This week we team up with eumom to take a look at foods to boost your fertility.
Infertility can have many causes, says dietitian Sarah Keogh, from physical problems, to low sperm counts to hormonal issues. From a fertility point of view, one of the best places to look is at what you eat. After all, your body is made out of the food you eat and if you want to have healthy sperm, good quality eggs and a healthy environment for your baby, a healthy diet is essential. There are some foods that can help to boost your fertility, because they are filled with all the vitamins and minerals your body needs when conceiving a baby.
There is a lot of often contradictory information out there about foods for fertility and the whole area of nutrition and fertility can be very confusing. Let’s take a look at some of the key foods and nutrients that you need to focus on and sort some fact from the fiction.
The most important thing to remember is that both partners need a healthy diet to help boost fertility. Sperm count and quality is strongly affected by diet, yet it is more often the woman who thinks about healthy eating. All of the advice below is for both partners!
Zinc: Zinc is essential for reproduction and it is a mineral that many people can miss out on. Couples going through IVF are more likely to be successful if they have higher levels of zinc in their blood compared to couples with lower levels. You will find zinc in meat, chicken and all types of fish, especially mussels. Pecan nuts and sesame seeds are also good sources.
Selenium: This is another key mineral for conception and is especially important for men. The soil in Ireland is naturally low in selenium so it can be hard to come by. Shellfish is one of the best places to get selenium, especially crabmeat. You will also get some in sesame seeds and pecan nuts. Pine nuts are especially high in selenium.
Protein: A surprising number of women do not eat enough protein and protein is essential for conception and pregnancy. Protein is found in meat, fish, poultry, beans, eggs and nuts. You need to have a protein-rich food at least twice a day, or three times a day if you are vegetarian and getting your protein mainly from beans and nuts.
Alcohol: There are some foods that can have a negative effect on fertility. Alcohol is a key one, and advice to couples struggling with fertility is to reduce alcohol or to cut it out completely. One study showed that drinking five alcoholic drinks per week reduced a woman’s fertility by up to 60 per cent. If you do drink, never have more than two drinks for women (three drinks for men) per day and give your body lots of alcohol-free days in between.
Caffeine: Too much caffeine can also have an effect on fertility. Studies suggest that more than 500mg of coffee per day can reduce fertility, but that smaller amounts seem to be okay. Keep caffeine to under 200mg per day – that’s two cups (not mugs) of coffee or four cups of tea. Beware of caffeine in energy drinks, cola drinks, chocolate and foods with guarana added.
Dairy: Many couples opt to avoid dairy when trying to conceive, but the evidence doesn’t show that this makes much difference. Also, reducing dairy means taking a lot less calcium – something that you really do need for healthy bones. What may help is choosing lower fat varieties, focusing on milk and yoghurt and eating less cream, butter and cheese. Studies from the US have found that men taking more fat from dairy have lower fertility rates, but that low fat milk and yoghurt don’t have a negative effect.
Managing your weight
There is no doubt that couples who are overweight or obese have more problems with fertility. Getting to a healthy weight – for both men and women – can really help to boost fertility. You do not need to be super-skinny, even a small change in weight can help.
Poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects an estimated 1 in 10 women and can reduce fertility. There are lots of ways to treat PCOS and it is worth asking your GP for a referral to a fertility specialist or endocrinologist if you have PCOS and are struggling to conceive. A low glycaemic index (low GI) diet can make a big difference to PCOS and help to boost fertility in these women.
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