Nutrition and Fertility

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In Honor of National Infertility Awareness Week , here is a re-post of an article I wrote on nutrition and fertility. Enjoy!

Adapted from The Fertility Diet (McGraw-Hill) by Jorge E. Chavarro, M.D., Walter C. Willett, M.D., and Patrick J. Skerrett

If you are currently having trouble getting pregnant, have you taken a close look at your diet lately? Recently, an article was released called the “Harvard Fertility Diet,” based on information taken from the Nurses’ Health Study. This was an 8 year study that looked at 10,000 women and determined that there was in fact a correlation between diet and fertility. Now, this diet does not act like a fertility goddess! Meaning, you won’t get pregnant overnight and there are no guarantees, but hey, what have you got to lose? There are no side effects to eating this way, it sets the stage for a healthy pregnancy, and promotes an overall healthy lifestyle. It’s also a way for you to feel as though you are taking an active role in your own health, while undergoing any treatment with your fertility specialist.

Avoid Trans Fats: Start looking at labels and avoid anything that says “Partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oil.” Believe it or not, most margarine has trans fats! You’re better off using real butter, but in moderation.

Eat more unsaturated fats vs saturated fats: Unsaturated fats are healthy fats found in plant foods such as nuts, olive oil, and avocados. Fish is also a good source of unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are unhealthy fats found in animal products such as beef, butter, and lard.

Make one meal per day vegetarian: You don’t have to become a full time vegetarian, just replace the meat you’re currently eating at one meal with plant proteins such as beans, nuts, organic tofu or organic soybeans.

Choose complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber: Meaning eat brown rice, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal. Avoid refined sugars such as white bread, cookies, white rice and processed foods.

Drink whole milk: Yes, I know this goes against what I said in #2 about avoiding saturated fats, but according to the study, “skim milk appears to promote infertility.” It is recommend that you consume a glass of milk, a small bowl of ice cream or a full fat yogurt once a day. Enjoy!

Make sure you get enough folic acid (400 micrograms a day): Eat your leafy greens, beans, oranges, and fortified cereals to get your daily fix. Or, take a whole food supplement like Juice Plus! Guaranteed to get nutrition from 20+ fruits and vegetables everyday! (For more information on Juice Plus and pregnancy, click here)

Load up on plant sources of Iron: Try to get spinach, leafy greens, nuts, dried fruit, or beans into your daily diet.

Stay hydrated: Make sure you are drinking plenty of water! Coffee and tea every once in awhile is ok, but avoid sugary sodas – per the study these, “seem to promote infertility.”

Maintain a healthy body weight: Being over or underweight can be a problem. The recommendations are to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 20 – 24.

Be active: Some physical activity can be good for you, especially if you are trying to lose weight. But be careful, as too much physical activity can promote too much lean body mass and interfere with normal hormone production and ovulation.

Always talk to your doctor before starting any new diet and exercise program. If you feel you need help with making diet changes, talk to a registered dietitian who can help you come up with an eating plan that is right for you.