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When trying for a baby, what you eat should come high on your agenda as you will be nourishing the egg and sperm cells that will become your baby. Most importantly you should try to follow a sensible overall eating plan and avoid unhealthy diets that unnecessarily exclude certain foods as there is no hard evidence that these aid conception.  As a rule your diet should be made up of the following; 55% complex carbohydrates, 30% fat, 15% protein, plus eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables, and drink around least 2 litres of fluid per day (ideally water).

Golden rules for nutrition

Here’s some golden rules to follow to ensure you’re taking in the best foods to boost your fertility:

  1. Balance your blood sugar by eating breakfast, not leaving long gaps between meals and eating protein and carbs together– when blood sugar is unbalanced it can seriously impact your hormones, weight and energy levels.
  2. Eat at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables each day – only 15% of women and 13% of men manage
  3. Try to eat red meat no more than twice a week.
  4. Stay away from fatty meat such as lamb and switch to lean cuts of beef.
  5. Choose game and poultry meat instead which is low in fat.
  6. Choose complex and unrefined carbohydrates such as rye or wholegrain bread.
  7. Limit the amount of wheat and dairy that you eat.
  8. Try to eat fresh fruit instead of cakes and biscuits.  A handful of nuts are also a good alternative.  That way you’ll get more nutrients and long lasting energy whilst keeping your blood sugar levels stable.
  9. Switch to butter instead of margarine or spread. Margerine often contains hydrogenated fats where as butter contains vitamin D and tastes better!
  10. Take in sufficient fibre.
  11. Drink organic milk as this is richer in omega-3 than normal milk.
  12. Switch tea and coffee for caffeine free herbal teas. Alternatively try decaffeinated coffee using the Swiss Water method or decaffeinated tea using the CO2 method.
  13. Cut out processed and convenience foods – these can contain free radicals which can cause damage to sperm and eggs.
  14. Shop little and often to maximise freshness of food and choose products that are in season.
  15. Avoid additives such as salt, artificial sweeteners, acrylamide, MSG and certain preservatives, artificial colourings and flavourings.
Super foods for fertility

There is no one super food that is going to improve your chances of conception but there are lots of foods with fertility enhancing properties to try.

Sex and libido enhancing foods:

Some foods are associated with sexual desire and fertility because they look like the reproductive organs. Whether they work or not, they are certainly rich in vitamins and minerals that are essential for fertility.

Foods: Pomegranates, avocados, bananas, figs, dates, asparagus, almonds, garlic and oysters.

Brain foods:

Tryptophan and tyrosine are important for making hormone-like, good-mood substances in the brain

Foods: You’ll find tryptophan in parsley, papaya, dates, bananas, celery, carrots, dried apricots, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds and almonds. Tyrosine is found in lean meats, such as turkey, fish (try cod, sardines and sea bass), crab, kidney or mung beans and oats.

Foods to protect sperm and egg cells:

Sperm and egg cells are highly susceptible to damage by free radicals, which can be neutralised by antioxidants. All fruit and vegetables contain antioxidants but you need to eat a whole rainbow of bright colours as well as your greens, so stock up on the following:

Foods: Blueberries, raspberries, cherries, grapes, oranges, peaches, plums and tomatoes.

Sperm boosting foods:

Zinc and Vitamin C are the top dietary elements to improve sperm quality and volume. You’ll find zinc in brazil nuts, eggs, fish, seeds and grains. Foods rich in Vitamin C are green leafy vegetables, kiwi fruit and tomatoes. 

Foods for healthy secretions:

Secretions produced in a woman’s cycle are alkaline which is the environment in which sperm is transported. High alkaline foods are great for a fertility diet so try;

Foods: Asparagus, bamboo shoots, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, leeks, onions, potatoes, apples, avocados, cherries, mangoes, olives and peaches.

Vitamins and minerals –  what do you need?

In addition to a healthy balanced diet, there are some vitamins that are essential for fertility and to prepare the body for pregnancy. Try to incorporate the below into your diet:

Vitamin: Good for? Found in?
Vitamin A Important for follicular development, embryo growth, thyroid health and immunity. Full fat dairy, eggs, oily fish.
Betacarotone High levels of betacarotene in the corpus luteum positively correlate with strong progesterone levels. Betacarotene is also an anti-oxidant, thought to help protect eggs in the ovary as they mature. Yellow, red, orange fruit and vegetables, dark green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin E A big antioxidant and works with vitamin C to reduce free radical damage. Thins blood and regulates menstrual flow. Wheat germ, nut and seed oils, green leafy vegetables, nuts.
Vitamin B6 Boosts serotonin and dopamine which control FSH and LH. Also helps to regulate oestrogen and progesterone levels. Whole grains, bananas, potatoes, chickpeas, lentils, seeds, fish, milk products, oats, avocados.
Folic Acid Prevents neutral tube defects and is required to be taken as a 400mcg supplement at least once a month. Preferably start taking three months before conception. Green leafy vegetables, pulses, oats, whole grains.
Vitamin B12 Good for red blood cell formation, helps regulate ovulation and works with folic acid to prevent NTD’s. Meat, chicken, dairy, fish, eggs. Vegans should supplement accordingly.
Vitamin C A major antioxidant and helps to regulate ovulation. Green leafy vegetables, strawberries, melon, mango, citrus fruits, kiwi fruit and tomatoes. 
Vitamin D Studies show this is more and more important for fertility and many women are deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to miscarriage. Sunlight, eggs, oily fish such as herring, salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel. Some foods are fortified with vitamin D such as breakfast cereals and bread.
Iron Forms red blood cells. Low iron levels are linked to infertility. Red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, pulses, dark green leafy vegetables, dried apricots, prunes and seeds.
Iodine Vital to support the functioning of the thyroid gland which has an important influence on fertility. Crucial for foetal brain development in pregnancy. Fish, shellfish, dairy products, iodised salt.
Magnesium Low levels can be connected to hormone irregularities and miscarriage Green leafy vegetables, nuts in particularly almonds, seeds.
Selenium A powerful antioxidant that protects egg development and the embryo from free-radical induced damage. Seafood, eggs, garlic, the onion family, broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus.
Zinc Important for gene regulatory hormones and is crucial for the synthesis of DNA and the receptor proteins for oestrogen, proestrogen and testosterone. Oysters, seafood, meat, sunflower seeds, wheat germ.

Medical information provided by Zita West, Midwife, Fertility and Pregnancy Expert.

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