You probably already know that eating a nutritious, balanced diet is important for your general health. What you might not know is that many foods and drinks have characteristics that either promote or inhibit fertility. But no matter your motivation for what’s on the menu, you might want to use Ovia to track all the food and drink that’s fueling the amazing machine that is you! This can be meaningful to help you look at patterns over time, make note of and feel good about healthy habits (hooray for drinking all that water and staying hydrated!) or to notice any changes you might want to make (like, hmm, maybe you should add in an extra servings of vegetables each day).
Tracking food and drink when trying to conceive
If you’re interested in trying to conceive, tracking your food and drink can help you start to become aware of what habits you might want to change, what you may want to add to your meals to better promote fertility, or even to just start thinking ahead to how your intake might shake up a bit once you’re pregnant. And, while we’re on the subject of food, drink, and fertility, it certainly doesn’t hurt to good to get a head start on knowing just what you might want to be getting more of in your diet, and what you might want to avoid – even if for future fertility planning.
What types of foods promote fertility?
- Dairy products: Regular consumption of high-fat dairy foods decreases the risk of infertility (while low-fat dairy products increase this risk), and these foods contain calcium, which is great for bones and also for reproductive health. Make sure what you’re eating is “whole” and not just “low-fat” because the calcium in low-fat milk doesn’t get properly absorbed.
- Low-mercury fish: Fish contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which help regulate the reproductive hormones while increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs. Fatty fish like salmon, sardines and herring are especially good sources of Omega-3s. If you don’t eat fish, flaxseed oil, walnuts and supplements also contain Omega-3s.
- Vegetable oils: The Mediterranean diet is highly beneficial for achieving pregnancy because of its richness in vegetable oils, especially linoleic acid. Moreover, this diet seems to reduce the risk of weight gain and diabetes, which can cause infertility.
- Poultry: Lean turkey and chicken are a better source of protein than red meat, and also increase iron intake, which tends to boost fertility. If you don’t eat poultry, good substitutes for the protein it contains are beans, tofu, and quinoa.
- Whole grains: Complex carbohydrates keep the blood sugar level stable and help regulate ovulation, unlike refined carbs (contained in white bread, white rice, and sugar snacks), which can disturb the menstrual cycle and reproductive hormones. They also contain folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) and zinc, two fertility superstars. Beans, vegetables, and fruits are also high in complex carbs.
- Fruits & vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, important components of a preconception diet. Green leafy vegetables are packed with folate. Also, vegetables represent a good protein source – and a much better choice than meat when you are trying to conceive. The preconception diet developed by the Dutch Nutrition Center in the Netherlands recommends an intake of at least 200g of vegetables and at least two pieces of fruit daily.
- Berries: Blueberries and raspberries in particular contain antioxidants that are valuable for conception. Antioxidants also keep sperm strong and healthy.
What types of foods inhibit fertility?
- High-mercury Fish: Mercury is a chemical found in many heavier fish like swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, tuna steak, and shark, and elevated levels in the blood have been linked to female and male infertility.
- Trans fats: Trans fats are found in fried and processed foods, and are known to contribute to heart disease and weight problems, both of which are linked to infertility. Though trans fats may not directly lead to infertility, their consumption is still indicative of a lifestyle that does not promote fertility.
- Raw meat, fish, and cheese: Although raw meat, cheese, and fish don’t have any properties in and of themselves that reduce fertility, it’s important to avoid these raw foods while you’re actively trying to conceive as their consumption greatly increases the chances of exposure to the listeria bacteria, which can prove a serious health risk if you do become pregnant.
Okay, but what about alcohol?
Though the medical community agrees that drinking alcohol while pregnant may pose serious risks to a developing fetus, different researchers have made varying conclusions about the effects of alcohol on fertility, which usually fall into one of three camps:
- Two alcoholic beverages a day puts fertility at risk
- Women who drink wine are more likely to conceive
- Alcohol has no impact on fertility
The science on the subject is still murky, and much of the evidence anecdotal. But something you may want to keep in mind? If you’re actively TTC and could (hopefully!) get pregnant at any time, you may want to abstain. However, if you happen to drink moderately prior to learning that you’re pregnant, you likely don’t need to worry. As always, if you have questions about any of this, ask your healthcare provider.
And don’t forget to track all that food and drink!