Babymaking: Fertility-Boosting Diet

7 foods that up your chances of conception. Plus, 4 foods to avoid.
Want to improve your chances of conceiving? You can get a head start by embarking on a baby-friendly diet. According to Jorge Chavarro, M.D., a Harvard researcher who led a study on women's diets and fertility and co-author of The Fertility Diet, certain foods can significantly affect hormone levels and improve fertility in women with ovulation problems -- which account for as many as 30 percent of infertility cases.

One caveat, however: Infertility that is due to blocked fallopian tubes or low sperm production isn't likely to be helped by changes in diet and lifestyle. That's one reason why it makes sense to see a specialist if you are having trouble getting pregnant.

Most infertility problems, though, are ovulatory -- in which a woman ovulates irregularly or not at all. And that's where an optimal diet, coupled with a healthy lifestyle, can help improve fertility, Chavarro points out. Here, what's recommended for a pregnancy-boost, and which foods to avoid:

Fertility-boosting foods

1. Opt for good fats. Unsaturated fats (mono- and polyunsaturated fats) can boost fertility by helping the body control blood sugar and calm inflammation. These include omega-3 fats, olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds and avocados.

2. Choose "slow carbs" or low-glycemic index foods such as whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables that promote ovulation. Refined carbs spike blood sugar and insulin and decrease fertility.

3. Get your protein from different sources -- both animal and plants, aiming for at least half of your protein intake from plants, such as beans, nuts, peanut butter, whole grains, and seeds. For animal protein, choose fish, eggs and poultry most of the time, and go easy on red meat and dairy products.

4. Eat nuts and seeds. These are packed with fertility nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin E and essential fatty acids. Make sure they're raw, as heat from roasting destroys nutrients.

5. Get enough folic acid. This is an essential B vitamin, meaning it cannot be produced by the body and must be consumed daily through diet. Research showed that women who got at least 700 mcg folic acid a day from diet and supplements were up to 40 to 50 percent less likely to have had ovulatory infertility than women getting less than 300 mcg daily. Plus, folic acid also helps prevent neural tube defects in babies, so while you're trying to conceive, take a multivitamin that contains folic acid and other B vitamins.

6. Get plenty of iron from iron-rich foods. But the source of the iron matters: To improve the chances of getting pregnant, make sure they come from fruits, vegetables, beans and supplements, not red meat.

7. Include dairy -- the full-fat kind -- in your diet. Surprisingly, high-fat dairy foods, rather than their low-fat cousins, are recommended for a pregnancy boost. But that doesn't mean a free pass to gorge down a Ben & Jerry's every night: Limit your intake to one serving daily by drinking a glass of whole milk or a small bowl of ice-cream or full-fat yogurt.

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