Fertility can be affected by many factors, including age and personal health history. According to a Harvard study, diet can also have an important impact on a couple’s ability to become pregnant.
A review of previous studies conducted by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School found a connection between the foods we eat and the ability — or inability — to conceive. These results suggest that many of the 12 to 13 percent of couples who struggle with infertility could increase their chances of becoming pregnant simply by changing their diet.
Let’s take a look at what foods and nutrients can boost fertility — and which ones should be avoided.
Diet and Fertility
For women looking to become pregnant, folic acid and vitamin B12 can help maintain regular ovulation. Women planning to conceive are often advised to take prenatal vitamins with 400 micrograms of folic acid per day. After conception, folic acid helps the neural tube between the brain and the spine of the fetus develop normally in the early weeks of pregnancy. Folic acid is also found in certain foods, like asparagus and dark green leafy vegetables.
Women trying to become pregnant should make sure they get enough iron, either via supplements or iron-rich foods including lentils, spinach, beans, eggs, long-grain enriched rice, and whole grains. Like folic acid, iron helps maintain regular ovulation. Similarly, citrus fruits high in vitamin C and bananas packed with vitamin B6 regulate hormones essential for conception.
Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids tops the list of foods would-be-mothers should eat, as well. However, women should steer away from tuna (which may have high levels of mercury) and instead choose salmon, scallops, and shrimp. Outside of fish, walnuts are another great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Men looking to improve their fertility should also up their intake of specific nutrients. Vitamin C improves sperm count and motility, while the beta-carotene in carrots can increase sperm motility by 8 percent.
But which foods should couples avoid if they want to become pregnant? According to the Harvard study, couples who consumed foods with unhealthy levels of trans fat — typically, red meat, processed meats, potatoes, and sugary drinks — were more likely to have difficulty conceiving.
Weight and Fertility
What we eat affects our weight, and weight, in turn, impacts fertility. Women who are overweight or obsese may experience a hormonal imbalance that could make it more difficult to become pregnant. The same is true for women who are underweight.
Weight influences male fertility, as well. Lower sperm count, diminished sperm quality, and reduced sperm motility are more common among overweight and obese men. All these factors inhibit a man’s ability to fertilize an egg.
Couples looking to boost fertility should focus on obtaining iron and protein from vegetables instead of meat, eating high-fiber foods, and switching to monounsaturated fats, which are found in avocados and olive oil. A healthy diet not only provides proper nutrition, but keeps weight at an optimal level that promotes pregnancy.
Talk to a Fertility Specialist
The specialists at New York Reproductive Wellness talk to couples every day about ways to boost their fertility through lifestyle changes or medical treatments. To find out more about how you can increase your chances of becoming pregnant, set up an appointment with us today.