Women have long been advised to eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables before becoming pregnant, as well as increase their intake of iron and folic acid (a B vitamin that helps prevent neurological birth defects). And in recent years, studies have reported the benefits of certain foods on fertility.
The Nurses’ Health Study, which reviewed more than 116,000 women, found that those with better dietary habits were more likely to conceive than women with poor habits. Some significant findings:
• Trans fats. Eating just a small amount of trans fats (2 percent of calories) can increase the risk of infertility.
• Animal-based protein. When women added a serving of protein in the form of red meat, chicken or turkey once a day, nearly a third had an increased risk of infertility.
• Vegetable-based protein. When the source of protein came from vegetables, nuts and legumes, infertility dropped slightly.
• Dairy. Eating a half cup of ice cream two or more times a week lessened infertility levels 38 percent more than women eating ice cream just once a week.
Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston also studied foods and fertility, creating “The Fertility Diet.” The diet found that women eating a full-fat, lowered carbohydrate, organic diet had noticeable increases in fertility. The study also promotes that women eat foods that regulate insulin levels to combat Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
Keep in mind that body weight - and in particular, body fat percentage - is one of the most common factors affecting ovulation. Women at both ends of the body fat spectrum may stop ovulating and menstruating. A safe and healthy body fat percentage for women is 25 percent to 31 percent.
These findings are a reminder that a healthy diet is essential to a healthy you.