As the saying goes, we really are what we eat.
Our diets and nutrition impact almost all of our bodies processes—all the way from our metabolism to our mental health.
But one often overlooked area is how food can impact our fertility.
Nutrition plays a big role in keeping our hormones harmonious, with bad diets being linked to hormone imbalances and even reproductive health problems.
Our diet is often linked to other lifestyle factors too, and our hormones can also be majorly influenced by things like our stress levels, sleep schedule and how active we are.
Since the balance of our hormones controls our fertility, if we’re trying to conceive a bad diet and poor lifestyle can have big impacts on our chances of getting pregnant.
The good news? Making small changes to your lifestyle and nutrition choices can go a long way in boosting your baby making abilities.
So without further ado, here are our top 11 fertility nutrition and lifestyle tips if you’re trying to get pregnant:
Follow a Mediterranean style diet
High in fibre and rich in vitamins and minerals that support fertility and pregnancy, a Mediterranean style diet is always a winner. Think lots of veg, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, olive oils, avocados, oily fish and some lean meats. Oh, and make that plate colourful to boost your antioxidant intake.
Minimise your red meats and sugar
In general, you should focus on lowering your intake of red and processed meats, sugary drinks and sugary processed foods. You don’t have to skip your daily dose of chocolate, just make sure it’s a balanced portion.
Folic acid: Folic acid is an important supplement during pregnancy, because it decreases a risk called neural tube defects. It’s also been found to promote egg and sperm health. Take 400mcg a day, or 5mg if you’re at higher risk of neural tube defects, from preconception up until 12 weeks into pregnancy.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D has also been associated with higher pregnancy rates. Take 10 mcg a day of vitamin D per day right from preconception up to breastfeeding.
Vegan supplements: If you’re on a strict plant-based diet, consider supplementing with at least 10mcg of vitamin B12, 150 mcg of iodine and omega-3 PUFAs since you can only get these micronutrients from animal products. You’ll also want to make sure you’re getting enough selenium, so consider supplementing with 60mcg per day.
Check the labels! Lots of these nutrients will be found in prenatal supplements, which can also be a great option. Make sure you check the ingredient lists of anything you are taking and check in with your doctor or a nutritionist/dietician to ensure that you are not taking more than your recommended daily allowance.
Avoid pregnancy ‘red flag’ foods
Stay away from raw shellfish, meat and fish, avoid swordfish, marlin and shark due to high mercury content, swerve unpasteurised cheese, mould ripened and blue-veined cheese, eggs without the British lion stamp and cured meat. These can contain harmful bacteria that could be harmful to a foetus. It’s also best to steer away from high intakes of vitamin A, found in liver and pâté.
Avoid excessive alcohol intake, smoking and recreational drugs
This one goes without saying really. Although the odd glass of red wine is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, alcohol can be harmful to fertility as well as pregnancy and so is best avoided from preconception right through to pregnancy.
Swap to decaf
It’s a good idea to lower your caffeine intake to under 200 mg a day (just less than 2 cups of instant coffee). Caffeine is a strong stimulant which can cause harm to a fetus and may increase your risk of miscarriage and low birth weight.
Ditch your frying pans for a steamer
Poaching, stewing, steaming and even microwaving your food are much healthier cooking methods that can actually lower your levels of oxidative stress. Too much oxidative stress can damage both eggs and sperm—so keep your frying, roasting, toasting, barbecuing or grilling to a minimum.
Get up and active
Exercise is brilliant for keeping our hormones happy, but like everything in life, it’s all about balance. If you’re doing high-intensity training (marathons for example) be mindful that you’re not over-exercising as this can disrupt our hormones too. Most importantly, find a form of exercise you really enjoy and move as often as you can.
Focus on getting good quality shut-eye
Focus on getting good quality shut-eye. In general, seven to nine hours of good quality sleep is essential for just about everything, including regulating our hormones. Try to reduce your screen-time for up to an hour before bed and prioritise going to bed and getting up at the same time everyday.
Cut out as much stress as you can
Whilst our lives are full of unavoidable stress, try to control what you can. On top of stress being literally the worst for our health in general, it can also disrupt our eating habits. It’s time to put you first, shake off all of those things that aren’t serving you and consider trying out some meditation, journalling or mindfulness.
Don’t forget about your partner’s diet too
If you’re planning a baby with a male partner or doing shared motherhood, get your partner to focus on their nutrition and diet too to optimise their fertility and health and to spur each other on.
And that’s a wrap
So there you have it—follow these fertility nutrition tips and you’ll be well on your way to boosting your chances of conception.
We know that making changes to your diet and lifestyle might feel a little overwhelming and it can be hard to know where to start.