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Fertility Diet for Women

Nowadays, many couples face fertility problems even though they might not have any organic health problems. Are fertility problems related to women’s eating habits? Are there any lifestyle recommendations that help increase a woman’s chance to conceive?

What we know
What we know is that the foods you eat today affect the health of your eggs 90 days from now. In addition, hormones build themselves from the ingredients you provide through your diet. That’s why the number one cause of infertility (anovulation – lack of ovulation) can many times be remedied by changes in the diet. The fertility diet can help women with ovulation problems and not all infertile women.

To know about fertility diet for men, refer to this article 

How women’s weight affects fertility?
Being underweight (BMI<19) or overweight (BMI > 24.9) can delay the time it takes a woman to conceive. In addition, being underweight is more problematic than being overweight since the time to conception increases in underweight women. In fact, body fat cells produce estrogen. Women who do not have sufficient amounts of body fat may have menstrual cycle irregularities, anovulation and infertility problems.

What are the nutrients that are important for your fertility?
Women who do not get enough amounts of zinc and iron may suffer anovulation (lack of ovulation) and probably poor egg health, which can inhibit pregnancy at a rate 60% higher than those with enough iron stores in their blood.

What can negatively affect women’s fertility?
– High sugar consumption, sugary sodas, fruit drinks and high consumption of starches: lowers immunity, leads to hormonal imbalance and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is known to disrupt normal ovulation by preventing the body from ovulating.
– Trans fat: high consumption of red meat and trans fats can negatively affect your fertility.

How does caffeine affect women’s fertility?
Caffeine is a stimulant related to impaired fertility. Low to moderate caffeine consumption (less than 300 mg a day, or about 2 cups of coffee) won’t obstruct getting pregnant. But you may want to cut out caffeine altogether if you’re having difficulty conceiving or undergoing in vitro fertilization. Drinking more than 5 cups of coffee a day is linked to lower fertility.

How does alcohol affect women’s fertility?
An occasional glass of wine or bottle of beer most likely won’t hurt your odds of conceiving. Just make sure you aren’t already pregnant because alcohol can hurt a developing fetus.

How does smoking affect fertility?
Free radicals are damaging molecules that can damage the ovaries and reproductive organs. In addition, smoking affects how receptive the uterus is to the egg.

Is there a fertility diet?
A combination of lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) is necessary to increase a woman’s chance to conceive. The fertility diet includes:
– Whole grain, fruits and vegetables: they contain antioxidants, B vitamins and minerals that boost fertility. They help protect the egg health from the damage caused by free-radicals.
– Enough iron from meat, chicken, fish, legumes and green leafy vegetables.
– Replacing a serving of meat each day with a vegetable protein (legumes or soya beans and nuts) or dairy protein that can boost fertility.
– Healthy oils: olive oil and omega 3 fatty acids help fertility by helping to regulate hormones in the body. Following a low fat diet may cause issues with ovulation due to lack of progesterone.
– Surprisingly, consuming more high-fat dairy products and less low-fat dairy products can increase your chances of conceiving. Full-fat dairy, whole yogurt and cheeses, preferably organic and produced without antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones and pesticides.
– Eat less trans fats and sugar.
– Avoid artificial sweeteners; attention to diet desserts too.
– Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking as mentioned before.

Key nutrients a woman in her childbearing age needs to get
– Calcium: at least 1,000 mg of calcium daily. If you’re vegan or can’t tolerate dairy products, take a calcium/vitamin D supplement to cut your risk for developing osteoporosis later in life.
– Omega 3: eat cooked fish and seafood twice a week (180 g every time). Avoid the sushi for now. Or take a high-quality fish oil to ensure sufficient w3 fats. Fish have essential fats called w3 fatty acids, which your body needs for optimal fertility and seafood is the best source.
– B complex especially folate B9: A deficiency in these nutrients could cause severe birth defects. B9 is critical for supporting a healthy pregnancy; preventing neural-tube defects and helping your body produce new cells along with vitamins B6 and B12. Eat foods like chickpeas, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, avocados, orange juice, and fortified whole grains to help meet your daily 400-microgram B9 requirement.
– Iron: Fill your body’s iron reserves before you get pregnant, especially if your periods are mainly heavy. Get your daily dose of 18 mg from foods such as lean beef, pumpkin seeds, fortified breakfast cereal, soybeans, and skinless poultry, vegetarian sources like legumes.
– Zinc: a deficiency in zinc is harmful to fertility in both men and women. Increase your intake of it by including more seafood in your diet.

Finally, there isn’t one key diet for women who are trying to conceive. Nutrition is sort of like an orchestra; you need to have all factors in place for the top result. If you practice all of these recommendations, it could have a big impact on your fertility.

Christelle Bedrossian
Dietitian-Nutritionist
Beirut, Lebanon

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Dietitian Christelle Bedrossian

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