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Preconception Health Part 2: Nutrition

Proper preconception nutrition provides a number of benefits such as helping you achieve your ideal body weight and promoting a healthy immune system. Now, Harvard researchers have published a study on the dietary habits of women trying to conceive that provides even more information about what to eat. Over 18,000 women in this Nurses’ Health Study were followed for 8 years to track the ease with which they became pregnant. The results point to eating habits as a factor that affects fertility problems related to ovulation. Here are dietary choices that may reduce your chances of experiencing ovulatory problems:

Carbohydrates

Eat a diet that is high in complex carbohydrates. These foods contain lots of fiber and are digested by your body more slowly than simple carbohydrates like white bread and sugary drinks. A diet high in whole grains (such as brown rice), fruits, and vegetables reduces the risk of insulin resistance – a hormonal problem that can interfere with fertility.

Fats

A moderate amount of fat contributes to a well balanced diet. As long as you are in a healthy weight range, restricting fat to below 20% of your total daily calorie intake shouldn’t be necessary. Interestingly, women in the Harvard study who consumed 1-2 servings of whole fat dairy products per day had less trouble conceiving than those who ate low-fat dairy. However, trans fats (often found in fast foods, snack foods, sweetened breakfast cereals, etc.) appear to have a negative impact on fertility and should be avoided.

Protein

High protein diets that restrict the consumption of even “good” carbs and promote eating large quantities of animal protein are linked to infertility problems. A diet that contains plenty of plant based protein (such as beans and nuts) and lots of complex carbohydrates is associated with fewer infertility problems. Try to get your dietary iron from dark, leafy vegetables instead of red meat. Add an iron supplement if needed.

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