Are you planning a pregnancy and wondering what foods will best nourish and support both you and your baby?
There is solid evidence that healthy preconception dietary patterns have a beneficial effect on fertility. When it comes to fertility it’s easy to get fixated on individual nutrients as there is a lot of hype (and for good reason) around certain nutrients. However, it’s important to remember that there are plenty of real whole foods that are abundant in nutrients important for fertility. While prenatal supplements are important and almost always necessary, we needn’t forget the synergistic nature and bioavailability of real whole food.
A fertility friendly diet should contain a wide variety of whole foods including an array of fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables, quality protein sources such as grass fed/pasture raised animal protein, wild caught seafood, legumes, nuts, seeds, and wholegrains.
There are a few standout superfoods that contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats that are essential for fertility:
Pasture raised eggs – without a doubt, eggs are my number one recommendation to include in a fertility friendly diet. The quality of the eggs matters as pasture raised eggs are much more nutrient dense than conventionally produced eggs. Eggs are an excellent source of protein, a rich source of fat-soluble vitamins, folate, b vitamins, antioxidants, trace minerals, DHA and most importantly – choline. Choline is required for normal brain development, and placental function and plays a role in preventing neural tube defects. Two eggs contain just under half of the recommended intake for choline in pregnancy, yolks included!
Leafy green vegetables – most of us are aware of the importance of folate for pregnancy and with leafy green vegetables being one of the richest sources of folate, these are a must to include in your preconception diet. Leafy green vegetables contain vitamin K, which is important for normal blood clotting and can lower the risk of a postpartum haemorrhage.
Wild caught fish – salmon and sardines contain the highest amount of dietary DHA, an essential fatty acid required for normal brain growth and cognitive development in utero. Wild caught fish also contains trace minerals such as iodine, selenium, and zinc. Iodine is essential for healthy brain development and during pregnancy iodine needs increase by 50%.
Liver – the most bioavailable form of dietary iron, a mineral commonly deficient in pregnant women. Adequate iron before and during pregnancy is crucial to prevent maternal anaemia. Liver is also an excellent source of folate and B12, two critical nutrients for healthy blood production and for promoting healthy brain development.
Wholegrain oats – oats are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and fibre, they also contain magnesium, zinc and iron which are associated with improved fertility outcomes.
Each unique individual will have different dietary and nutrient needs, if you are feeling stressed or unsure about what is best for you, seek the help of a qualified professional for some guidance and support.
By Alexandra King
Accredited Clinical Nutritionist BHSc