Improve Your Chances Of Conceiving

Can your diet impact your ability to get pregnant? Absolutely, say experts. Eating a healthy diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and the right fats can help set you on the road to fertility success. Find out what foods can boost your fertility and improve your chances of getting pregnant.

Woman at a farmers market

When you're thinking about conceiving a baby, everything you put into your body matters. The drinks you sip, the supplements you swallow and the foods you eat all count. And here in the U.S., where large portions, sizeable amounts of animal proteins, and diets high in sugars and saturated fats are the norm, we have a lot of changing to do. "A typical western diet can have profound effects on fertility," says chiropractor Louise Hockley, who treats women trying to get pregnant at her practice, Back to Living Chiropractic in Wellington, New Zealand. Those effects, she says, are negative.

Before you trade that Pepsi for a green tea, you must realize that fertility-boosting your diet isn't about making one change. On the contrary, it's about making a much larger whole-body change in how you fuel your body.

Go fresh and organic

While organic foods may not be intrinsically healthier than their non-organic counterparts, they do have one big thing going for them: They haven't been soaked in chemicals, hormones or other bad-for-you things. For that reason, some experts say that going organic is a good idea.

Foods that especially benefit women who are trying to conceive are those that influence and build blood, including green veggies (kale, collards, Swiss chard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans) beets/beet greens, raspberries, blueberries, cherry, blackberries, dark grapes and dates," says Jennifer Paschen, founder and director of the Nest in Chicago, an integrated health care center for women and children. The most important foods to eat organically are fruits and vegetables with thin skins. When it comes to meat and chicken, look for packages that are marked as hormone-free.

Choose your fats wisely

Trading saturated fats, which are just generally bad for you, for healthier fats is a must for any woman who wants to be healthy—and particularly for those who want to conceive a child. If you are eating out a lot and indulging in movie popcorn, fries and other goodies, your diet is probably high in saturated fats. If you want to have a baby, you really need to rethink your eating strategy. "A woman can hurt her fertility by eating a diet high in saturated and trans fats and refined carbs. Specifically, studies have shown that women who eat a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, dairy, fish and healthy unsaturated fats (olive and canola oil and nuts) have much better fertility than those who eat a high saturated-fat diet that includes large amounts of animal protein," says Angela Grassi, a dietitian at PCOSnutrition.com.

The omega 3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish such as salmon and halibut, flaxseeds and walnuts are another great addition to your diet. This healthy, unsaturated fat is especially good for fetal development once you are pregnant. "It’s imperative that women who'd like to optimize fertility get an optimal ratio of omega 3 and monounsaturated fatty acids in their diets. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish oils and plant sources. Although plant sources are beneficial, research shows the best absorption of omega 3s [is through] via fish oils," says clinical nutritionist Stella Metsovas, who owns W8LESS Nutrition in Laguna Beach, California.

Know your nutrients

In addition to the right fats, keeping a good balance of nutrients in your body for optimum health is important. Metsovas recommends eating foods rich in vitamin B12 and folic acid. "Vitamin B12 (riboflavin) is needed by the body to use oxygen; it supports the adrenal glands and works to convert nutrients into our cells. Folic acid is considered the most important nutrient to supplement with prior to conceiving. I recommend including natural sources in adjunct to supplementation. Best sources include dark green leafy vegetables, beetroot, broccoli and avocado," says Metsovas.

Another important nutrient is vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant that can protect a woman's eggs, she says.

Foods to avoid

In fertility-proofing your diet, avoid foods that could be harmful to you and your fetus. "There are... certain foods you should stay away from when trying to conceive, such as unpasteurized cheeses... as well as swordfish and tuna for their levels of mercury. Staying away from aspartame [an artificial sweetener] may also be wise. Consider other items such as Splenda, which may be safer," says Dr. Rudy Quintero, medical director and founder of C.A.R.E. Fertility in Los Angeles, and chief medical expert at FertilityTies.com.

Hockley advises women to reduce their sugar and caffeine intakes, which are all too common in many diets. "I recommend that women start eating significantly more fresh fruit and vegetables, protein from clean sources — animal or non-animal — and have junk food as a treat only. Eat real food," says Hockley.PregnancyAndBaby.com

More about trying to conceive

Are you pregnant? The early signs of pregnancy
10 Ways to increase your chances of conception
Find out when you ovulate to increase chances of conception
Fetal development: Inside your baby's world

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