The all-new list of best fertility foods for women and men

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Perhaps traditional "fertility diets" weren't so far off after all.

Different cultures have always had different filters for what to eat to conceive, as well as what you should avoid. Science has backed (or rejected) many of these claims over the years. But the list is constantly evolving. Now, a new review in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology by Harvard University has revealed the ultimate fertility diet for women and men!  We also tell you about three foods to avoid until your bundle of joy has been delivered. 

What To Eat To Conceive: The Top 5 Contenders

1. Food Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids, like Salmon

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It’s common knowledge that omega-3 fatty acids can improve brain function, but did you know that they are also good for pregnancy? Omega-3 fatty acids:

  • increase blood flow to reproductive organs for men and women   
  • boost cervical mucus production, assist in the regulation of body hormones and encourage ovulation 
  • are critical in maintaining sperm cell viability, like DHA
  • can also be found in eggs, DHA fortified foods and supplements if you’re not a salmon fan

Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames of the Nutrition Twins also added that DHA is great for prenatal care and proven to be vital for infant brain and eye development.

2. Dark, Leafy Greens

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Dark leafy greens like spinach (or lettuce, swiss chard and arugula) are known to be high in different nutrients which are beneficial for fertility. These include: 

  • folate, which increases the rate and reliability of ovulation 
  • minerals like calcium and iron, which are needed for prenatal care, such as preventing brain and spine defects in the initial few weeks of pregnancy 
  • folic acid, which improves the efficiency of cell division and copying DNA — necessary for a healthy pregnancy!
  • chlorophyll, which heightens blood flow and natural libido in women

3. Whole Grains

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Whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, and barley all have key nutrients needed for successful conception, such as:  

  • B Vitamins: B9 and B12 are absolutely necessary for pregnancy; studies show inadequate B12 consumption is associated with infertility 
  • Fibre: which helps remove excessive estrogen and stabilise blood sugar levels
  • Antioxidants:  protect cells (like the egg), and organs that make reproductive hormones, from free radical damage

4. Beans

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Can the humble bean help with making your bundle of joy? Science says so!

  • Beans pack a lot of folate, fibre and are a good source of protein, making them a good food for conceiving.
  • Research from the Harvard School of Public Health observed 17,500 female nurses who had no prior difficulties in conceiving attempting to become pregnant. They discovered that:
    • Women who ate the most animal proteins were 39 percent less likely to conceive, whereas those who ingested proteins from plants (like beans) had less issues in getting pregnant. 
    • Beans are chock-full of iron which is crucially needed in order to prevent anemia while trying to get pregnant. 

5. Dark Chocolate

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Surprisingly, even dark chocolate helps! Tammy of the Nutrition Twins says dark chocolate “is important for blood flow and is great for fertility.” So, dads-to-be, do take note. Scientists have discovered that dark chocolate:

  • consumption can boost your semen quality 
  • is comprised of L-arginine, an amino acid that can raise sperm count, sperm motility and semen volume 
  • has a lot of antioxidants, which:
    • counter free radicals from pollution and toxins (connected to male infertility)
    • improve heart health
    • can also found in blueberries and citrus fruits.   

Some Food, However, Should be Avoided like the Plague…

1. No Soy (For Men Only)

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Soy-based food can aid women with infertility due to their slight estrogenic effects, but the reverse is true for males: soy-based foods can harm male fertility. 

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School investigated the effect of eating soy foods in 99 men at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Clinic for three months.

Their study unearthed that those who devoured the most soy-based foods possessed 41 million sperm per millilitre fewer than those who consumed did not. 

Obstetrician Neils Lauersen also agrees, explaining that “the average man is unlikely to be affected by soy foods in their diet. However, soy foods can overturn the estrogen/testosterone balance in men whose sperm count is below average. This can lead to a further reduction of sperm count.” 

2. Best to Leave Fried Indulgences Alone

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Yes, fried food is delicious. But in addition to blocking arteries and causing heart attacks, they can impede pregnancy in various ways, too:

  • Fried food reduces blood from going to reproductive organs, which may damage fertility. 
  • Trans fats from fried food influences the likelihood of infertility. Scientists at Harvard University studied 18,000 women. They found that women who gained an extra two percent of calories from trans fats risked boosting their infertility by 73 percent. 

Remember mums, as Lyssie from the Nutrition Twins observes, “You’re making preparations for your body to house the healthiest place for your baby to grow. Ideally you should be eating foods full of vitamins and minerals.”

3. Soda Is on the Blacklist

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Numerous studies have found the negative relationship between drinking soda and conception:

  • One paper from Boston University School of Public Health discovered that women who had at least one full-sugar soda a day was associated with a reduction in chances of getting pregnant, regardless of who drank it.  Women saw a 25 percent decrease in fertility while men saw a 33 percent decrease. 
  • Elizabeth Hatch, professor of epidemiology and lead author of the study, confirmed the validity of these results, saying that their results “were consistent many factors, such as obesity, caffeine intake, alcohol, smoking, and overall diet quality, were controlled.”

A Gourmet Recipe that TAP Recommends!

Perhaps you are wracking your brains for your next dinner plan now that you know what to eat to conceive. Why not try this salmon salad recipe packed with folates and antioxidants which we  recommended previously? You can even have some fun with hubby in the kitchen!

Green Apple Salad with Salmon and Citrus Dressing (Serves Four)

Ingredients

2 green apples, cored and diced

200g red onionm diced

50g low-fat or fat-free mayonnaise

Sea salt and crushed pepper, to taste

4 walnuts, roasted and crushed

4 fresh salmon fillets (80g each), skinned and sliced

200g mixed green salad

Citrus dressing

120ml fresh orange juice

50ml lemon juice

100ml olive oil

Sea salt and crushed pepper, to taste

1 fresh orange, segmented

How to make it

1. Mix the apples, onion, mayonnaise and seasoning in a large bowl, then set aside to chill in the fridge.

2. Season salmon with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 10 mins at 70°C, then leave to cool.

3. Whisk the citrus dressing ingredients together in a large bowl until smooth.

4. Place salad on the centre of the plate and gently lay the salmon on top.

5. Garnish with mixed greens, orange segments and walnuts. Drizzle the citrus dressing over.

We at theAsianparent hope this article on what to eat to conceive has been helpful in allowing you to plan your diet better throughout this wonderful journey. Share your results if you’ve tried the recipe above!

Also read:

The complete guide to fertility clinics in Singapore

Must read fertility tips!

Dad’s diet influences baby’s health!

References: American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology