Diet and lifestyle are factors which you should consider when trying to get pregnant. A varied, low-fat diet of high nutritional value ensures optimal reproductive function. These are the changes in eating habits that you must acquire before trying to get pregnant.
More food does not always mean better nutrition. Both the excess and the lack of nutrients will make it difficult for you to get pregnant.
In addition, for women who are in good shape and have ideal weight, there are a variety of foods that should be included in the diet to strengthen fertility.
The different sections of this article have been assembled into the following table of contents.
Food and fertility in women
Until a few years ago, knowledge about the relationship between fertility and nutrition was scarce. Today, nutrition is one of the branches that make up a fertility treatment.
According to data collected by the Spanish Fertility Society (SEF), a body index greater than 30 or less than 20 may affect fertility. Therefore, food is a crucial factor when yo want to get pregnant.
Obesity or overweight in women is associated with ovulation problems. Specifically, a high body weight correlates with altered maturation of the ovarian follicles and greater degeneration of them, leading to poorer oocyte quality.
Foods to boost female fertility
To improve ovulation, fertility, and baby development, it is recommended that different nutrients and minerals be included in the diet. There are no miracle foods for fertility, but it is best to have a healthy and balanced diet.
Below, we are going to list the groups of nutrients beneficial for female fertility.
Macronutrients are defined as those nutrients that provide the body with the greatest amount of energy. These include lipids (fats), proteins and carbohydrates.
Women who want to boost their fertility should eat fewer processed carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, etc.) and more whole-grain carbohydrates such as quinoa or whole-wheat bread, resulting in a slower increase in blood sugar concentration and lower insulin production. These effects favor fertility, as insulin resistance can promote ovulation alterations.
In relation to lipids, it is recommended to eat about 350g a week of fish low in mercury (prawns, canned light tuna, salmon or catfish), as they have a high omega 3 content. In addition, both omega-3 and omega-6 support the immune system and the health of the ovaries and eggs. These macronutrients therefore have a positive effect on female fertility.
Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids. These types of lipids must be incorporated into the diet because our body is not able to synthesize them.
Besides, according to numerous studies, replacing animal proteins with plant proteins favors ovulation in women. For this reason, specialists recommend eating broccoli, lentils or quinoa, among other foods.
Vitamins are essential substances for people's health, as they are responsible for regulating many functions of the body. Thus, it should not be surprising that a vitamin deficiency can affect fertility.
Please keep in mind that our body is only able to produce vitamin D from sunlight, and vitamins K, B1, B2 and folic acid formed in the intestinal flora in small amounts. The rest of the vitamins must be incorporated into the diet through food or supplements.
When you aim at getting pregnant, some vitamins are crucial. Among them are:
- Vitamin B
- vitamin B6 enhances female fertility by helping to balance estrogen and progesterone. This vitamin is also a hormone regulator in the third phase of the menstrual cycle (ovulation phase). Another effect of vitamin B6 is that it reduces the risk of miscarriages. Foods rich in vitamin B include viscera, meats, dairy products, eggs and fish.
- Vitamin C
- helps maintain progesterone levels. This vitamin can be found in parsley, peppers or citrus such as orange, lemon or grapefruit for example.
- Vitamin D
- despite being synthesized by the organism, milk, butter, eggs and oily fish such as sardines are also a source of vitamin D.
- Vitamin E
- in charge of regulating the hormonal system, avoiding alterations in the menstrual cycle. In addition, this vitamin protects the eggs from alterations. Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, etc.) or olive oil contain vitamin E.
Adequate intake of some minerals can help improve a woman's fertility.
Here are some of the minerals that support the body's reproductive function:
- low levels of this mineral is associated with menstrual cycle irregularities in women. Therefore, it is recommended to eat lean meats, fish, Shellfish and eggs.
- is an essential nutrient for reproduction and placenta development. In addition, this mineral helps reduce oxidative damage to both sperm and eggs. Selenium is present in nuts, cucumbers, beans, mushrooms, etc.
- to prevent decalcification of both mother and baby. Sources of calcium are dairy products, lettuce, figs, oranges, etc.
- is involved in the production of hormones. The sources with the highest potassium content are bananas, plums, raisins, and fruit juices.
- is important for reducing the risk of miscarriage or malformations in the fetus.
- is of vital importance, as it favors ovulation and intervenes in the implantation of the fertilized ovum. Maintaining adequate iron levels during pregnancy is crucial to preventing anemia in women. Veal, ox, cockles, mussels, clams, etc. are foods rich in iron.
