Fertility diet: What to eat and avoid when trying to conceive

The food you fill your plate with says a lot about your overall health.

Fertility diet: What to eat and avoid when trying to conceive

If it is healthy and nutritious, you will enjoy a fit and long life, while if it is loaded with trans fat and salt, there is a risk of developing chronic diseases.

Even for those trying to conceive, their food choices play a great role in increasing their chances of a healthy pregnancy.

According to researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, women trying to conceive naturally must include some specific vitamins and minerals to increase their chances.

They list three nutrients that should be a part of the fertility diet.

  • Folic acid

Folic acid is a form of vitamin B9. It is required by the body for producing healthy red blood cells, improving immune function and reducing tiredness. A low level of this nutrient may elevate the risk of homocysteine, birth defects and even cancer. Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9, found in the form of supplements and is added in fortified foods. The natural form of this nutrient that can be obtained from food is called folate. A common source of this nutrient includes leafy green vegetables, like spinach, broccoli, lettuce, beans, peas, lentils, lemons, bananas, and melons.

  • Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin required for blood formation and the functioning of the nerve system. Even though it is such an essential nutrient, our body cannot produce it on its own, so it has to depend on food sources and supplements for it. The deficiency of this nutrient can lead to neural tube defects. Studies suggest that up to 80- 90 per cent of vegans and vegetarians are vitamin B12 deficient. So these people must include vitamin B12 supplements in the diet. Common sources of vitamin B12 include dairy products, fish and poultry.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation, reduce blood pressure and increase HDL cholesterol levels. But for pregnant women, this healthy fat is particularly essential for supporting brain and eye development in babies and preventing preterm birth. Omega-3s may even help reduce the symptoms of perinatal depression. Fish, nuts, seeds and plant oils are some common sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

​What else does the study suggest?

The Harvard study also suggests that antioxidants, vitamin D, dairy products, soy, caffeine, and alcohol have little or no effect on fertility. But consuming too much trans fat like processed meats, sweets and fizzy drinks have a negative effect on pregnancy.

How does diet affect men’s health?

Not only women, but even men must also include healthy foods in their diet when trying to conceive. The study suggests that the semen quality of men improves when they eat healthy food, while the quality decreases when the diet is high in saturated or trans fat. Alcohol and caffeine may also have some impact on the pregnancy.

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