Can What You Eat Help You Conceive?
Since ancient times people have tried to treat infertility by eating certain foods. Oysters were reputed to be an aphrodisiac and to enhance male fertility.
Many of the beliefs were based on the shape of the food (bananas, pomegranate seeds) or its relationship to reproduction (eggs), a kind of magical thinking which was common in the old days. Are there really foods which can help you conceive?
Eating to Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you are overweight or have PCOS, or your male partner is overweight, eating a healthy, lower-calorie diet to lose weight will have a positive effect on your fertility. The fat cells in overweight or obese women produce extra estrogen, which negatively impacts fertility. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine estimates that more than 70% of women who have weight-related infertility could get pregnant without fertility treatment if they lost weight. Studies have found that overweight or obese men are two to three times as likely to have low sperm counts and ejaculate volume.
Being underweight can make your periods stop and stop ovulation, which causes infertility. Women who are underweight don’t have a healthy amount of the fat cells needed for reproduction. Getting to a healthy weight can restore ovulation.
Eating certain foods will not cure infertility. Let’s be clear about that. But eating nutrient-rich foods will support your overall health and your fertility. This is especially true if the healthier foods replace unhealthy options like fast food and junk food, and lead to weight loss, if it’s needed. Here are some healthy foods for both women and men to try:
- Orange juice, grapefruit juice, and mature cheeses contain putrescine, which is suspected of improving egg health.
- Citrus fruit, bell peppers, and broccoli are also high in vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron and keep it at a healthy level.
- Cooked tomatoes, like in tomato sauce or tomato soup, are high in lycopene, an antioxidant, which may help improve male fertility. Pomegranate and berries like blueberries and strawberries also have a lot of antioxidants.
- Oysters are packed with nutrients, including iron, B-12, and zinc.
- Salmon is a superfood, high in omega 3 fatty acids.
- Foods which are high in iron, such as liver, lentils, and other beans, may help you produce healthy eggs.
- Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula and broccoli are high in folate, which is the natural form of vitamin B-9. The synthetic form is folic acid, which is important for women to take when they are trying to conceive. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects, which affect a baby’s spinal cord, brain, and skull and can cause stillbirth or spina bifida. These birth defects happen in the first month of pregnancy, when most women don’t yet know they are pregnant.
- Fortified breakfast cereals often contain folate or folic acid. Choose cereals which don’t have a lot of sugar.
- Chicken and fish (not fried!) are excellent sources of lean protein. Chicken also contains L-carnitine, which is essential for healthy sperm.
Eating healthy foods is an easy way to get your body in its best shape for conception. If you have a male partner, eating better and losing weight if needed will help improve his fertility, too!