Experts weigh in on food & nutrients to support fertility
Couples who are trying to conceive may experience setbacks when they don’t get pregnant right away. They may get anxious about what it is about their health and lifestyle affecting their chances of having kids.
Preconception health status and nutrition, impact fertility rates and successful conception outcome. Both men and women play a vital role in the process of becoming pregnant, as well as contributing to the long-term health of their child. Sleep, stress, movement, and nutrition are integral in planning and emerging understanding considers up to a three-generation impact on the development of chronic disease in their offspring.
According to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)1, preconception nutrition helps handle the extra demands on the body as the pregnancy progresses. The goal is to balance getting enough nutrients to support the growth of the fetus and maintaining a healthy weight.
Diet considerations for women in preconception:
The USDA food plate2 can be used as a fundamental guide for food items that can be included in the diet such as:
- A variety of vegetables, including dark green, red, and orange vegetables, and starchy vegetables.
- Any fruit or 100% fruit juice
- Quality protein such as lean meat, poultry, and fish. Complement with plant-based protein options such as nuts & seeds and beans & legumes
Food & nutrients to support biologic processed need extra emphasis such as:
- Folate, B Vitamins & methylation co-factors – needed for rapid DNA synthesis and cellular growth
- Prebiotic- and probiotic-rich food – beneficial for digestion and absorption
- Phytonutrient Diversity
Diet considerations for men for preconception:
Diet has been linked with sperm quality. Sperm are very susceptible to oxidative damage where in intake of targeted antioxidants are important:
- Fill up half of the plate with vegetables & fruits
- Fiber-rich carbohydrates and whole-grain products
- Zinc-rich foods, such as oysters, crab, pork, beef, chicken, and turkey
- Copper & selenium-rich food, such as brazil nuts and other nuts & seeds
- Folate-rich food, such as dark-green leafy vegetables
- Quality fats, from walnuts
- Phytonutrients & antioxidants such as vitamin C & E and lycopene & carotenoids
Diet can affect your body while in preconception stage
According to the Association of Physicians of Indian Origin3, there are also food & compounds in food that interfere with preconception health. These can decrease your nutrient reserves, and add to cellular damage and oxidative stress
- Ultra-processed food & fried foods
- Added sugar – soda, fruit drinks, tea, coffee, energy and sports drinks, and flavored milks
- High glycemic foods & refined carbohydrates – white flour & white sugar
- Poor quality fats & oils – refined vegetable oils, margarine, other sources of transfat
Compounds in food
- Natural and artificial sweeteners – xylitol, high fructose corn syrup, Aspartame, acesulfame-K, etc
- Artificial additives
- Bisphenol-A – plastics, tin can linings
How about supplements?
A nutritious varied diet can already help you get the vitamins and nutrients you need. But supplements can be helpful to fill in identified nutritional gaps.
Folic acid is the usual supplement recommended for women who intend to get pregnant. Same with iron, calcium, vitamin D, choline, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and vitamin C. For vegan women who want to conceive, you can consult a medical professional to make sure you are getting enough nutrients.
LifeScience Center offers a Nutritionist-Dietitian Consult that can address your fertility concerns through nutrition and have a better relationship with food. This service already includes a 45-minute to 1-hour consultation with a board-certified and IFM-trained nutritionist-dietitian, advice on nutrition intervention, supplement suggestions, recommended labs (if necessary), nutrition guide. All of which can help you achieve optimal health and wellness, for easier conception that will hopefully result in pregnancy.
1 Nutrition During Pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (n.d.).
2 Nutrition Before Pregnancy. University of Rochester Medical City. (n.d.).
3 AAPI’s Nutrition Guide to Optimal Health: Using Principles of Functional Medicine & Nutritional Genomics Part III. American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin. 2017 June.