A significant, but often neglected, factor in fertility management is nutrition. What we consume each day comprises all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients our bodies receive. A good diet - balanced, healthy and enjoyable - is a vital part of preconception care. Including a variety of seasonal ingredients, fresh and rich in antioxidants, is one of the simplest and most rewarding steps you can take in preparing for a healthy conception and pregnancy.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health followed 17 500 women and discovered those with the lowest rates of infertility (most likely to fall pregnant) were those who:
- ate less trans fat,
- ate less sugar,
- ate food with a low glycaemic index such as pasta and wholegrains
- ate more protein from vegetables than from animals
- had a good iron intake
- took multivitamins
- consumed more high fat dairy products than low fat dairy products.
The more of these measures they adopted, the lower the infertility rate and the higher the pregnancy rate. This was regardless of the woman's age, or whether she'd had children before. Of all the lifestyle measures, weight and diet, rather than exercise, were the most important.
Where a deficiency exists, or a nutrient cannot be obtained from the diet alone, supplementation will be necessary. Some important nutrients for preconception include (but are not limited to):
Folic acid is very important when preparing for pregnancy, and during the first-trimester, to prevent neural-tube defects. Folate is also required for egg quality and maturation, as well as playing a role in spermatogenesis. Food sources include dark green leafy vegetables and whole grains.
Zinc is involved in numerous aspects of reproductive function, including immunity, hormone production and sperm synthesis. It can be found abundantly in foods such as lean meat, chicken, pumpkin seeds, nuts and whole grains.
Iron is required, as the volume of circulating blood increases during pregnancy, helping to oxygenate the placenta. Food sources include lean red meat, whole grains, spinach and dark green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, boosting immune function and supporting stressed adrenals. It also plays a role in sperm count and motility. C can be found in many foods, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, berries, melons, capsicum, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, kale and broccoli.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are important for hormone synthesis and activation, forming cell membranes and exerting anti-inflammatory activity. EFAs also play an important role in prenatal neurological development. Food sources include oily fish such as salmon and tuna, nuts such as Brazils, walnuts, almonds and macadamias, seed and vegetable oils such as linseed and olive.
These are just a few of the many nutrients essential for overall good health and specifically useful when preparing to conceive. If your digestive function is inadequate this can hamper your ability to obtain nutrients from your food and needs to be addressed. It is important to take the time to discuss your diet, nutritional requirements and digestive health with your practitioner.
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