What’s all the fuss over fertility-boosting foods?
Seriously… when was the last time your doctor wrote you a prescription for pineapples? Especially when you’re trying to get pregnant… And all those stories about yams and bee pollen for fertility… just a myth, right?
So many things are possible today because of advances in modern medicine. Why not just jump straight to assisted reproductive technologies (ART) and skip the food talk?
As medical doctors who’ve studied Integrative Medicine and Reproductive Endocrinology, we at OvulifeMD understand and recognize that food is medicine. In fact, the food that you eat has been scientifically shown to either help or harm your fertility.
Over the course of the next few posts, we’re going to decode what has become known as the Fertility Diet. Along the way, we’ll also debunk some common food myths as they pertain to getting pregnant.
Still think those yams are gonna help…?
Before getting started, we should point out that the principles we’re going to discuss won’t guarantee you’ll get pregnant. There are some things lifestyle changes can’t overcome, like blocked fallopian tubes. Nevertheless, what you’re about to learn will help set the stage for a healthy pregnancy and beyond.
And the best part…?
Using food to optimize your reproductive health will certainly cost less than a round of IVF.
Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll discover:
How food could be threatening your fertility
Spend a few moments searching the Amazon’s best sellers list under diet and nutrition and you’ll easily get overwhelmed with the wide variety of books claiming to discover the perfect plan for optimal health.
And while the world of nutritional science is advancing at a rapid pace, if we step back for a moment and simply observe the dietary patterns of the standard Western diet, it’s no surprise that the average person’s eating habits aren’t supporting optimal reproductive health. Good thing you’re not average 🙂
Let’s take a quick look and the standard Western diet as it relates to fertility…
To begin, let’s look at a typical dinner plate:
Start by piling it with more calories than we can possibly burn, resulting in the accumulation of excess body fat. An overabundance of fat cells promotes inflammation and creates hormonal imbalance, including estrogen dominance and insulin resistance.
Now preferentially fill the plate with carbohydrates from high-glycemic-index foods (breads, pastas, potatoes, etc.), further driving insulin resistance and creating wide swings in blood sugar…not to mention that these foods are typically nutrient-poor, meaning they’re missing many of the much-needed vitamins and minerals that help prepare your body for pregnancy.
Next, choose commercially raised animal protein rather than fish or vegetable protein. Poorly sourced animal protein can introduce extra hormones into your body as well as environmental toxins concentrated in the fat that accompanies beef and poultry. Don’t forget the highly processed proteins such as deli meats and hot dogs that come filled with chemical additives harmful to reproductive health.
Finally add in too many pro-inflammatory fats by way of refined cooking oils, fried foods, and savory desserts. Both the polyunsaturated and partially hydrogenated oils contained in these foods promote hormonal imbalance and cellular inflammation.
The purpose of this exercise is not to scare you, but to create an awareness that what you eat matters, especially when you’re trying to conceive. This should actually be considered excellent news! It means that food can improve your reproductive health.
Our goal is to help you understand what foods boost your fertility and help you avoid those that threaten it. Most importantly, you’ll learn how to incorporate this information into a sustainable, everyday lifestyle.
Lessons learned from a group of dedicated nurses
How did we first become aware of the so-called Fertility Diet? Isn’t it just the same thing as a Mediterranean diet? Close, but not exactly…
We started to get a deeper understanding of how food could affect fertility by looking at data from the Nurses’ Health Study. For those of you not familiar, the Nurses’ Health Study started following a group of nurses in 1976 who completed regular assessments of their lifestyle and health to identify risk factors for chronic disease among women.
A group of researchers, including Dr. Jorge Chavarro and Dr. Walter Willett, poured over this research and looked for trends among women most likely and least likely to get pregnant. The initial patterns that they discovered became known as the Fertility Diet, their self-entitled book which was first published back in 2008.
Research relating to the field of nutrition and fertility has advanced significantly since the initial publication of the Fertility Diet and many new discoveries that have been uncovered. However, many of the foundational principles still hold true today.
Through the Decoding the Fertility Diet mini-series, we will summarize the important nutritional aspects of the Fertility Diet for those of you looking for the cliff notes version. We will also discuss the findings from newer studies and research that has developed since the book was published. Time to get clear on what foods ACTUALLY improve your odds of conceiving!
But, before we dive in, let’s give a special thanks to all the nurses who dedicated their time so that we could learn how to optimize reproductive health.
The core principles of a fertile diet
For those of you that have read the original Fertility Diet, you’ll know that there are a total of 10 lifestyle changes set forth in the book, some of which extend beyond basic nutrition. We’ve simplified these changes into 5 core principles that are key to understand, some of the same principles we teach in our Fertility Foods Formula course.
Here are the 5 core principles of a fertile diet decoded:
Choose “good” carbohydrates including whole grains and vegetables.
No need to eliminate carbs when you’re trying to conceive, just be mindful you’re choosing the right kinds for optimal reproductive health. That means getting familiar with things like glycemic load and insulin.
Eliminate trans fats and enjoy high-quality ones like omega-3 fatty acids.
There’s nothing good about trans fat, period. On the other hand, monounsaturated fats and some forms of polyunsaturated fats can help your efforts to conceive. Time to stop avoiding fats and just get
Add more plant proteins into the mix.
Now’s the time to amend your carnivorous habits and get more protein from plants (bonus points for identifying the song reference, an oldie but goodie). Seriously, plants make an excellent protein source when trying to conceive and there are packed with other pro-fertility nutrients too.
Take a multivitamin with pro-fertility ingredients.
A prenatal multivitamin is an absolute must when you’re pregnant or trying to conceive. But not all prenatal vitamins have the right ingredients at the right dose to help your efforts to conceive. Learn how to spot a good prenatal multivitamin.
Swap out sugar-sweetened beverages for water or the occasional glass of whole milk.
Cutting out soft drinks is good for more than preventing gestational diabetes, it also helps you get pregnant. And while water is a great alternative, full-fat milk is surprisingly a pro-fertility beverage.
There you have it… the 5 core principles of a fertile diet and how they came to be.
Your new-found knowledge doesn’t stop here.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring each principle in great detail. We are excited to share all the evidence that we know about these topics – no fluff or useless tips that don’t matter.
As you read through the posts that follow, keep in mind that the Fertility Diet shouldn’t really be considered a ‘diet’. It should be a healthy way of living that promotes hormonal balance and reduces inflammation, setting you up for a healthy pregnancy and the ability to nurture your family for years to come.
We also want to point out that a fertility promoting diet should focus primarily on food QUALITY, not quantity. Obviously, we don’t want you over-consuming calories, but the focus here is on consuming nutrient-rich foods that satisfy and nourish your body.
Remember, the food you eat is one of the most important factors that you can control along your reproductive journey.