Ten ways to support your fertility through diet and lifestyle
July 30, 2022
Like many couples, Charlotte Grand and her husband Jeremy struggled to conceive.
After being diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’ three years later, they embarked on IVF and eventually had two children. But before that happened, Grand began learning how to nurture her body to help support her fertility as best she could from the inside out.
She found what she learned so compelling that she quit her job in fashion and trained as a nutritional therapist; she later wrote the nutrition and lifestyle cookbook The Fertility Kitchen and created the Instagram channel @thefertilitykitchen.
“Food is the most powerful ingredient in creating optimal fertility,” Grand suggests. “It provides the building blocks for new cells, so a preconception diet literally lays the foundation for the health of your unborn child.
“Your health is made up of many small daily steps, including stress, sleep, movement, environment and mindset, and my approach recognizes that the foundation of optimal health is lifestyle. Have you heard of the saying ‘take care of yourself before taking care of another’? It is vital to adopt this concept to optimize your fertility.
“How can you expect to grow and nurture a baby if you don’t feed yourself?”
Of course, fertility can be a very individual thing, and sometimes there are complex medical issues involved, so please consult your GP if you have any questions or concerns about your own health. Generally speaking, though, some may find it helpful to think about how nutrition and lifestyle can play a role.
Here, Grand shares 10 ways to help support your fertility through diet and lifestyle…
1. Balance blood sugar
“High blood sugar levels and insulin resistance are problematic for both male and female fertility,” says Grand.
“Diets high in carbohydrates and sugar are associated with inflammation and oxidative stress, and an increased risk of ovulatory infertility and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women, and lower testosterone levels and reduced sperm quality in men. the men”.
Your suggestion? “Aim for three regular, nutritionally balanced meals a day that contain high-quality protein, healthy fats, and complex (vegetable) carbohydrates, to help maintain energy levels and feel full and satisfied.”
2. Eat nutrient-dense foods
“Eat nutrient-dense foods and avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates,” Grand recommends. “Real, whole foods (meat, eggs, fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables) contain a wealth of nutrients in each serving, help stabilize blood sugar, and nourish the body, while refined foods ( sugar, cereals, chips, flour and grains, fruit juice, soft drinks, sweets, and fast foods) offer little nutrition or contain ’empty calories,’ meaning they are high in calories but low in nutrients.
“These foods are often addictive, cause blood sugar spikes and energy crashes, and won’t help your fertility.”
3. Eat plenty of antioxidant nutrients
“Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in your body and help protect your eggs and sperm from damage. Your body makes its own antioxidants, but they’re also found in foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
“Make plants the base of your plate and eat the rainbow. Vegetables are also an important source of fiber, which helps slow digestion, control blood sugar levels, and is important for gut health.”
4. Avoid foods that increase free radicals
Grand recommends avoiding “polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from burned and grilled foods, nitrosamines found in processed meats like bacon, acrylamides, which can form during high-temperature cooking such as frying, and trans and oxidized fats found in vegetable oils, margarines, shortenings and everything that is made with them, such as fast foods and prepared meals”.
5. Take a good quality multivitamin
“Taking multivitamins will cover nutrient deficiencies and blemishes in your diet and provide additional fertility support,” Grand suggests.
“A prenatal multivitamin that contains methylated B vitamins, such as folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6, as well as antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and zinc, will help protect the eggs from oxidative stress caused by free radicals.”
6. Include superfoods for fertility in your diet
“These are nutrient-dense foods that contain a host of important nutrients for fertility, such as eggs (for complete protein, healthy fats, and choline), green leafy vegetables (for calcium, folic acid, iron, vitamin K1, and beta-carotene ), liver (for vitamins A, B6, B12, and K2, choline, copper, folic acid, iron, selenium, and zinc), oily fish (for the essential omega-3 fat DHA, vitamin B12, choline, iodine, iron, selenium and zinc) and bone broth, slow-cooked meat, and poultry with skin and bone (for gelatin, collagen, glycine, and trace elements).”
7. Prioritize sleep to support egg and sperm quality
“Adequate, good-quality sleep is also essential to help you manage stress,” Grand says, but this can be easier said than done if you’re worried about getting pregnant, so be kind to yourself.
“Sleep deprivation and stress go hand in hand, and sleep deprivation is associated with elevated cortisol levels. Maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle and minimize blue light at night. Exposure to blue light (from devices such as phones and tablets) suppresses melatonin release, delaying the normal onset of sleep and disrupting the circadian rhythm.”
8. Manage stress
“Chronic stress directly affects the timing of hormones and can contribute to insulin resistance, low thyroid function, low progesterone, elevated prolactin, and increased risk of autoimmunity, all of which can affect fertility,” Grand suggests.
“Incorporate self-care practices into your week: Acupuncture, massage, reflexology, meditation, and yoga can all be great ways to unwind and reduce stress. If necessary, schedule non-negotiable personal care time into your diary.”
9. Exercise at least three times a week
“Staying active can help optimize weight, reduce oxidative stress and improve mood. Moderate exercise at least three times a week is ideal. Increase your movement throughout the day, especially if you sit for long periods of time.”
10. Reduce plastics
“Plastics contain and leach dangerous chemicals, including endocrine disruptors that threaten our health. These chemicals mimic our hormones and are found in human tissue in much higher concentrations than the hormones our bodies produce,” says Grand.
“They can overstimulate, block or disrupt the natural actions of our hormones. To reduce exposure, do not heat or store food in plastic containers: use ceramic or glass, use a glass or stainless steel bottle/mug for hot water and beverages while traveling, replace plastic wrap (and aluminum foil) with beeswax wrap, and replace baking paper and greaseproof paper with plastic-free parchment.”
The Fertility Kitchen of Charlotte Grand is published by Quercus. Available now.