It has become increasingly common for couples to face fertility issues when they attempt to start a family. While many of these difficulties have been attributed to a fast-paced stressful lifestyle and the natural consequence of starting families later, there is increasing evidence on the important role of nutrition in influencing fertility.
As couples embark on the baby-making journey, Ms. Pooja Vig, nutritionist and founder of The Nutrition Clinic, highlights some key nutrients that can impact fertility. These nutrients are sometimes found lacking in our bodies.
Zinc is essential for good reproductive health. Many individuals do not realise they have low zinc levels which can compromise fertility in men and women alike. For men, poor zinc levels result in lower testosterone levels and sperm count. In the case of women, zinc is vital for cell division which affects conception and the early stages of fetal development.
There are various sources of zinc that can be conveniently added to your diet. The best sources of zinc are shellfish, meat, eggs and dairy produce, pulses, nuts and wholemeal grains.
Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant for men. Studies have shown that for couples undergoing IVF, the fertilisation rate can improve by as much as 30% when the men take vitamin E. For women, an adequate level of this vitamin increases the chances of implanting fertilized eggs.
Natural sources of this nutrient include green leafy vegetables such as spinach as well as nuts, almonds and olive oil.
Essential Fatty Acids which include Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9 work in different ways to boost the reproductive health of both men and women.
Selenium is another important nutrient at the conception stage. Studies have shown that insufficient selenium levels in pregnant women can cause early miscarriages. It is important to consult your doctor early to ensure that you have adequate selenium levels. Excessive selenium levels can also have an adverse effect on the mother and baby, so be sure to get your doctor’s advice on your selenium intake.
Sources of selenium include nuts, meat, mushrooms, cereal and fish.
Vitamin C also packs a nutritional punch for couples trying to conceive. Vitamin C increases hormone levels and general fertility of women who experience luteal phase defect. Research has also shown that sufficient vitamin C can help to increase the quality of sperm and increase the chances of conception.
Vitamin C is commonly found in oranges, papayas, mangoes, lemons, bean sprouts, broccoli and green peppers.
- Be mindful of what you eat. While maintaining an optimal weight is important when trying for a baby, this is often easier said than done as working couples tend to rely heavily on takeaway meals and packaged foods that cut down on cooking time. Ms. Vig highlights that when we eat, it is important to exercise portion control, as takeaway portions tend to be larger than necessary. We must also be conscious of what we eat. She also advises cutting back on packaged foods as these may contain unhealthy additives.
- Couples trying for a baby should also be careful to consume the right amount of carbohydrates; Ms. Vig shares that we may consume more carbs than necessary which can affect insulin levels and fertility.
- One useful tip is to ‘eat from the rainbow’ every week, by including different coloured vegetables and fruits to your daily menu. Not only will you ensure nutritious meals for yourself, the variety of foods will also motivate you to stay on a healthy diet.
- Eating a nutritious breakfast is a must. As most of us are at home in the morning, we have full control over what we take eat for this important meal. The right breakfast can help you to maintain blood sugar levels, increase vitality and reduce energy slumps during the day. Even a simple fruit or vegetable smoothie on the go will get your day off to a good start.
- Couples should aim to eliminate transfat from their diets. Studies have shown that even 2% of transfat can increase fertility difficulties by as high as 75%.
Ultimately, it is important to remember the ‘Golden Rule’ of healthy eating choices, which is that each time you choose to eat an unhealthy food, it replaces a healthier food option that could potentially boost your fertility.
I Love Children would like to thank Ms. Pooja Vig, nutritionist and founder of The Nutrition Clinic for her input.