The fertility diet

FITNESS

Nadine Wilson

Monday, June 24, 2013

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WOMEN have always thought of diet plans as avenues to lose weight, but wouldn't it be nice if eating the right foods at the right time could improve your chances of becoming pregnant too?


Well, according to some experts, it does. The fertility diet has in fact become so popular that even prestigious researchers at Harvard Medical School have endorsed it. According to authors of The Fertility Diet, Drs Jorge Chavarro, Walter Willet and Patrick Skerrett, eating the right combination of foods is one of the most natural ways to boost fertility. It also offers a great start to pregnancy and is good for optimal development of the heart and bones throughout the pregnancy. The data for the book was based on the study of more that 18,000 women during an eight-year period.


"Good nutrition is a very important factor in your ability to procreate. If you are under-nourished, then you will have difficulties in pregnancy. A woman is entitled to put on about 25 pounds throughout the pregnancy on an average. If she is under-nourished, then she tends to have problems and so on with malnutrition, and it impacts the pregnancy," explained Professor Joseph Frederick who heads the Fertility Management Unit (FMU) at the University Hospital of the West Indies.


"She should have a balanced meal which includes protein and vegetables and so on. That is the standard for everybody, so you really wouldn't have to go on a special diet to become pregnant or to maintain a pregnancy," he said.


Having a natural fertility diet has several benefits. It helps to build important nutrient stores for pregnancy, promotes energy and vitality, supports the body towards hormonal balance, and supports a healthy reproductive system.


Doctors in support of the fertility diet generally advise that you have the following:


1. Bright fruits and vegetables. The brighter the fruits and vegetables, the better they are for you. Doctors advise that you should aim for at least two servings of fruits and at least three servings of vegetables daily if you are pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant in a few months. That's because fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and micronutrients, which reduce the effects of free radicals that can affect your reproductive organs.


2. Omega 3. This becomes necessary for a healthy pregnancy because of its importance in the neurodevelopment of newborns and the fact that it aids in the production of hormones, reduces inflammation, and helps to regulate the menstrual cycle. Cold water fish such as salmon, cod and halibut are great sources of this essential nutrient, while tuna, swordfish and marlin consumption should be reduced due to the potential concentration of mercury.


3. Calcium. Calcium helps to trigger growth in embryos and according to studies, it enables sperm to swim faster towards the egg. Calcium can be derived from animals or from plants, which is the case with almond milk. Calcium is also important during pregnancy, to enable the development of healthy bones in the growing foetus. It also prepares the mother for lactation.


4. Iron. This helps to keep your reproductive system strong and helps you to reduce the risk of anaemia during pregnancy. It also helps with the development of your baby during pregnancy. Iron can be obtained from vegetables like callaloo, beans and lentils, and from meats, such as chicken, beef and sardines.


5. Folic acid. Folic acid assists with reducing the incidence of neural tube defects and can also help to alleviate morning sickness. Getting it in before pregnancy will help you prepare for the months ahead. "All women who plan to conceive should be taking folic acid daily and continue this throughout the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. This will help to reduce the risk of birth defects involving the brain and spinal cord," explained obstetrician/gynaecologist Dr Sharmaine Mitchell.


Avoid or reduce the following:


1. Transfat. Several researches have said that women who consume highly processed foods are less likely to become pregnant in comparison to those who consume less transfat in their diet. Those with the highest concentration of transfat have been found to be more likely to have endometriosis, among other things.


2. Alcohol. The link between alcohol consumption and fertility is for the most part inclusive, with some doctors advising pregnant women to stay away completely and others suggesting that it's okay to have a glass or two of wine. However, studies have shown that high alcohol consumption in men does result in lower testosterone levels and impacts on sperm count.


3. Caffeine. Although some doctors support low to moderate intake, caffeine has been shown to affect hormonal balance and can prevent ovulation as well as increase the possibility of miscarriage. This is because caffeine is believed to constrict blood vessels, thereby reducing blood flow to the uterus.


4. Refined carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates like sugar are quickly digested and also contribute to obesity, which poses several risk factors to the developing baby. On the other hand, foods with complex carbohydrates such as whole-wheat provide you with fibre and give you the energy you need throughout pregnancy. Fibre also helps to regulate the blood sugar levels, which helps reduce fertility issues such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, also known as PCOS, and promotes healthy hormonal balance.


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