Pregnancy is a minefield of dos and don’ts regarding what to eat. But what if you are trying to get pregnant? Today, Nikki looks at foods which can help you to conceive.
I have to be honest with you, there’s no guaranteed way to eat yourself pregnant.
Having said that there are foods that can help boost your chances of conception as well as things you and your partner can eat that can reduce the risk of fertility problems.
Believe it or not, your diet pre-pregnancy is equally important to your choice of foods once you have a baby on the way.
Start as you mean to go on
In recent studies, scientists have found that eating a big breakfast could increase your chances of conceiving. The new research claims that eating 900 calories in a fry-up at the start of the day could help your ovaries.
Now, I’m not wholly convinced that tucking into a full English holds the answer to your prayers but one thing’s for sure, you should be eating three times a day and getting a balance of vitamins and minerals in your diet.
Fertility boosting foods
So what can you include in your daily menu for a healthy reproductive system?
Women should eat plenty of foods containing the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine which raise levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals play a role in the production of hormones that prepare the uterus to receive an embryo.
Tryptophan is found in parsley, papaya, dates, bananas, celery, spirulina, carrots, dried apricots, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds and almonds.
For foods supplying tyrosine, try lean meats, turkey, fish – such as cod, sea bass and sardines – crab, kidney beans, mung beans or oats.
Men should eat foods that are rich in flavanoids which protect sperm cells from damage by free radicals. Flavanoids are a group of plant pigments that give colour to a whole range of fruits and have potent antioxidant activity, which helps to neutralize the damage caused by free radicals.
Blueberries, raspberries, cherries, grapes, oranges, peaches, plums and tomatoes are all good sources of flavanoids.
Men should also eat a diet rich in zinc and vitamin C.
Good sources of zinc include brazil nuts, eggs, fish, and seeds and grains.
Foods rich in vitamin C include green leafy vegetables, kiwi fruit and tomatoes.
Top foods for fertility include:
- Garlic. Packed with vitamins A, B and C, it's a fantastic source of health-boosting minerals such as zinc and potassium.
- Cabbage. This contains a phytonutrient called Di-Indole Methane (DIM). DIM helps with estrogen metabolism and prevents fibroids, which are a potential cause of infertility. DIM has also been shown to reduce the chances of developing endometriosis.
- Pomegranate. A symbol of fertility in many ancient cultures, the pomegranate contains antioxidants and several vitamins and is rich in iron.
- Broccoli. A great source of folic acid, which most of us already know is essential to a healthy pregnancy. Folic acid has also been proven to prevent such disorders as Spina Bifida. Broccoli is also high in vitamin C, which is used by the ovaries to mature eggs and ensure ovulation.
- Asparagus. An excellent food if you are planning a pregnancy, providing folates which guard against birth defects.
- Liver. Not to everybody’s taste but liver is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. It's loaded with vitamins vital for healthy fertility, including iron and B12.
- Avocados. Rich in vitamin E, which is necessary for the motility of sperm. Vitamin E also helps reduce DNA defects of sperm, defects which can contribute to miscarriages. Higher levels of vitamin E have shown to make sperm more fertile.
- Eggs. Egg yolks are especially rich in choline which helps protect against neural tube defects, like Spina Bifida and anencephaly.
- Yoghurt. Full-fat yogurt is rich in the good saturated fat particularly needed for fertility. And it's also a great source of beneficial bacteria, which is good for you and for a developing foetus.
- Flax seeds. These are great for balancing hormones and boosting fertility. They contain lignans, which are associated with reduced fibroids and increased fertility.
Foods to avoid
There are also a number of foods you should avoid if you really want to increase your pregnancy prospects.
- Red meat. Too much red meat increases the amount of ammonia in the body, which can interfere with the implantation of the egg in the uterus.
- Refined sugar. Too much refined sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which can cause or exacerbate PCOS –- a condition that affects ovulation and is one of the leading causes of female infertility.
- Alcohol. Although it is not essential to give up alcohol if you want to fall pregnant, research found that alcohol intake had a significant effect on infertility success among women above the age of 30 who drank more than seven drinks a week.
As well as maintaining a diet rich in pregnancy superfoods, do not forget to take folic acid supplements. Don’t overeat, but ensure you have a good mixture of foods high in essential vitamins and minerals.
Like I said, there is no magic formula, but you have got nothing to lose by trying to add a few delicious, nutritious extras to your plate.