Diet, Nutrition and Fertility: All that we need to know

Diet, Nutrition and Fertility: All that we need to know

Healthy nutritious balanced diet can prepare your body for healthier pregnancy. What you eat, how you digest, absorb, and assimilate nutrients define your chances of fertility.

While there are not any magic foods for getting pregnant, one simple way to support your fertility is ensuring your diet includes healthy choices from the all the food groups.

1.      Fruits and Vegetables: Load up on seasonal colourful antioxidant rich vegetables and fruits. *Very important rule: Make sure we are not juicing the veggies/ fruits much and consuming them whole in the most natural intact form.

* 50% of your plate should be comprised of fruits and vegetables: (roughly 6-9 servings daily: 1 serving = 100gms)

* When it comes to boosting fertility, leafy greens are a powerhouse. Spinach, methi, moringa, Colocasia, broccoli to name a few; are packed with essential nutrients like folate, iron, calcium, and antioxidants, all crucial for reproductive health. Folate promotes healthy ovulation and supports the early stages of pregnancy. So, whether you like it or not, variety of green leafy vegetables are must on your plate.

Along with gynac’s prescription of folic acid as one of the pre-nantal dietary supplement, folate rich foods such as green leafies and guava is compulsory part of the diet.

*Vit C rich fruits like berries, amla, guava, oranges etc. are more important than Vit C supplements to protect from oxidative stress, to help maintain integrity of reproductive cells. This powerful antioxidant can improve ovulation and enhance sperm quality.

Similarly, another powerful antioxidant Beta Carotene/retinol (active forms of Vit A) has been found to have a beneficial contribution to the development of the ovaries and steroidogenesis. Steroidogenesis is the process through which ovarian cells produce hormones, like progesterone, for the maintenance of reproductive tissues, regulation of ovarian function, ovulation and maintenance of pregnancy. Remember most of the green leafy vegetables are also a good source of carotene, and so is red pumpkin, mango, carrots, red capsicum, whole full fat milk, yogurt, butter, ghee.


2.      Fats: Use minimal amount of visible fat such as oil, butter, ghee in cooking and focus on the consumption of invisible fat coming from natural sources such as nuts (including peanuts for MUFA), seeds, avocado, coconut.

Must avoid trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats: the kind found in processed snacks like French fries, packaged foods, bakery items, readymade soup packets, some ice cream brands). Trans fat increases insulin resistance resulting in more insulin in your bloodstream. High insulin levels can negatively affect ovulation, it’s best to focus on foods that guard against insulin resistance when creating a fertility diet.

3.      Complex Carbs: Complex carbs (those containing fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains) are digested slowly and have a more gradual effect on blood sugar and insulin. Barley (known as ‘Jav’ in hindi) is a rich source of fertility-friendly B vitamins, vitamin E, and fiber. Also fasting pseudo grain Kuttu or buckwheat, contains inositol, a compound that improves ovulation.

Women suffering from PCOD, endometriosis and other hormonal disorders must stay away from gluten and choose more millets, unpolished rice, oats, barley, kuttu, singhada, rajgeera as their carb source. Diversified grains in your diet help us build good healthy microflora and thus better immunity, higher chances of conception. Eat lesser wheat, suji and introduce wide variety of local millets, grains and pseudo grains. Raw banana flour is also a great addition to your carb list.

4.      Proteins: When it comes to meeting the protein needs, many think eggs, non veg or Whey supplements are must which is a complete myth. A study published in Nutrients journal, found that the risk of ovulatory disorders is cut in half when just 5% of your total calorie intake is derived from plant proteins.Dals are super sources of plant-based protein, as are nuts, seeds, and other legumes such as lentils and chickpeas.

Learn to balance animal vs plant-based proteins for best results. Milk and milk products along with cereals is still seen as a common pattern to meet protein needs with limited intake of dals/pulses. Diversifying protein consumption from sources such as millets, nuts, beans, pulses, oilseeds, and of course if you are a non-vegetarian, then eggs, fish, lean chicken will help in meeting protein recommendations of 0.8-1gms/kg body weight.

Now coming to dairy and fertility: According to some epidemiological studies, high intake of low-fat dairy has been shown to raise the risk of ovulatory infertility compared to high-fat dairy. On the flip side, if you have trouble conceiving, your doctor/dietitian may ask to limit dairy in the diet due to all hormonal driven, chemically manipulated practices which interfere with the endocrine system particularly ovaries. Talk to your doctor/ dietitian while planning a fertility diet to meet the calcium demands, probiotic needs of the body on a dairy free meal plan.

Just few foods to limit or avoid as much as possible to improve the chances of fertility:

1.      Caffeine

2.      Alcohol

3.      Sugary foods

4.      Highly processed/packaged foods

5.      MSG (Monosodium glutamate) often found in Chinese/Asian cuisine

Final takeaways for successful fertility:

1.      Choose simple well balanced home cooked food and cut down drastically on outside eating

2.      Make sure your Vit D and Vit B12 status is well maintained. Also take all your pre-natal vitamins as prescribed by the doctor. Remember, supplements are of no use if diet is dominated by limited selective grains, vegetables, pulses etc. Learn to add enough diversity to expose the body to different set of nutrients.

3.      Please note: do not just focus on woman’s diet but make sure your man too is following the basic protocols. Diet rich in zinc, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E, lycopene helps to improve sperm motility.

4.      Last but not the least, we all know that having ideal body fat% (ideal body weight) is absolutely mandatory for good hormonal health. Lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise, physical activity, good sleep and overall stress management are imperative.