The relationship between diet and fertility

Diet and fertility

The role of diet in fertility

One of the least known factors relating to fertility is diet, the importance of which has become increasingly apparent in recent years.

Couples who are planning for a pregnancy  are therefore advised to adopt good eating habits for at least 3 months before attempting to conceive.

A healthy diet improves health, increases the chances of conception and lays the groundwork for a pregnancy without complications.

In this section you will find tips on how to eat healthier!

Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts, seeds and fish. Omega-3 fatty acids can regulate ovulation and improve egg quality. They also help towards fetal brain development, reduction of the risks of preterm birth and pre-eclampsia and minimization of postnatal depression. However, you should probably avoid fish living in the oceans, such as tuna and swordfish, as they may contain mercury.

Consume products from organic farming and free-range animals which are -as much as possible- free from pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, colourants and flavour enhancers. Many of these substances can damage the liver and disrupt the proper functioning of hormones.

Eat foods rich in calcium, such as yogurt, cheese and milk.

Prefer unprocessed carbohydrates (such as black rice, whole grains and black sugar) that have a lower glycaemic load rather than processed carbohydrates (such as rice, potatoes, pasta), which increase the secretion of insulin resulting in hormonal imbalance and reduced fertility.

Make sure you are adequately hydrated at all times and aim to drink 2 liters of water a day.

Avoid fats, fries, too much meat, soft drinks, sugar and sweets.

Part of a healthy and balanced diet is the intake of some essential vitamins and other nutrients, such as the following:

Folic Acid: It significantly reduces the risk of spinal cord lesions (such as spina bifida) in the fetus and keeps homocysteine levels normal. Folic acid deficiency increases the risk of premature birth, fetal growth restriction, placental abruption and pre-eclampsia.

Folic acid rich foods: black beans, asparagus, spinach, lentils, citrus fruits, liver

Iron: It helps both towards conception and normal development of the pregnancy (pregnant women need to double their daily intake of iron to meet their needs). Iron deficiency is associated with ovulation disorders.

Iron rich foods: lentils, spinach, lean meat, chicken, eggs, fish

Vitamin A: An important antioxidant.

Vitamin A rich foods: spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers

Vitamin B6: Helps in the hormonal regulation of the body as well as in the hormonal support of the pregnancy.

Vitamin B6 rich foods: banana, salmon, spinach, garlic, vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower

Vitamin B12: Increases the endometrial receptivity for embryo implantation and reduces the possibility of a miscarriage. Lack of vitamin B12 causes ovulation disorders.

Vitamin B12 rich foods: fish, lamb, cheese, egg, mussels

Vitamin D: Its deficiency is very common and is responsible for several hormonal imbalances, affecting -amongst others- the immune and myoskeletal systems. Many women have abnormalities in their cycle and ovulation due to low levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin D rich foods: fish, eggs.

The easiest way to get vitamin D is sun exposure for 15-20 minutes a day, but due to modern lifestyle many people simply take a vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin E and Vitamin C: Important antioxidants that protect against DNA damage caused by free radicals.

Vitamin E rich foods: almonds, sunflower oil

Vitamin C rich foods: fruits, vegetables, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli

Zinc: Necessary for the proper functioning of the reproductive system in both men and women. Reduced zinc levels are associated with weak sperm.

Zinc rich foods: lamb, shrimp, turkey, yogurt, liver

Selenium: Antioxidant that protects sperm and egg from free radicals that cause DNA damage.

Selenium rich foods: salmon, liver, cod, sardines

L-arginine and L-carnitine: Amino acids necessary for sperm production and quality

A recent study demonstrated that women who follow a Mediterranean diet in the six months prior to assisted reproductive treatment have a significantly better chance of becoming pregnant and giving birth than women who dο not.