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Nutrition News: Fertility and Your Diet

Charlyn Fargo on

We don't often think our diet could have an effect on whether we can conceive or not, but research shows it does. Good nutrition and a healthy body weight for both partners can have a significant impact on the ability to conceive.

Infertility affects about 9% of married women of childbearing age, according to a national survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To help with fertility, women need to maintain a healthy weight and choose foods that will promote a healthy baby -- foods that are high in folic acid, iron and calcium. Foods high in folic acid include dark leafy green vegetables, fortified cereals and breads. Folic acid is needed to prevent neural tube defects. The neural tube develops into the brain and spine three to four weeks after conception, before most women even realize they're pregnant.

Foods high in iron include red meats, spinach, beans, lentils, fortified cereals, whole grains and enriched long-grain rice. You can enhance iron absorption by adding vitamin C to meals from foods such as strawberries, bell peppers or berries.

And to boost calcium, choose dairy products such as yogurt, milk, cheese and cottage cheese, as well as vegetables such as broccoli and leafy greens.

A woman who is underweight may have irregular menstrual cycles or stop ovulating altogether. In addition, those who participate in high-intensity exercise (like gymnastics or dancing), or those who have an eating disorder or follow highly restrictive diets, may be at an increased risk for reduced fertility.

 

A healthy weight is important for men as well because male obesity may alter hormone levels and lead to low sperm count or motility. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends loading up on fruits and vegetables, which contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that may help create strong sperm.

Who knew fruits and vegetables were so important to having a healthy baby?

There's even a fertility diet, published by a team of Harvard researchers in 2007. In the fertility diet study, they found that women with ovulatory infertility who followed the diet had a 66% lower risk of ovulatory infertility and a 27% reduced risk of infertility from other causes than women who didn't follow the diet.

Women following the "fertility diet" chose:

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