Have you ever wondered about the exact relationship between what we eat and our fertility? In India, around 3.9 to 16.8% of the population has issues with primary infertility and diet acts as one of the biggest driving forces behind improving your chances of conceiving. There is growing research and literature that sheds limelight on the effectiveness of diet in fertility, let us explore this further in this article.
Fertility diet: fact or fiction?
A 'fertility diet' might not be a magic pill that resolves all your infertility issues but is definitely a factor that we cant close our eyes to. A consistent healthy eating pattern will have a great compound effect on reproductive health and general wellbeing in the long term. Various evidence also introduces us to a myriad of foods that have shown great results in boosting fertility.
Certain nutrients such as folic acid, iron, Vitamin B12, Omega 3 fatty acids, and Omega 6 fatty acids are useful for preconception health. Though it is always advised to have a diet that sustainably and continuously gives you a balanced nutrient profile, while conception there is a need to amp up certain nutrients to push your chances of conception. Some of which can be achieved by focusing on including clean vegetarian protein sources such as beans, lentils, and leafy green vegetables. Dry fruits, seeds, and nuts are important sources of micronutrients that are otherwise absent in your everyday diet and so are an essential addition to your plate. Do talk to your doctor and nutritionist so they can put you on supplements to support preconception.
What to avoid?
Beyond age and medical history, the causes of fertility problems in men and women are different. Your lifestyle also impedes your chances of conception. Questions to ask yourself if you are looking to boost your fertility:
- Do I live a fairly stressful life?
- Am I getting enough sleep?
- Do I rely heavily on tea or coffee to get through my day?
- How often do I drink or smoke?
- Am I eating right?
- Are there traces of chemicals/toxins or pollutants in my immediate physical surrounding?
Being aware of elevated caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol consumption is important. This will help you recognize if there are any eliminations to be made. With the right professional, you will get easy help with adding super-foods and nutritionally rich food groups to the diet, but it might be harder to let go of unhealthy eating and drinking habits on your own.
One golden rule for good health across all age groups and populations is reducing the consumption of processed food and increasing the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants like fruits and vegetables. Junk foods are often a telltale story of empty calories and added preservatives and chemicals. Here is a list of must-haves in your diet if you're looking to improve your fertility:
Dry fruits, seeds, nuts:
Seeds such as sunflower, flax, hemp, pumpkin, and sesame are rich in proteins, omega- 3 essential fatty acids, zinc, and vitamin E. Omega 3, Vit E, and zinc especially are powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients which has been shown to assist better hormonal function and thereby help conception. This food group is extremely nutrient-dense and a powerhouse to improve and enhance your fertility and is a healthy choice as snacks. Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and peanuts are also rich sources of fats, selenium, and other essential fats.
You can combine your favorite ones in a trail mix and munch on them between meals or add them to your oatmeal or smoothies.
Fruits and vegetables:
When it comes to fruits and veggies, it’s a no-brainer. They play an incredible role in our diet and reduce major health risks. Loaded with micronutrients, they are an excellent source of antioxidants and dietary fiber. Try to add as many colors as possible to your plate. Choose local, organic, and seasonal produce over the plastic-wrapped exotic ones. Not only is it eco-friendly but also more beneficial as it has not traveled long distances wrapped in packaging. Put simply, our bodies assimilate multivitamins from fruits and vegetables efficiently and easily. Citrus fruits, leafy greens, and berries are especially good for you. Try to choose whole fruit over fruit juices as it keeps the nutrients locked. Consuming them whole also prevents a spike in insulin levels thanks to all the fiber.
Indians are deficient in proteins on a normal day and if you are trying to conceive you need above normal proteins in the diet to support the fertilization and growth of your baby. Lean meats, dairy, eggs, beans, and lentils are your picks for all things protein. Kidney beans, moth beans, chickpeas, whole green grams are common names in our kitchen and should be essential components of meal planning. Unpolished, organic lentils and legumes are healthier and taste better. Soaking your pulses and lentils is a great practice to reduce the phytic acids present in them and improve absorption. Cheese, yogurt, and milk are particularly good because they fulfill your calcium and healthy fats requirement, fulfill your protein needs and provide a healthy growing medium for your gut bacteria.
Tips to achieve a healthy and balanced diet:
- Start with observing the quality and quantity of food that you are presently consuming
- Maintaining a food journal gives a great head start
- List out specific foods that you intend to consume
- Try to have fun with the new recipes you prepare
- Whole foods and fruits over processed food
- Meet your nutritionist and set diet piled with fertility-friendly foods
- Do not falter on your workouts
Note to self
While floating through the sea of food recommendations that you will find, remember to be kind to yourself on your weight loss or weight gain journey. The clichéd adage that fitness is a journey, not a destination has an element of truth. Our body has ways of communicating with us and if pay attention, finding answers will be simpler, even when it is about conception.