When you are trying to get pregnant, what you eat is just as important as what you do not eat.
Diet has a significant role in fertility between you and your spouse. If you have never wondered about how much role nutrition plays in fertility and whether eating (or avoiding) certain foods should be a part of your diet, now is a good time to think about it.
Good nutrition is key for fertility. There are foods that you need to minimise or maximise in your diet if you’re trying to become pregnant, as well as other lifestyle tips for supporting fertility. For instance, high consumption of red and processed meats, such as beef, bacon, hot dogs, and sausage, are likely dietary contributors to infertility.
Generally, a high intake of animal protein is associated with worsened fertility outcomes. If you subsist on a diet that includes more vegetable protein than animal protein, your chances of developing infertility due to ovulation disorders are lower.
Replacing some of the animal-based proteins with plant-based proteins benefits fertility. Eating more whole grains and higher-fibre foods to your lifestyle is also beneficial. Avoiding red and processed meats, ultra-processed carbs, sugary beverages, and certain dairy products may be beneficial for reproductive health.
In particular, any food that includes trans-fats is best avoided when trying to get pregnant or even if you’re trying to maximise your health and wellness. Fried foods, and pastries essentially, are not recommended for you, because they can be damaging to anyone, causing inflammation and insulin resistance, but are particularly bad for you when trying to conceive.
A major way in which diet affects fertility is through ovulation. Problems with ovulation represent around a quarter of all infertility cases. Adequate hormonal function is essential for successful ovulation, but a poor diet can cause havoc to your hormones, which in turn can lead to ovulatory issues.
Excess insulin in your body can interfere with ovulation by stopping eggs from maturing properly and increasing ovarian cyst formation. You will often have high insulin levels if you eat a carbohydrate-dominant diet with lots of sugar and starchy foods, e.g. white bread, white flour, white potatoes, and white rice. This type of diet forces your pancreas to release a lot more insulin than usual.
Try to limit your intake of refined carbohydrates, along with foods high in trans-fats which can all raise insulin levels and impair ovulation. The best way to avoid these kinds of foods is to just eat “real food” that has not been processed but grown or farmed, like vegetables, eggs, and animal meat. Increasing your intake of fatty acids like omega-3 found in fish oil, salmon, sardines, and walnuts is also recommended.
Fruits are good but not essential and high in sugar, and therefore intake should be minimised. A common cause of insulin excess is the regular intake of sugary soft drinks. Eliminate these drinks from your diet. Water, herbal teas, and full-cream milk are better choices.
While a pregnancy-specific daily multivitamin is recommended if you are trying to conceive, it should not be used in place of a wholesome diet. Choose spinach, beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, and beetroot to improve your intake of iron and other important nutrients.
As a man, you need to provide a healthy number of healthy sperm. A healthy weight and diet can improve your chances because they aid sperm number and quality, further enhancing your chances of conceiving. When you consume large amounts of processed food, the chances of coming down with lower sperm quality, sperm count, and sperm motility are all higher compared to if you consumed fish instead.
Semen quality improves with healthy diets, while the opposite has been linked with diets high in saturated or trans-fat. Alcohol and caffeine tend to have little effect (good or bad) except in excess.
The bottom line: if you’re a man or a woman trying to become a parent, eat a healthy diet. Also, maintain a healthy weight prior to conception because obese women and men have a higher risk of complications. Avoid excessive vitamins before conception. Too much vitamin A, for example, can be bad for a developing fetus.
Dr Abayomi Ajayi
@ Punch Newspaper