Here it is! Everything you need to know to about what to eat for fertility, whilst #ttc and preparing for pregnancy. There is so much confusing, contradictory and down-right incorrect information out there, that I thought it about time we put something together that was easy to follow and doesn’t require weighing and measuring food or counting calories. (Having said that, I will give some simple calorie advice to!). Whilst this is not specifically designed as a weight loss diet, many healthy conception dietary guidelines are the same, and sustainable weight loss may be a bonus! I have also included my top 14 essential nutrients that should be included in your prenatal, fertility & breastfeeding supplement.

This is the user friendly what, why, where from and how much guide for fertility.

“Healthy babies come from healthy parents. Let’s give your baby the best start possible”.

SOME BASICS

One of the most common questions I get asked when from my beautiful women when trying to conceive it “How many calories should I be eating to improve my fertility?” This is dependent on many factors including current weight and amount of exercise. I don’t love measuring food intake by calories (it is very ‘dietetics’), but a simple answer is about 2000 calories daily. Now, many of you will already be eating less than this, say around 1500 calories, whilst around 1200 calories is commonly recommended for rapid weight loss. If you have a healthy BMI, feel satisfied, and have plenty of energy on 1500 calories, then stick with it.

Body Mass Index (BMI), like calories, is another measurement I am not a fan of, but it is universally understood, so I’m using it here for understanding. For conception, a healthy BMI is 18-24 and should be achievable with an intake of 1500-2000 calories daily. Personally, I think 1200 calories is just too little for healthy conception. However, if obesity is an issue (BMI more than 30), then weight loss on 1200 calories prior to conception may be a good idea.

MORE BASICS

Don’t: Drink alcohol, caffeine, soft-drink. Smoke. Do drugs. Eat refined carbs, sugar, artificial sweeteners, gluten, low-fat products.

Do: Drink filtered water daily. Choose nutrient dense organic, fresh fruit and vegetables, and free range, organic chicken and eggs. Grass-fed meat. Local and seasonal produce where possible. Visit your local farmers market.

  • Red meat- maximum 300g per week ( 2x 150g servings)
  • Eggs- 1-2 daily
  • Salmon- 150-180g, twice per week
  • 5-7 cups leafy green veg daily
  • 1/2 – 1 avocado daily
  • 2 tablespoons oil, 1-2 times daily, including coconut/ flaxseed / olive / sesame oil
  • 2 pieces fruit daily

For more information on my top 12 Fertility Foods click here

Addictions: Quit caffeine, sugar, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs. Thats all 🙂

Exercise: My best advice here is keep doing what you have always done! Once you are pregnant, you may need to reduce the intensity of your exercise.

If you do not exercise, then during preconception is a good time to start. Aim for raising your heart rate for 30 minutes 5 times per week. This can mean a fast walk or a slow jog, where you are still able to maintain a conversation.

Fertility yoga: My other recommendation is daily Mindful Pregnancy Yoga. I am currently undertaking this training and will soon be able to teach you (by June 2018!)

Macronutrients

Protein

Is essential for the number and quality of healthy eggs and sperm, and is required for fertilisation. The development of the embryo also requires adequate protein; a deficiency may lead to chromosomal abnormalities.

Food sources: Eggs, meats, fish, nuts, grains & seeds, legumes, tempeh & miso, quinoa

Fats

Before and during pregnancy we need all types of fats, including saturated fats! Saturated fats are required for cholesterol production, and cholesterol is the basis of all our hormones, including oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone and Vitamin D, thus vital for fertility.

Omega 3 essential fatty acids such as EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)- are absolutely essential! EFA’s are required for the development of the babies eyes, and nervous system, and DHA is vital for foetal brain development and cognitive function.

Food sources: Salmon, sardines, white bait, mackerel, herring, halibut, flaxseeds, linseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, egg yolks.

