What are some of the best foods to increase fertility?

Any meal plan should aim at being wholesome and nutrient-rich in order to provide all the necessary nutrients needed for proper growth, development and maturation of the body, affecting physical, mental and reproductive health.

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One should always be on the lookout for locally grown and seasonal products when it comes to food items as they not only have the best of nutrients, but also help in maintaining the eco-system of the surroundings and sustain livelihood of local farmers and help boosting the economy.

For a fertility diet to improve egg quality, one should eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health of nearly 19,000 women found a higher incidence of ovulatory disorder in women who consumed more trans-fats, carbohydrates, and animal proteins. In every meal half of the components should be fresh fruits and vegetables. As per experts, watermelon and asparagus, in addition to other raw fruits and vegetables, give the body a rich supply of glutathione, which is important for egg quality. Not only this, asparagus is also a great source of vitamin K, folate, provides 8% of the daily zinc and 16% of the daily recommended amount of selenium, both important for male fertility, with additional amounts of other important nutrients like Vitamin C, Vitamin A and thiamine (a component of the vitamin B complex). Grapefruit juice and orange juice are very high in the polyamine putrescine, which may improve semen health. Putrescine may also improve egg health. It may also be so that putrescine helps both egg and sperm cells maintain their chromosomal integrity. Bananas are rich in vitamin B6 and potassium and have been known to improve fertility in a lot of cases. Similarly, green, leafy vegetables have been shown to improve ovulation, thanks to the high amounts of folate and vitamin B and help in enhancing a woman’s libido. Berries are rich in anti-oxidants preventing damage to the eggs. Similarly for tomatoes and pomegranates, with their high anti-oxidant content, and pomegranate with added iron content makes it even more beneficial for women in general. Not only for women, pomegranate juice and pomegranate extract may improve sperm concentration and motility after several weeks, as validated by studies on men who took tablets with pomegranate extract and galangal root powder, saw their motility increase considerably. Potatoes help in correcting luteal phase defects which otherwise causes ovaries to release inadequate amounts of testosterone. Pineapple is another very important fruit in terms of overall health and fertility. Along with it being a great source of vitamin C, one cup of freshly cut pineapple provides 46% of the daily recommended value. This is specifically important as low vitamin C levels have been associated with PCOS. Vitamin C may also help boost male fertility. One study found that supplementation with vitamin C helped boost sperm quality in heavy smokers (although quitting smoking would be the best bet for increasing fertility among people!)

Proteins are next in line for improving fertility. Chicken, turkey, pork, and beef trimmed of fat are great sources of protein, zinc, iron—all important building blocks for a healthy pregnancy. Alongside, coldwater fish like salmon, canned light tuna, and sardines are excellent sources of DHA and omega-3 fatty acids; they also help develop the baby's nervous system and cut your risk of premature birth.1 Consumption of any fish should be made only after ensuring that it is free of mercury contamination. Salmon is rich in essential fatty acids and omega-3s, which has been shown to be beneficial to fertility in men and women. Not only the essential fatty acids, but there are other important reproductive nutrients found in salmon. These are the most crucial, vitamin D, and selenium. Selenium has been shown to be important for semen health, and low vitamin D levels seem to be associated with poor fertility in men and women. In fact, salmon is one of the very best food sources of vitamin D. Eggs, too, are another potent protein source. Apart from being rich in the vitamin B profile, eggs are rich in omega-3 fats which are important for fertility as well. They cost a little extra but are well worth it if you don’t eat much fish. Eggs are an inexpensive source of lean protein, which has also been found to be good for fertility in men and women. Another major source of nutrients from animal sources are oysters. For those who can incorporate oysters in their diets, a serving size of 6 raw oysters can provide 43% of the daily iron, 408% of the daily recommended value of vitamin B-12, 187% of the recommended daily value of selenium, 188% of the daily zinc requirements. However, raw oysters should be washed and verified by experts to be suitable for consumption, before indulging in them.

Apart from animal-based proteins, plant proteins have been found to be equally important for maintaining and preserving fertility. Proteins from beans, nuts, seeds and tofu come with healthy fats and are relatively low in calories and can be helpful for weight loss. One study showed that the risk of ovulatory disorders is cut in half when 5 percent of the total calorie intake is derived from plant proteins. The Harvard Public Health study also found that infertility was 39 percent more likely in women with the highest intake of animal protein. Beans are super sources, and so are nuts, seeds, and other legumes, such as lentils and chickpeas. Walnuts are rich in omega-3s and omega-6s. Studies have shown that walnuts improved sperm quality, longevity and motility in men who added walnuts in their diet. Lentils contain high levels of the polyamine spermidine, which may be helpful for the sperm to fertilize the egg. Lentils and beans are also a good source of folate. Folate (or folic acid) is a very important nutrient for conception and healthy embryos. Alongside, beans and lentils are extremely good sources of fiber. Getting enough fiber in the diet is the key to healthy hormonal balance.

Dairy (full-fat dairy) is necessary for a healthy fertility profile for both men and women alike. Full-fat dairy products include whole milk, full-fat yogurt, ice cream, cream cheese, and other cheese. Research has shown that a high intake of low-fat dairy has been shown to raise the risk of ovulatory infertility, compared to high-fat dairy. A Harvard study found that women who ate full-fat dairy products were less likely to experience ovulation problems than women who ate primarily low-fat dairy products. In this study, low-fat dairy products included skim or low-fat milk, sherbet, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Full-fat products included whole milk, ice cream, cream cheese, and other cheese. (But before indulging in ice-cream laden treats, it is also important o note that all such products are best enjoyed by the body in moderation, as ice-creams mostly contain processed sugars and fats which are always best avoided, more so for situations like pregnancy and fertility). Yogurt, especially probiotic ones work the best substitutes for sugar-laden ice-creams in most cases. They make for the perfect ingredient in breakfast and lunch items. On the other hand, mature cheeses, like mature cheddar, parmesan, and manchego are high in polyamines that help in preserving both egg and sperm health. In every form, cheese are best had unprocessed. Hence one should be careful of the labels when they get cheese and dairy products from local supermarkets. Ghee, or clarified Indian butter is another classic example of a full fat dairy product that is beneficial for bone health and is advisable both before and during pregnancy to ensure that the body is capable of taking the extra weight of the fetus. Ghee also helps in mobilising fats in the body so as to burn the fats effectively when one exercises, aiding in healthy weight loss, especially needed if one is battling weight issues to prepare onself for pregnancy. Ghee is also a powerhouse of essential vitamins like A, D, E and K.

Whole grains, complex carbohydrates and cinnamon are also equally good sources of nutrients that help in improving fertility. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and thus favour a balanced rate of insulin production and control the blood-sugar levels. Also, cutting down on refined sugar and replacing them with natural sugars is a great way to ensure that there are no adverse effects of one’s diet on fertility. Fruits, jiggery and organic honey are all excellent sources of natural sugar. Cutting down on refined sugar also refers to cutting down of artificial sweeteners, as they are also equally bad for health. Hence, it is always a good idea to cut down on candies and desserts for an optimal fertility diet plan, and all the more, staying away from ‘sugar bombs’ like fruit juice, energy drinks, and sweet teas. Sugared sodas, in particular, have been associated with ovulatory infertility.

Dry fruits are packed with heart-healthy fats, fiber, potassium, vitamin K and sorbitol. So are avocados. They make great snacking options in between meals or even in the start of the day and are deemed suitable to serve hunger pangs that are common during pregnancy. But their consumption should be limited to small servings only, as too much of dry fruit consumption might lead to weight gain and digestion problems.

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