When beginning the journey of trying to conceive, many women wonder about starting a fertility diet.
What you eat affects everything in your life, from your body and mood to your risk of certain diseases. But, it turns out, that's not all nutrition can impact: New research has shown that the types of food you consume can also play a role in your fertility.
A study published May 2018 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology has found that certain foods can either improve or weaken fertility and sperm quality. In particular, in reviewing extensive data on nutrition and fertility, researchers from Harvard University have been able to link diets rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, poultry and fish to better fertility and sperm stock, according to ABC News.
While no diet is going to reverse infertility due to certain physical issues, eating the right diet may help people who are trying to conceive.
What foods may improve fertility for a woman?
Specifically, researchers found that these foods can help boost the chances of pregnancy for women:
- Spinach (or produce in general)
What foods may improve fertility for a man?
- Dark chocolate
- Citrus fruits
Whole grains can have a positive impact on fertility for both women and men, according to the study's findings.
What foods can harm fertility?
Trans fatty acids, which are found in processed foods, on the other hands, have been linked to lower fertility, the researchers found. Dairy, alcohol, caffeine and soy have been shown to have a neutral effect, meaning eating or drinking those food products do not hurt or help couples trying to conceive.
Soy, though, may have a positive impact on in-vitro fertilization. Same goes for folic acid, which is found in spinach and other leafy greens, as well as breads, beans, cereal and pasta, according to the study.
What is a fertility diet?
The idea that our diet impacts our chances of conceiving is definitely not new, but the new research builds upon a foundation previously outlined by Harvard researchers Drs. Jorge Chavarro and Walter Willett in their book The Fertility Diet: Groundbreaking Research Reveals Natural Ways to Boost Ovulation and Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant.
Chavarro and Willett used data from a massive study of women's dietary habits known as the Nurses' Health Study, which tracked 18,000 women who were trying to conceive over eight years. Much like the new research, that study indicated that a diet with plenty of plant protein, veggies and "good" fats can boost conception rates, while diets high in processed food, refined carbs and soda don't boost our chances of making a baby.
"Add in more vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and cold water fish such as salmon and sardines. Cut back on saturated fat," the doctors note, also suggesting moms-to-be cut trans fats and choose slowly digested carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, whole fruits, and beans instead of refined, quick carbs.
The main difference between the two studies is in the dairy category. While Chavarro and Willett say "skim milk appears to promote infertility" and suggest whole or full-fat dairy for women trying to get pregnant, the more recent research was neutral on dairy.
Despite the work that's been done at Harvard, additional studies into the connection between food and fertility are needed, but the science to date at least gives hopeful parents insight into how their everyday food decisions can impact their fertility health. Plus, maintaining a nutritious diet even before you conceive can have tremendous effects on your baby's long-term health, so eating healthy foods has its benefits no matter what.