Fibre

Fibre helps to regulate hormone levels by ridding excess unwanted oestrogen

Food sources: Bran, psyllium husks, flaxseed, chia seeds, split peas, lentils, lima beans, artichokes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, pears, avocados

Vitamins

Folate

Folate is the natural form of folic acid found in food. Folate is one of the most important nutrients to take during preconception, both for women and men. Folate is required for the healthy production of both eggs and sperm, thus a deficiency can lead to infertility.

Along with vitamins B6 and B12, folate helps to regulate homocysteine levels, which if elevated can lead to recurrent miscarriages and neural tube defects. In the early stages of pregnancy, folate is required for cellular differentiation and tissue growth; it helps to prevent neural tube defects, repeated miscarriages, chromosomal abnormalities & congenital heart defects.

Food sources: Green leafy vegetables (spinach & baby spinach, rocket, kale, bok choy, choy sum (all Asian greens), silverbeet, broccoli, brussel sprouts, mustard and collard greens), cabbage, avocados, lentils, fruits (oranges, berries and bananas). It is also found in cereals, legumes and liver.

NB/ Not all folate supplements are the same:

There are many different types of folate supplements- folic acid, folinic acid and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate. Most of the research to date has been conducted on folic acid, and that remains valid. Individuals however may require alternative forms. As part of preconception health care screening, your enzymatic use of folate can be tested via MTHFR.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is essential for hormone production and regulation in women. It has been shown to increase progesterone levels, necessary for implantation and subsequent pregnancy. Along with folate and B12, vitamin B6 helps to regulate homocysteine levels, which if elevated can lead to recurrent miscarriages and neural tube defects.

Vitamin B6 is used to alleviate morning sickness and PMS.

Food sources: Nuts & seeds, especially sunflower seeds & pistacchio nuts, tuna*, salmon, turkey, chicken, beef, bananas, avocado, spinach, dried fruits

*Tuna is a great source of B6 however regular consumption (no more than 1/week) is not recommended in preconception care. Avoid during pregnancy.

Vitamin B12

Along with foate and B6, vitamin B12 helps to regulate homocysteine levels, which if elevated can lead to recurrent miscarriages and neural tube defects.

Food sources: Mainly animal products including beef liver, mackerel, sardines, red meat, salmon & eggs. Plant sources include fermented foods such as tempeh & miso.

Vitamin C

The ovaries are rich in Vitamin C, thus a continuing rich supply of vitamin C is required for ovulation. Vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in women. As an antioxidant, it will assist toxin elimination and protects immune function.

Vitamin C is imperative for the health of the sperm. As an antioxidant, it will protect sperm from free radical damage. Vitamin C importantly prevents sperm sticking together (agglutination) which would otherwise reduce sperm motility and increase infertility.

Food sources: Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, especially kiwi, red capsicum, green leafy vegetables, (spinach & baby spinach, rocket, kale, bok choy, choy sum (all Asian greens), silverbeet, broccoli, brussel sprouts, mustard and collard greens), strawberries, cranberries, rosehips, citrus fruits, guava

Vitamin D

The production of our sex hormones is dependent upon adequate levels of vitamin D. Even though we are the “sunshine country”, most Australians have suboptimal levels of Vitamin D. It is important to screen for vitamin D during preconception health care.

Food sources: Cod-liver oil, fatty fish, eggs, dairy, sunshine!

Vitamin E

Once known as the fertility vitamin, Vitamin E can improve the health of the uterine lining (the endometrium) which is beneficial for embryo implantation. Vitamin E also improves blood flow and nutrition to the uterus. Vitamin E is required for adequate sperm count, motility, DNA quality and fertilization. A total lack of sperm in the semen may be due to Vitamin E deficiency. In women, vitamin E can improve the health of the uterine lining (the endometrium) which is beneficial for embryo implantation. Vitamin E also improves blood flow and nutrition to the uterus.

