Studies have shown that dietary choices can have a drastic effect on conception. There are good and bad carbs, good and bad fats and good and bad proteins, along with many nutrients that dramatically boost a woman's chances of pregnancy and other dietary choices that dramatically lower them.
A couple of years ago, I unexpectedly got pregnant at age 42, despite my age and despite precautions that I was taking since we thought our family was complete (I'm so glad we were wrong!). Meanwhile, a good friend of mine also got pregnant (at age 39), despite the fact that she and her husband had been unable to conceive for many years after the birth of their second child.
Our diets couldn't have seemed more different at the time. I was drinking daily green smoothies and eating a mostly vegetarian diet, and she had recently switched to a paleo diet that was heavy on red meat and dairy.
What did our new diets have in common? Lots of iron and calcium. Leafy greens provide lots of iron, and so does red meat. Leafy greens also provide lots of calcium, and so does dairy. We also were both eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and few processed foods.
We'll never know if that played a part in either of our pregnancies, but both of us believe that something gave us a nutritional kick to help bring us the unexpected blessings of these babies.
These nutrients are believed to be especially important for women who are trying to conceive (TTC):
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Plant proteins
Some foods and pollutants make it harder to conceive, however. Hydrogenated fats, mercury, alcohol, caffeine and high insulin levels (produced by refined carbohydrates and sugars) can interfere with a woman's ability to conceive. Being overweight can also make it more difficult.
Some foods are good but only in moderate doses. One Harvard study found that full-fat dairy helped increase ovulation, but researchers note that it should be limited to once a day. Protein is important for fertility, but too much will actually interfere with fertility. Taking excessively high doses of vitamin supplements can also reduce fertility.
Here are foods that do an excellent job of providing nutrients that help fertility while avoiding the bad ones. Note that all fresh fruits and vegetables and most whole foods are excellent for increasing your chances of conception, but these foods are particular superstars in at least one fertility nutrient.
- Sesame seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Green smoothies
- Calcium fortified juices
- Blueberries, raspberries & blackberries
- Chia seeds
- Brown rice
- Stone ground cornmeal
- Full fat dairy (limited to one serving per day)
- Oranges and other citrus
- Tofu (choose organic to avoid GMOs)
- Lean meats (limited)
- Hemp milk
- Red peppers
- Turnip and collard greens
- Brussels sprouts
- Liver (look for grass-fed, organic)
- Black beans
- Garbanzo beans
- Kidney beans
- Navy beans
- Wheat grass
- Crimini mushrooms
- Tea (both green and black)
Also be sure to drink plenty of water and take care of common sense health measures such as getting adequate sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and managing stress.