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There are plenty of rules about what you should and shouldn't eat once you're pregnant, but what if you're trying to conceive and boosting fertility? We now know that what we eat plays a huge role in helping our bodies function properly, and the reproductive system is no different.
A woman's menstrual cycle seems pretty straightforward—when we ovulate, our bodies prepare for conception, and if we don't conceive, we get our period. But there are so many bodily functions that occur behind the scenes that are responsible for making this natural process happen, and the foods we eat can affect the level of our hormones, quality of our blood and its circulation, and how well our brain is able to send messages to the rest of our body—all things that play a role our fertility. For example, if hormones such as estrogen or progesterone are even slightly out of whack, our menstrual cycles can be irregular or even non-existent, which can make creating a baby a bit difficult.
Seven foods that are great for helping boost your fertility:
1. Wild salmon
This cold water fish is an excellent source of omega-3, a healthy fat that acts as a building block for hormones. It's also important for brain function and can even help regulate menstrual cycles. But don't worry, if you aren't a fish eater, there are other plant-based sources of omega-3 such as flax seeds and walnuts that are great as well.
This naturally gluten-free grain is a fertility staple for many reasons, the most important being its ability to control blood sugar levels. When you eat quinoa, or other whole grains such as brown rice or whole grain bread, it takes your body long to digest because of its high fiber and protein content, which keeps your blood sugar levels stable and your hunger at bay. When blood sugar spikes and plummets after a sugary or nutrient-sparse meal, your insulin levels get out of whack, which can affect your hormone balance. Too much fluctuation in blood sugar and insulin levels can lead to insulin resistance and even diabetes which can be problematic for fertility, pregnancy and beyond.
3. Organic, whole fat Greek yogurt
We've been on the “fat free" or "low-fat" train for quite some time, but research is now showing that full fat dairy is the way to go to get the right balance of nutrients. Greek yogurt makes for a great breakfast or snack with protein, calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D has been shown to play a role in regulating menstrual cycles and improving fertility by balancing sex hormones. Try and buy organic to avoid additional hormones and additives, which can mimic hormones in your body.
Spinach and other dark, leafy greens are great sources of iron and folate. Iron is super important for your cycle, especially during menstruation, and supports ovulation and healthy egg development. It's also helpful to stock up on iron before you conceive to make sure you aren't entering pregnancy as anemic. Folate is another critical nutrient that is even more critical during the first few weeks after you conceive. Folate support brain, heart and neural tube development in baby and also helps avoid pregnancy complications.
Beans, and specifically lentils, are great sources of iron, folate and fiber. They also serve as a great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Lentils are great in salads, soups or even with some olive oil and spices, and beans in general can be added to almost any dish for an extra nutrient boost. Fiber is super important to keep your digestive tract functioning properly and helps with fertility by getting rid of excess hormones in the body.
Colorful fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, pomegranates and strawberries aren't just high in vitamin C, folate and fiber. They are full of antioxidants that boost fertility in both men and women. Antioxidants help to reduce damage to reproductive cells caused by environmental toxins and things called “free radicals" created in the body.
While raw oysters should be avoided once you're pregnant, enjoy them now while you're trying to conceive to benefit from their high levels of zinc—a mineral that boosts fertility in women. But, if the idea of slippery oysters grosses you out, pumpkin seeds are the next best thing.
For more tips on trying to conceive, check out The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama.