throughout their day. This being said, there are some universal tips that many people who are trying to conceive find helpful. If you’re interested, keep reading!
1. Everything in moderation
There’s no need to completely eliminate any type of food — especially if it brings you joy. In fact, eliminating entire food groups, or macros like carbs can rob your body of essential nutrients. And restricting favorite foods can actually lead to feeling out of control around that food which is harmful to your relationship to food. Intuitive eating is a great alternative approach to restrictive eating or dieting. You can depend upon your body to tell you which foods you need and how much is enough. It takes practice, but can be a very freeing philosophy around all foods.
2. Keep hydrating
The more hydrated you are, the more hydrated your cervical fluid is, making it easier for sperm to travel through your cervix and into your uterus and fallopian tubes. This is especially important when you’re exercising, and/or living in warmer climates. If it’s difficult for you to drink water, try adding a squeeze of lemon or orange into your water, or get some flavor drops. It can be motivating to get a water bottle with goals written on it according to times of day. Eating foods that are high in water content, like grapes, cucumbers and celery, will help with your hydration as well.
3. Limit trans fats
Trans fats play a role in causing infertility for some people. In one study, those who ate 4 grams of trans fats a day (as part of a daily 1800 calorie diet), had an increased risk of irregular ovulation. If you don’t ovulate, you can’t get pregnant, so it’s best to avoid these when possible. Trans fats are primarily found in fried foods, some commercial baked goods, and some margarines. Alternative sources of fats you can turn to are olive oil, avocado, and fish.
4. Boost protein
Protein is an important macronutrient for hormonal regulation as well as blood sugar stabilization. It’s a good idea to have a variety of protein sources each day, like lean meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products like yogurt. If you’re finding it difficult to prepare protein-rich meals, try occasionally adding whey or plant based protein powder to a smoothie or shake.
5. Decrease refined carbohydrates
Carbohydrates get a bad rap. But let’s face it, they are our bodies’ main energy source and we all need carbs in our lives. They also help us feel satisfied. Eating refined or simple carbohydrates causes a greater increase in blood glucose levels (and thus in insulin levels) than complex carbohydrates do. So, refined or simple carbohydrates can negatively impact ovulation.
Some of the most common simple or refined carbohydrates include white bread, and foods with added sugar, including juices made from concentrate. Alternatively, complex carbohydrates energize your body while also providing fiber and starch. These are foods like fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. So try swapping your bagel for some whole grain toast, or your pasta for some whole wheat pasta or chickpea pasta if that feels right for you.
6. Fill up with fiber
Fiber is excellent for regulating blood sugar and maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal (GI) system. It helps move waste through our bodies effectively and contributes to healthy cholesterol levels. It’s a good idea to have about 25 grams of fiber everyday. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans are excellent sources of fiber.
7. Choose full-fat dairy
Full-fat dairy foods provide the building blocks for the hormones necessary for fertility: estrogen and progesterone. Hormones require cholesterols (fats) from our diet in order to be made. If your diet is lacking in fat, you may not be able to make the hormones necessary to have a regular menstrual cycle and thus, ovulate and get pregnant. So add in some yogurt, whole milk or cheese to be sure you’re getting what your body needs!
8. Be mindful about alcohol
Enjoying a cocktail once in a while or a glass of wine with your meal is all part of balance. And there isn’t any solid evidence that occasional social alcohol use is associated with infertility. However, moderate alcohol intake (3-6 drinks per week) or more can significantly increase your risk for infertility. Enjoying a mocktail every once in a while can help get you ready for eliminating alcohol altogether once you get that positive pregnancy test!
9. Start your multivitamin
A multivitamin helps you achieve the recommended daily amounts of folate (folic acid) and iron. Both are essential micronutrients in the early stages of pregnancy. In fact, having enough folic acid on board at the time of conception through the first 8 weeks of pregnancy is associated with a significantly lower risk of baby having a birth defect called spina bifida. Often, people find out they are pregnant too late to take action on this, which is why it’s a good idea to start your prenatal vitamin around three months before you anticipate conceiving.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
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- Katz DF, Slade DA, Nakajima ST. “Analysis of pre-ovulatory changes in cervical mucus hydration and sperm penetrability.” Adv Contracept. 13(2-3):143-51. Web. June – September 1997.
- Lee CH, Wang Y, Shin SC, Chien YW. “Effects of chelating agents on the rheological property of cervical mucus”. Contraception. 65(6):435-40. June 2002.
- Harvard School of Public Health. “Changes to Diet and Lifestyle May Help Prevent Infertility from Ovulatory Disorders”. Harvard.edu. Harvard School of Public Health. October 31, 2007.
- Jorge E. Chavarro, M.D. et all. “Protein intake and ovulatory infertility” Am J Obstet Gynecol. 198(2): 210.e1–210.e7. March 2011.