Adapted from The
Fertility Diet (McGraw-Hill) by Jorge E. Chavarro, M.D., Walter C. Willett,
M.D., and Patrick J. Skerrett.
If you have been having trouble getting pregnant—or getting
pregnant again—forget about the so-called fertility foods like oysters and
champagne, garlic, ginseng, kelp, and yams. The true fertility foods are whole
grains, healthy fats, excellent protein packages, and even the occasional bowl
of ice cream. This isn't just wishful thinking. Instead, it comes from the
first comprehensive examination of diet and fertility, an eight-year study of
more than 18,000 women that uncovered ten evidence-based suggestions for
improving fertility. This work, from the landmark Nurses' Health Study, fills a
critical information gap on diet and fertility.
The recommendations that follow are aimed at preventing and
reversing ovulatory infertility, which accounts for one quarter or more of all
cases of infertility. They won't work for infertility due to physical
impediments like blocked fallopian tubes. And they aren't meant to replace a
conversation with a clinician about whether an infertility work-up is needed.
The strategies described below don't guarantee a pregnancy any more than do in
vitro fertilization or other forms of assisted reproduction. But it's virtually
free, available to everyone, has no side effects, sets the stage for a healthy
pregnancy, and forms the foundation of a healthy eating strategy for motherhood
and beyond. That's a winning combination no matter how you look at it.
Avoid trans fats.
These artery-clogging fats threaten fertility as well harm the heart and blood
vessels. Go trans free.
Use more unsaturated
vegetable oils. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help improve the
body's sensitivity to insulin and cool inflammation, two trends that are good
for fertility. Add in more vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and cold water fish
such as salmon and sardines. Cut back on saturated fat.
Turn to vegetable
protein. Replacing a serving of meat each day with beans, peas, soybeans or
tofu, or nuts can improve fertility.
Choose slow carbs,
not no carbs. Choosing slowly digested carbohydrates that are rich in
fiber, like whole grains, vegetables, whole fruits, and beans, instead of
rapidly digested carbs can improve fertility by controlling blood sugar and
Make it whole milk.
Skim milk appears to promote infertility. If you drink milk, choose whole milk
while trying to get pregnant, or have a small dish of ice cream or full-fat
yogurt every day.
Take a multi-vitamin.
Getting extra folic acid (400 micrograms a day) before you get pregnant could
actually help you start eating for two.
Get plenty of iron
from plants. Extra iron from plants, including whole-grain cereals,
spinach, beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, and beets, appears to promote fertility.
Drink to your health.
The best beverage for keeping your body hydrated is water. Coffee, tea, and
alcohol are okay in moderation. But skip sugared sodas—they appear to promote
Head toward the
fertility zone for weight. Weighing too much or too little can interrupt
normal menstrual cycles, throw off ovulation or stop it altogether. The best
range for fertility is a body-mass index (BMI) of 20 to 24. Working to move
your BMI in that direction by gaining or losing some weight is almost as good.
Move to the fertility
zone for activity. If you don't get much physical activity and are above
the fertility zone for weight, daily exercise can help improve fertility. But
don't overdo it: too much exercise, especially if you are quite lean, can
interfere with ovulation.