By Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist
Fruits and vegetables contain powerful nutrients to promote health and wellness, but what about fertility? Good news for anyone trying to conceive, there is mounting data suggesting that for both moms and dads, eating a healthy, plant-based diet can help to boost the chance of getting pregnant.
Infertility is common with 10% of women (6.1 million) in the US experiencing difficulty with conception. As of 2006, more then 3 million babies were born worldwide using In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
Recent studies show that for couples undergoing IVF treatments, following a plant-based, Mediterranean diet may help improves chances for successful conception, by as much as a 65% increased likelihood. The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high intake of minimally processed fruits, vegetables, legumes and fish. The Mediterranean-style diet may also help to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, preterm births and improve infertility associated with ovulation issues. Replacing animal proteins in the diet with plant based proteins can reduce the risk of infertility by 50%.
Some women have trouble conceiving because of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a common hormonal condition that can also make losing weight a tremendous challenge. My colleague, Hillary Wright, has written an excellent book on this subject, the PCOS Diet Plan which shows how eating lower glycemic carbohydrates and more fruits and vegetables can help manage this condition, promote weight loss and boost chances for fertility.
Having a healthy weight is important for increasing your chances of getting pregnant with a body mass index (BMI) between 20-24 as optimal. The body’s hormonal cycles and ovulation can be disrupted if weight is too low or too high. One reason is that excess weight can lead to insulin resistance and reduce IVF effectiveness in women while it can lead to lower testosterone levels and sperm production in men. It’s important to note that if you are overweight, a 5-10% weight loss can greatly improve fertility chances even if your BMI is still above the optimal range of 20-24.
Eating and drinking more plants may not only help women improve their ability to conceive, but also may boost the fertility potential in men. One study found that 83% of infertile men interviewed had low intakes of fruits and veggies while only 40% of fertile men ate less then the recommended 5+ servings per day. Men who ate the least amount of produce had the slowest sperm. The authors attributed sperm speed to anti-oxidant intake in the diet. Colorful fruits and vegetables naturally contain high levels of anti-oxidants, including berries, apples, kale, spinach, cabbage and tea.
Fruits, vegetables and other plant foods also have anti-inflammatory actions which could help reduce insulin resistance which is associated with both diabetes and infertility. Healthy fats found in avocado, olive oil, flax oil and ground seeds also contain potent anti-inflammatory compounds.
Folate is another important nutrient for fertility in men and women and during pregnancy. Good sources of folate include dark green leafys like kale, spinach, swiss chard (silverbeet), collard, mustard and turnip greens, broccoli, asparagus, sweet potatoes, oranges and avocado.
We have heard some amazing stories from quite a few Rebooters who found themselves pregnant while drinking lots of juice and eating more veggies. Many of these women had been trying for years to conceive. Do you think juicing or Rebooting helped you get pregnant? We would love to hear your stories!!!