Think you’re on track to optimal fertility by eating the usual lineup of fertility foods, like oysters, yams, and kelp? If so, you may be in for a bit of a surprise, at least according to researchers at Harvard. The eight-year “Nurse’s Health Study,” a comprehensive look into the link between diet and fertility, reveals that the following three types of food are the way to go when it comes to giving your fertility a beneficial boost.
1. “Slow” Carbohydrates
While cutting carbs may be the latest trend in weight loss, experts recommend a different approach if getting pregnant is the goal. According to the study results, it’s not about how many carbs you eat, but instead about what kind.
“Fast” carbs, AKA those that digest quickly, may increase your risk of ovulatory infertility. So rather than filling up on bagels, potatoes, and rice along with the usual no-nos like processed and sweetened foods, opt for plenty of fresh fruit, whole grains, vegetables and legumes.
2. Plant Proteins
The study further indicates that a high intake of animal proteins is also linked with ovulatory problems. How much so? Women who consumed the largest amount of animal proteins were nearly 40 percent more likely to experience infertility problems.
The takeaways? A diet heavy in red meat, eggs, protein and other animal proteins may interfere with your ability to become pregnant. The best proteins for fertility, according to Harvard? Nuts, legumes, and soybeans/tofu.
3. Whole Milk
One exception to the animal protein rule? Milk — specifically whole milk. While this may run contrary to everything you thought you knew about healthy eating, the Nurse’s Health Study reveals that consuming low-fat or skim dairy products may actually be linked with fertility issues. Scientists posit that this may be caused by a change in sex hormones which occurs when cream is removed from milk.
To safeguard your chances of fertility, shoot for one to two servings a day of whole milk, whole milk yogurt, or other full fat dairy products. (But be sure to talk to your doctor before making any dietary changes.)
One thing to keep in mind; consuming whole milk products can lead to a spike in your calorie intake so you may need to adjust your diet. In other words, while the occasional bowl of ice cream is acceptable, be careful not to overdo it.
Medical experts also suggest that you consider switching back to low-fat milk products once you become pregnant.
Introducing the “Fertility Zone”
Regardless of what you eat, however, there is a known link between body fat and reproduction. Women with too little body fat may be unable to menstruate and/or maintain a pregnancy. Conversely, those with too much body fat also have trouble conceiving — typically due to ovulation problems. Keeping your BMI in the ideal 20-24 range can play a valuable role in promoting fertility.
Even if you are overweight or obese, losing just five percent of your total body weight can dramatically improve your likelihood of becoming pregnant. It follows that — in addition to the foods you eat — exercise plays a valuable role in helping you maintain a BMI in the “Fertility Zone.” Not only that, but establishing an exercise program before you become pregnant can help you get into the healthy habit, therefore making it easier to continue with a maternity workout program — which has many benefits for both you and your baby.
The good news? Much of the wisdom regarding fertility-forward foods is consistent with healthy eating in general, with complex carbs and plant proteins leading the way. For more useful content on all things pregnancy, baby and motherhood, be sure to bookmark the For Two Fitness blog.
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