What To Eat To Conceive
What are the best foods and lifestyle choices you can make if you’re trying to, or want to get pregnant?
Whether you’re trying to get pregnant now or in the next few months or years, a healthy pregnancy needs a healthy foundation; and that starts in your early years. While there are many factors that affect fertility, including hormone imbalances, what you can control is following a healthy lifestyle that promotes fertility and reproductive health, while also keeping your mind, body, and spirit healthy.
I can’t speak from personal experience, but I’ve successfully coached women with PCOS ( Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) to change their lifestyle with a major nutrition overhaul in order to help create a path with more potential success for getting pregnant, or even just getting healing from PCOS and insulin resistance.
Women are recommended to start preparing for pregnancy at least 3 months before they get pregnant, with lifestyle and nutrition changes I actually recommend more time, around 6 months or even more. Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, managing their stress, and of course following a healthy diet are some things you can do to increase your fertility.
Proper nutrition is no doubt the most basic requirement for ultimate health and even more so with healthy pregnancies. What a woman eats and drinks during pregnancy is her baby’s main source of nourishment. The mother-to-be should choose a variety of healthy foods and beverages to provide the important nutrients a baby needs for growth and development. As a matter of fact, the first 6-8 weeks of pregnancy are key for fetal development. Multiple studies have also shown that what a mother eats during pregnancy influences her child’s food choices later in life. To ensure you’re getting enough nutrients to supply your baby’s growth here’s are the top foods for fertility and pregnancy.
What are the Best Foods for Fertility?
1 || Folate-Rich Foods
Women of childbearing age should consume 400-800 mg of folic acid daily. Dark leafy greens like spinach kale and brussel sprouts, beans, citrus fruits, and whole grains are the best food sources of folic acid. Folic acid is important for preventing neural tube defects (which are birth defects in the brain, spine or spinal cord). The neural tube develops into the brain and spine during the first 3 or 4 weeks after conception.
Folic acid can help reduce the risk of preeclampsia, a pregnancy condition characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. If preeclampsia goes untreated, it can lead to pregnancy complications and prevent your baby from getting enough blood, oxygen, and food.
2 || Protein
Lean protein, organic chicken, eggs, and salmon, are excellent sources of iron which is a key nutrient for fertility. To help with the absorption of iron, load up on vitamin C-rich foods, like bell peppers and citrus fruits. Women tend to have lower levels of iron due to blood loss during menstruation. A diet rich in iron can help prevent anemia during pregnancy.
Anemia is a condition in which there aren’t enough red blood cells in your blood to carry oxygen to different organs and muscles in the body. Pregnant women are at higher risk of developing anemia because they need so much blood to support the conception of the baby. Low iron and ferritin levels weaken the immune system, which is bad especially if you want to get pregnant because you need your full energy for yourself and your baby. If you’re a vegetarian or want to follow a more plant-strong diet, try to focus on beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds and dark leaves; they are rich in iron and will keep your blood healthy and strong.
3 || Healthy dietary Fats
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for your baby’s neurologic development as well as their immune and nervous system, in addition to the child’s cognitive function. Omega-3s are said to be also vital for boosting the mother’s mood and preventing postpartum depression. Fatty fish; especially salmon, virgin olive oil, avocados, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids; ideally, it’s best to get omega-3 fatty acids from fish sources which contain better converting and more bioavailability. Pregnant women should consume at least 300mg of omega-3s daily; again – real food is always the best option, but you must always check with your doctor to see if supplementation might be right for you too. I personally use Krill oil; I take 1000mg daily for 2 months and then stop it for a month and so on.
4 || Vitamin B6
The B complex of vitamins is responsible for promoting healthy skin, hair, and nails, but it’s also important for carrying out a variety of bodily functions. Vitamin B6; is considered an essential nutrient for women, especially who are planning to get pregnant because it helps in the development of the nervous system. Recent research also proves that Vitamin B6 can also help alleviate morning sickness symptoms during the early stages of pregnancy. The best foods for vitamin B6 include whole-grains, raw nuts and seeds, fish, chicken, bananas, avocados, and beans.
5 || Complex Carbohydrates
Unlike refined carbs, which can elevate blood glucose and create insulin resistance, complex carbs keep you fuller longer. Vegetables and fruits, beans and other legumes, and whole grains are examples of complex carbs. During preconception and pregnancy, complex carbs can help prevent insulin resistance that can affect reproductive hormones and your menstrual cycle.
Opt for complex carbohydrates, such as oats, bran, whole grain breads, beans, lentils, and vegetables instead of refined carbohydrates, such as white breads, crackers, cookies, and white sugar.
6 || Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Anti-oxidants are important for the follicular fluid which plays a big role in egg development. Eating a rainbow of antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits provides protection from cell damage. Those cells include the ones in your reproductive system.
Moreover, a growing body of research also shows that glutathione, the “super antioxidant,” may be used to help treat infertility in women. Spinach, broccoli, and avocado are foods rich in glutathione. Women withendometriosis and PCOS might also have lower antioxidant levels, which may contribute to infertility, so increasing your antioxidant intake may help improve your reproductive outcomes. So load up of dark leafy greens, blueberries, sweet potatoes, nuts, fish and beans!
Zein Nimri is an AFPA certified sports nutritionist, NESTA kids nutritionist, long distance runner, cyclist and traveller with big dreams. Follow her on Instagram @Zeinutritionist she is currently an Eating Disorder Recovery Coach.