It takes 3 months for sperm cells to mature and 3 months for immature eggs to mature enough to be released during ovulation. By eating a healthy diet for 4 months before you try for a baby means you can maximise your fertility chances whilst giving your baby the best possible start.
Foods to Include and Enjoy
1. Fruit and Vegetables. Aim to have some fruit with your breakfast, salad with your lunch and vegetables at dinner. Fruit and vegetables are providing vital antioxidants to protect against cell damage. They also contain both soluble and insoluble fibre helping to keep your digestion healthy. Choose a variety of colours and aim to eat a rainbow a day.
2. Complex Carbohydrates. Replace any white foods (simple carbohydrates) with brown and wholegrain foods. This will give you a big increase in nutrients such as B vitamins and magnesium. Complex carbohydrates release the sugars slowly in to your body helping to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Simple carbohydrates are void of nutrients and only provide your body with sugar very quickly. If you struggle to eat wholegrain foods try mixing half and half with the white stuff. Choose brown rice, wholegrain pasta, oats, rye and wholegrain or wholemeal bread. Keeping the skins on potatoes will increase the nutrient levels and always save the water from boiling potatoes to make gravy or stock as the water will be rich in vitamin C.
3. Phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are chemicals found naturally in certain plants and can help to balance hormones. Try to include foods such as beans, lentils and pulses at three meals a week. Soya is also a food containing phytoestrogens. Simple ways to incorporate these foods include swapping mayonnaise for hummus, adding beans to any stews or pasta dishes and using red lentils to thicken soups or casseroles.
4. Oily Foods. Certain fish, seeds, nuts and oils contain essential fatty acids. These important nutrients are involved in the development of the brain and eyes. These foods also contain good levels of other essential nutrients including zinc. Zinc is vital for sperm quality and quantity. Add pumpkin seeds to your salad and ground flaxseed to your breakfast. Eat a few nuts everyday and aim to have 2-3 portions of fish per week. Some fish contain high levels of mercury and other heavy metals due to contamination. For this reason it is recommended that you avoid shark and swordfish and limit tuna to one portion a week. Avocado is considered a super food for fertility and especially for men.
Products Known to Lower Fertility
1. Alcohol causes a decrease in sperm count, an increase in abnormal sperm and lower motility. For a female, alcohol blocks the absorption of a number of nutrients vital for fertility.
2. Caffeine causes problems with sperm quality. It is also a powerful stimulant which is not good for your adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands are involved with producing sex hormones.
3. Xenoestrogens come from pesticides and the plastics industry. These cause fertility problems when consumed. For this reason organic animal produce and filtered water is advised. Do not keep fatty foods (such as cheese) in plastic.
1. Folic Acid & B vitamins are essential before and during pregnancy to ensure the genetic codes are intact. B vitamins are necessary for both the male and female. The best way to ensure a good intake of B vitamins is to eat a whole food diet.
2. Zinc is essential for utilising the sex hormones; it also forms the tail of the sperm and affects sperm count. It is therefore necessary for both the male and female. Zinc is found in fish and meat.
3. Selenium protects against birth defects and miscarriage. Good levels are also needed for sperm formation. Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium.
4. Essential Fatty Acids and crucial for hormone production in a woman and for semen in a man. EFA’s are found in fish, nuts and seeds.
5. Vitamin E makes the sperm more fertile and can increase fertilisation rates. It also provides antioxidant protection, which is vital for the quality of the egg. Vitamin E is found in avocado, seeds and nuts.
6. Vitamin C enhances sperm quality and decreases the risk of miscarriage. Vitamin C is found in many fruits.
7. L-arginine is an amino acid, found in protein rich foods. It is vital for sperm production. This amino acid can be found in meat, especially beef.
8. L-carnitine is another amino acid vital for the normal functioning of sperm and can be found in avocado.
9. Vitamin A is essential for a healthy pregnancy but must be taken as beta carotene and not retinol. Sweet potato and any orange coloured vegetable or fruit contain good levels of beta carotene.
1. Reduce any stress as much as possible within your control as stress affects the sex hormones, blood sugar level and weight.
2. Exercise 3 times a week for around 20 minutes aerobically (i.e. your heart should be working hard for around 20 minutes).
3. Get enough sleep, ideally you should have a minimum of 7 hours and be asleep by 11pm.
By Julie Clark – Nutritionist