Antioxidants are molecules whose purpose is to prevent oxidation and aging of the body's cells. Therefore, a diet rich in antioxidants can improve female fertility, as it improves ovarian response and help prevent aging of the ovaries.
Among foods that contain large amounts of antioxidants are strawberries, tomatoes, cranberries, carrots, or spinach.
Dietary fibre is a set of components that the body is unable to digest.
In general, fibre is found in cereals, vegetables and legumes. Consumption of these foods in adequate amounts supports conception and fetal development. In addition, fiber helps decrease the risk of polycystic ovary.
Habits that harms female fertility
There are lifestyles and eating habits that can affect women's ability to conceive.
Alcohol consumption or smoking are not the only habits involved in them. There are also foods that affect women's fertility, such as coffee or foods rich in saturated fats.
Caffeine is one of the most consumed stimulants and is not only found in coffee, but also in tea, soft drinks, chocolate...
This substance alters estradiol levels and also affects ovarian maturation. Therefore, if you want to get pregnant, it is not recommended to drink high amounts of caffeine.
What's more, caffeine also reduces prolactin levels, thereby reducing the likelihood of conceiving.
Specialists say that 2 cups of coffee a day should not affect fertility.
Smoking adversely affects reproductive outcomes and people's health.
Women who smoke have elevated levels of FSH and LH hormones, causing less uterine responsiveness and more difficulty in achieving pregnancy.
Smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the tissues and reduces the quality of the reproductive cells, as well as causing damage to their genetic material. All of this leads to an increased risk of miscarriage.
The saturated fats that are present in red meat, pork or industrial bakery are associated with poor maturation of oocytes in women, which decreases their fertility. This is because a high intake of saturated fat causes an imbalance between the amount of progesterone and estradiol in the body.
When a couple is planning to become pregnant, it is important to conduct a dietary assessment to detect if there is a nutritional disorder that may affect fertility.
A varied diet, composed mainly of fruits and vegetables, ensures the necessary supply of vitamins, minerals, trace elements and antioxidants that are crucial for reproductive health. In addition, you should not forget to include healthy fats (nuts, olive oil), proteins and dairy products.
The amount of food each day should be adjusted to each person's body weight, as both excess weight and underweight affect fertility. In addition, a daily water consumption of approximately 2 liters is recommended.
Last but not least, the specialist may recommend taking a food supplement in particular cases so that no nutrient is lacking.
FAQs from users
What foods should I include in my diet to get pregnant?
Fertility, among other things, depends on the health of each person, so food is one of the most important bases before and during pregnancy.
It is advisable to follow a healthy and varied diet. The Mediterranean diet is ideal for this, as it provides the necessary nutrients for a healthy lifestyle. In addition, you can eat as many times a day as necessary, but taking into account the appropriate amounts for each person.
Is the intake of canned foods recommended when it comes to female fertility?
No. Both canned and plastic-packed foods may contain traces of Bisphenol A, a chemical compound that acts as an endocrine disruptor and interferes with the hormone cycle. Therefore, bisphenol A could worsen the quality of the oocytes and make it difficult to get pregnant.
Does diet increase the risk of miscarriage?
Yes, a deficit of folic acid and some B vitamins (such as B12 or B6) cause an increase in homocysteine levels, an amino acid in the blood that favors the formation of thrombi and the appearance of spontaneous abortions.
Suggested for you
Most recommended foods have an effect on a woman's menstrual cycle. If you want more information about it, you can read more here: The Menstrual Cycle: What Happens in Each of Its Phases?
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Garruti G, Depalo R, De Angelisc M. Weighing the Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Female Reproductive Function. Curr Med Chem. 2019;26(19):3584-3592. doi: 10.2174/0929867324666170518101008.
van Elten TM, Karsten MDA, Geelen A, Gemke RJBJ, Groen H, Hoek A, van Poppel MNM, Roseboom TJ. Preconception lifestyle intervention reduces long term energy intake in women with obesity and infertility: a randomised controlled trial. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2019 Jan 8;16(1):3. doi: 10.1186/s12966-018-0761-6.
Guadalupe González-Rodríguez L, López-Sobaler AM, Perea Sánchez JM, Ortega RM. Nutrición y fertilidad. SSN (electrónico): 1699-5198 - ISSN (papel): 0212-1611.
FAQs from users: 'What foods should I include in my diet to get pregnant?', 'Is the intake of canned foods recommended when it comes to female fertility?' and 'Does diet increase the risk of miscarriage?'.