When it comes to planning a pregnancy we find ourselves wondering if we are doing everything “right”. Is my body ready to carry out a healthy pregnancy? I am eating a fertility friendly diet? What about my partner? Does his lifestyle affect our chances of conceiving?
Planning a pregnancy or actively trying to conceive is an exciting and tricky time. Until now the impact of nutrition on chances of conceiving has not been studied well. Interestingly enough, we are finding more and more scientific evidence that the man's diet may be just as important as the woman's diet and lifestyle.
Fertility nutrition is fascinating. It is an emerging field of nutrition that can improve outcomes for many couples who want to start a family. Whether you are thinking of having children in a distant future or have been trying for a while, it is never too late to make dietary changes to help you and your partner on your fertility journey. Women are born with all of their eggs and it takes 3 months for an egg to grow and ovulate. With advancing age the number and quality of women’s eggs decreases and it may make conception more difficult. A fertility boosting diet and appropriate supplements can help improve the quality of women’s eggs and support regular ovulation.
What is a fertility diet? There is strong scientific evidence that a Mediterranean-type dietary pattern enhances fertility. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating foods like fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, unprocessed whole grains, nuts, and extra virgin olive oil. In addition to oleic acid, high quality extra virgin olive oil contains phenolic compounds, α-tocopherols (Vitamin E), polyphenols and squalene, which all have a powerful antioxidant effect. Antioxidants play a key role in reducing oxidative damage to eggs and sperm and as a result can help improve a couple’s ability to conceive. High antioxidant foods include blueberries, raspberries, red cabbage, kale, spinach and beets. Beets are also rich in folate, which is a key nutrient for DNA synthesis and ovulatory function. Adequate dietary folate along with folic acid supplementation prevents neural tube defects in babies. Fertility diet emphasizes incorporating a variety of vegetables that are high in folate, for example cooked spinach, collards, mustard greens, avocado and asparagus. Four spears of cooked asparagus provide 130 mcg folate, which is more than twice as high as one cup of raw spinach.
I recommend that both partners get on board with making lifestyle and dietary changes to improve fertility because each partner contributes 50% to the equation. The key nutrients for sperm health include zinc, selenium and vitamin B12 and vitamin D.