Food sources: Wheat germ, dark leafy greens (spinach & baby spinach, rocket, kale, bok choy, choy sum (all Asian greens), silverbeet, broccoli, brussel sprouts, mustard and collard greens), sunflower seeds, almonds, pumpkin, avocado & olive oil

Minerals

Calcium

Calcium, magnesium and vitamin D work in conjunction with oestrogen. Calcium is important for uterine tone, fertile mucous production, and the future development of babies bones.

Food sources: sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts (brazil, walnuts, almonds), sardines, green leafy vegetables (spinach & baby spinach, rocket, kale, bok choy, choy sum (all Asian greens), silverbeet, broccoli, brussel sprouts, mustard and collard greens), watercress, parsley, kelp, salmon, chickpeas, amaranth, millet brown rice, nori, fish with bones.

Iodine

Healthy thyroid glands require iodine, which influences hormonal levels and ovulation. An underactive thyroid may contribute to difficulties getting pregnant, and miscarriage rates.

Food sources: Kelp, seafood & eggs

Iron

Poor egg quality and difficulty ovulating may be consequences of iron deficiency for reproductive health. General fertility requires adequate iron.

Food sources: Red meat, garbanzo & kidney beans, lentils, dark green leafy vegetables (spinach & baby spinach, rocket, kale, bok choy, choy sum (all Asian greens), silverbeet, broccoli, brussel sprouts, mustard and collard greens), dried fruit (raisins & apricots), sesame & pumpkin seeds, liver & brains.

Magnesium

Magnesium is essential for hormonal health, as it increases the production of oestrogen and progesterone, and Vitamin B6 utilisation.

Food sources: walnuts, nuts generally, dark green leafy vegetables vegetables (spinach & baby spinach, rocket, kale, bok choy, choy sum (all Asian greens), silverbeet, broccoli, brussel sprouts, mustard and collard greens),

Selenium

Selenium is another of our antioxidant nutrients, fantastic for detoxifying heavy metals. Selenium is generally present in high quantities is semen but is lost in ejaculation. Selenium is required for sperm count, motility, and the number of normally shaped sperm, DNA quality and fertilization.

Food sources: Brazil nuts, oysters, tuna, seeds, lean meats, chicken, oatmeal, brown rice & quinoa

Zinc

One of our greatest antioxidants, zinc is perhaps one of the most important nutrients for both female and male fertility. In women, zinc is required for oestrogen and progesterone balance and normal egg production and development. Like selenium, zinc is present in high quantities in semen but is frequently lost through ejaculation. In males, zinc is specifically required to increase sperm count, motility and the number of normal shaped and live sperm. Overall, zinc improves sperm quality. Zinc deficiency can significantly reduce testosterone levels and semen production. Taking a supplement can improve DNA quality and is best started 3 months prior to conception attempts.

Food sources: Food sources: Oysters, shellfish, seafood, beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds & cashews

Phytonutrients

CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10 is a naturally occurring enzyme found in the mitochondria of every cell, required for energy production and improves circulation. In men, CoQ10 has been found to increase sperm motility. CoQ10 increases blood circulation to the uterus, thus improves uterine lining in preparation for implantation. It has been found to increase follicle numbers and egg quality.

Food sources: Liver, beef, salmon, sardines, mackerel, poultry, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, legumes

Resveratrol

A compound from grapes, growing evidence indicates the benefits of resveratrol in improving egg quantity and quality, especially beneficial for older women over 35 yrs, helping to combat age-related fertility issues.

Food sources: Grapes, beetroot, blueberries, cranberries, cocoa, and pistachios

Dr Miranda Myles Natural Health & Fertility, Naturopath & Acupuncturist, is passionate about working with couples in the management of their fertility issues. Miranda is dedicated to help couples achieve optimal physical and emotional health prior to conception. Miranda provides a beautifully supportive and nurturing environment to allow you to reach your optimal health goals, to enable you to achieve a successful conception, pregnancy and baby.

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