Food is one of the most powerful tools we have to transform our health and our fertility. Food is not just calories or even just nutrition, it is actual information that flags certain genes for expression – so it literally changes the ways our DNA is expressed – how wild is that? It also influences our hormones and our egg quality. It’s huge.
I recommend all women follow a fertility diet for at least three months, but even better is for a year prior to conceiving. This not only improves the likelihood of conception and getting pregnant easily and healthfully, but it also improves the health of your baby.
In the first trimester, your baby is getting nourishment from the nutrients in your endometrium – the lining of your uterus. Until the placent takes over, and then the baby is getting nourishment from what you’re eating at the time. But up until then, it’s relying on the nutrients that are already stored in your endometrium – making waiting to start eating healthfully until you get pregnant, too late. You want to go into pregnancy with great optimal stores of nutrition.
While fertility is complex, and a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t always work for everyone. There are some guidelines that are pretty universal for fertility.
We want to reduce inflammation, support hormone balance, support immunity and temper hyper- or auto-immunity, and nourish your ovaries, eggs, and uterus – all factors that impact fertility and prenatal health.
I’ve worked with so many women and couples over the years – couples who have “tried everything” – only to see that simply dietary changes can be all the change they need to get pregnant healthfully and easily.
There is a ton of data and research showing that our diets have a powerful impact on getting and staying pregnant. And while there are many reasons for fertility challenges – from egg and sperm quality, to PCOS, to thyroid problems, to autoimmunity – optimizing your diet can have a profound impact on most root causes of fertility problems.
Here’s a just a sample of some of the research on food and fertility:
- A study of 5,598 mothers found that 39% of those who generally avoided fast foods conceived within a month. And that women who ate fast food four times a week had double the likelihood of having not conceived after 12 months, compared to women who avoided fast foods.
- Researches from the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who ate the highest amounts of monounstaturated fat (from avocados) were 3.4 times more likely to have a successful IVF.
- Low Vitamin C levels is associated with reduced egg quality and progesterone levels. And supplementing with vitamin C is associated with higher pregnancy rates and higher progesterone levels.
- Women with low B12 and folate levels have an increased risk of miscarriage.
But major studies have shown that most women in the US are chronically low in many of these important nutrients. The birth control pill, as well as our standard American diet, actually strips us of many of these key nutrients needed to conceive and nourish a growing baby.
So, to review, clearly there is abundance evidence that what we eat affects our fertility.
Here are some keys to an optimal fertility diet:
- Get rid of the junk – as a reminder, a large study found that fast food and highly processed foods was related to a longer time to conception. Avoid fast food, sugar, processed foods – anything that comes in plastic or a box that you have to unwrap.
- Pass on the bread, wheat, and gluten – which can plan a role in autoimmunity and gut inflammation.
- Anti-inflammatory – eat primarily whole fresh foods with plenty of vegetables and fruits
- Nutrient-rich foods – healthy fats and good quality protein, especially eggs and fish and avocados, and fresh veggies
- Eat healthy fats – aim for 3 avocados a week, and eat only the good fats – olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, butter or ghee – toss all other oils from your home. If you’re going to have dairy, opt for full-fat – pass on the skim.
- Eat to balance your blood sugar/hormones – no lonely carbs – include quality protein and or fat anytime you put anything in your mouth, slow-burning carbs only, no skipping meals. Definitely never let yourself get “hangry”.
- Hydrate, and make sure you’re drinking enough water – aim for half of your body weight in ounces.
- Supplements – I believe that food is your best source of nutrition, but definitely take a high-quality prenatal vitamin as your insurance policy. I’ll link to my recommended supplements for fertility below.
If you’d like more details on exactly what to eat, I give you a 28-day meal plan in the Becoming Mama program with recipes and shopping lists, detailing exactly what to eat to support your fertility in each week of your monthly cycle, and ensuring that you’re getting optimal nutrition to support your fertility and chances of conceiving easily and healthfully.
By request, it's also now offered separately. The Becoming Mama meal plan is designed to optimize many factors for your fertility: micronutrients necessities, blood sugar and hormone balance, lowering inflammation to boost egg quality, improving gut health and supporting your immune system to increase likelihood of retained pregnancy and decrease chances of miscarriage. Most women report feeling more energy, less anxiety, and weight-loss on this meal plan, which are some nice side-effects to look forward to. But certainly, weight loss is not the goal. The goal is to nourish you and never to deprive you. The weight loss tends to come from a decrease in inflammation, which leads to an effortless shedding of a few pounds. It’s not from being at a calorie-deficit.
I urge you to also listen to your self and your body. What makes you feel good? What makes you feel bloated, tired, or unsatisfied after eating it? What makes you feel energized and satiated after eating it? You’ll have different needs and hunger levels in each phase of your cycle, don’t expect yourself to feel the same every day all month long.
By tuning in and listen to yourself while also following these guidelines, you’ll be harnessing the power of your diet to make a profound impact on your fertility.