By Anna Redman
If you’ve reached that time in your life when you want to create (or add to) your very own Brady Bunch, then a grocery list re-evaluation may be in order. We talked to the experts and created this go-to guide so you’re always dining on the best baby-making diet possible.
Regular servings of cold-water fish (like salmon or cod) can deliver a delicious dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to reduce your risk of both infertility and premature birth. “Omega-3s can also decrease inflammation, which may help with fertility,” shares Jennifer House, a registered dietitian with First Step Nutrition in Calgary. Continuing this diet addition after the baby is born has also been found to benefit brain development, should you be breastfeeding.
Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that the intake of trans-unsaturated fats can be harmful to those trying to conceive. Instead, turn to healthier fats found in nuts, seeds, sardines, and vegetable oils to boost your chances of being visited by the stork.
“Legumes are filled with folate, which can decrease the risk of neural tube defects in babies,” shares House. “Supplement with 400 mcg of folic acid daily when trying to conceive, as well as consuming a diet high in folate.” Recent research from Harvard has also suggested that getting your fill of folic acid can help alleviate infertility issues. If legumes aren’t your thing, try turning to broccoli, asparagus, or spinach for your daily dose.
Make iron a regular guest at your dinner table. Research published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that supplementing with this vital mineral could reduce your risk of infertility by 40 per cent. If you’d rather snag your serving from a natural food source, legumes are a great go-to, as are nuts, seeds, oatmeal, and, of course, spinach. “Spinach cooks down so well that even a small serving is very nutrient-dense!” House explains.
Whenever you serve yourself a helping of spinach (or another iron-rich food), try to pair it with a vitamin C-filled counterpart. Eating this dynamic duo together has been found to boost your absorption of fertility-fixing iron, while also giving your body a bonus dose of nutrients. Fancy a sweeter pick? Guava, papaya, and kiwi are also prime sources of this vital vitamin.
“Choosing low-glycemic, high-fibre grains such as whole wheat, quinoa, barley, and oats may help to control insulin levels,” notes House. “This makes it easier for women to have normal ovulation and ultimately become pregnant.” These miracle grains can also regulate blood sugar levels and keep you feeling fuller, longer, so you have a better chance of avoiding certain foods that are less than helpful during pregnancy.
Go for full-fat when it comes to dairy products, particularly with yogurt and milk. “The intake of high-fat dairy products has been associated with a lower risk of infertility,” reports House, “whereas low-fat dairy has the opposite effect.” Harvard researchers discovered that consuming one whole-milk product daily could reduce your risk of infertility by more than a quarter, while opting for the low-fat alternative was found to double your chances of a negative pregnancy test.
Research from the Delaware Institute for Reproductive Medicine found that a high-protein, low-carb diet can result in healthier eggs and embryos. “Consuming less animal and more vegetable protein has also been associated with a decreased risk of infertility,” cautions House, so go vegetarian if you can — just avoid soy. Research from King’s College London determined that genistein, a common compound in soy products, can attack sperm during its journey to the egg, ultimately sabotaging its mission.
If you’re looking to become a plus-one, you and your partner should both stick to H2O. Studies suggest that drinking more than 500 mg of caffeine per day can lower fertility in women, while sugary sodas have been linked to a lower sperm count in men. Added bonus: not only is regular water drinking better for the baby, but it will also keep both of your systems healthy, toxin-free, and properly hydrated.
Packed with the all-powerful yet under-appreciated choline, eggs (namely their yolks) are a must-eat. Though the benefits of this nutrient tend to kick in after conception, it is definitely worth adding to your diet. Researchers have found that choline can reduce birth defects, improve the baby’s brain function, and support overall fetal development, but most women don’t get enough. Many prenatal vitamins are choline-free, so loading up your daily menu is essential.
Zero in on zinc for some additional, lesser-known benefits. A meta-analysis published in the Food and Nutrition Bulletin determined that boosting your zinc intake during pregnancy can reduce your risk of premature birth by 14 per cent. If bran cereal sounds like your worst nightmare, consider munching on a small serving of cheese — Swiss, cheddar, gouda, and Brie can all give you that zinc dose you need.
If you have a fear of suffering from the horrendous morning sickness that plagued Kate Middleton, then a baked spud or a side of mash may be worth an eat. Several studies have reported findings that suggest regular consumption of vitamin B6 can significantly reduce the vomiting and nausea commonly experienced by women in their first trimester.