The Fertility Diet
If you’ve been having difficulties getting pregnant (or getting pregnant again), there’s no magical diet to help you achieve this; however, there are foods that can help improve your fertility. These are not the so-called fertility foods such as ginseng, kelp, yams or oysters.
The real fertility foods include whole grains, healthy fats, lean protein, and occasionally, delicacies such as a few scoops of ice cream. Is this just wishing thinking? No, true fertility foods can help prevent and reverse ovulatory infertility. However, these won’t help women who have infertility due to physical obstacles such as blocked Fallopian tubes.
So, what are these fertility foods and what is the science behind these foods that can help improve fertility?
Ever heard about the Nurses’ Health Study? This was a large-scale study that started recruiting participants in 1976 and included 238,000 nurses between the ages of 30–55 years. Data from this study suggested that the consumption of foods rich in healthy fats, protein packages, and beverages improved fertility.
In their book titled Fertility Diet: Groundbreaking Research Reveals Natural Ways to Boost Ovulation and Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant, Drs. Chavarro Jorge and Willett Walter from the Harvard School of Public Health created a diet regime based on the aforementioned study.
The fertility diet is ranked No. 8 on a list that included 38 best diets. This diet explicates data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which showed that women who ate more whole grains, “good” fats and plant protein sources had better quality and supply of eggs than their peers who ate “bad” fats, red meat, and refined carbohydrates. The latter group of women had fewer eggs and a higher risk of infertility due to ovulation defects.
The fertility diet is not a guarantee that you will get pregnant, but it can certainly boost fertility in women with ovulation problems, polycystic ovary disease (PCOS), uterine polyps, and endometriosis. In men, however, there is no evidence that the fertility diet can improve fertility.
There is no need to start this diet vigorously. First, reduce and avoid all trans fats (premade cakes, crusts for pie, frozen pizza, biscuits, cookies, frosting and crackers). Next, consume more unsaturated vegetable oils (canola and olive oil), and finally, eat less animal and more vegetable proteins (such as nuts or beans).
Does This Diet Have Health Risks?
No health risks are associated with this diet since it imitates other diets and nutrition plans that are typically recommended for patients with diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Based on data collected from 11,000 women, the rate of infertility due to ovulation defects was reduced by 80 to 90% in women who followed this diet. The diet proved to be safe for a healthy pregnancy and was not linked to an increased rate of miscarriages.
Restrictions and preferences
- If you are a vegetarian, you might have a bit more trouble to adjust to this diet since it requires full fat dairy products.
- Instead of eating whole wheat foods, persons with gluten intolerance can opt for healthier options such as quinoa, buckwheat, or sorghum.
- The good thing about this diet is that it encourages low salt consumption. Fruits and vegetables are all kosher, but shellfish is not. However, you can easily adjust to kosher preferences.
- For women who prefer halal food, cod, salmon, tuna and shrimp are allowed. On the other hand, kosher certified beef and pork fat are not halal. You can opt for dairy, grains, herbs, spices, cereals, vegetables and fruits.
Constituents of this Diet (Sample Menu Included)
Primarily replace unhealthy fat with unsaturated fat. Also switch animal proteins for vegetable proteins. Instead of snacks and breads, eat beans, vegetables and oatmeal. Full-fat yogurt and ice cream are considered good and encouraged since they contain dairy fat. Do not consume red meat (except on rare occasions). Consume more fish, pecan crust tilapia and salsa of mango instead.
The foods in this diet are found in most local shops and markets. The recipes contain simple, everyday items such as olive oil, onion, black pepper, and all-purpose flour, etc.
The sample menu focuses on a day of common meals, which Callahan Maureen, a Denver nutrition expert, created according to the book’s requirements.
A regular breakfast will typically include the following: one cup cooked oatmeal, one cup blueberries, one cup milk, and ¼ cup slivered and toasted almonds.
Lunch includes a sushi of grilled salmon: two cups short-grain uncooked brown rice, six tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar, eight-oz. skinless, boneless, tail-end fillet of salmon (half an inch thick), 1/8 tsp salt, six nori sheets of seaweed, 12 asparagus stalks (steamed and trimmed), one avocado (sliced and peeled), a half red bell pepper (sliced), one tbsp. wasabi and a cup sliced cucumbers with some rice vinegar. At the end, have tea and Bartlett pear.
The afternoon snack includes ¼ cup plain hummus or roasted red peppers, 10–20 celery or carrot sticks, and a hard-boiled egg.
Dinner includes a pleasing mix of white bean gratin and broccoli (one + half lbs. broccoli tops, one + half tbsp. olive oil, half a cup chopped onion, three cups milk, tbsp. freshly chopped thyme, a clove of garlic minced, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, quarter cup all-purpose flour, ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper, 2/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese, ½ tsp salt and 215-oz cannellini beans drained and rinsed). After this, have 2-1-oz. slices of whole-wheat bread, two cups field greens, 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes, two tsp. olive oil with some vinegar, and a cup of sliced strawberries.
Lastly, the evening snack comprises a tablespoon of peanut butter and one sliced apple.
Some Do’s and Don’ts
It is recommended that you opt for whole grains such as bulgur (or cracked wheat), whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, brown rice and whole oatmeal. Another recommendation is to ingest more beans as a protein substitute for meat.
Avoid pasta or at least replace it with healthier pasta, but do not consume this often. If you like white rice or mashed potatoes, replace them with whole-grain pasta, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese.
Willett, W.C. 2001. Eat, drink, and be healthy: the Harvard Medical School guide to healthy eating. Simon & Schuster Inc. New York, New York, USA.