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Can Diet and Nutrition Help You Get Pregnant?

Find out if (and how) certain foods and nutrients can affect female fertility. Are there things you should eat if you want to get pregnant? Nutrition Diva explains.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
November 27, 2013
Episode #261

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Fertility medicine, which barely existed 50 or 60 years ago, is one of today’s fastest growing medical specialties. Many couples are waiting longer to start their families these days and as the age of wannabe parents increases, so do their fertility troubles. But are there other factors driving increased fertility problems? Could the modern diet or poor nutrition status be partly to blame? 

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I recently attended an educational session with Jorge Chavarro, the Harvard doc who authored the best-selling book The Fertility Diet. Chavarro’s dietary recommendations are based on data from the Nurse’s Health study, which tracked the diet and health of 18,000 women over the course of several years. Some of those women had children during the years that data was being collected while others tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant.

A nutrient-dense diet that’s low in junk and processed food is associated with increased fertility.

It’s important to realize that Chavarro didn’t treat any of these women for infertility, nor did he make any nutritional recommendations to them. He simply compared the diets of women who got pregnant to those who couldn’t, to see if he could identify any trends. And he did, in fact, identify several factors that the women who got pregnant had in common.

The program outlined in The Fertility Diet is simply a summary of those factors. The hope is that if you mimic the diets of women who get pregnant, you too will get pregnant. I say the “hope” instead of the “promise” because this claim has never actually been tested in a systematic way. But, with that disclaimer in mind, let’s take a look at the factors associated with greater fertility.

Dietary Factors Linked to Fertility

Chavarro documented that women whose diets were highest in trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and animal protein were the most likely to suffer from infertility. Women who followed a more Mediterranean-style diet (higher in vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, fish, and so on) were least likely to experience infertility.

Nothing earth-shaking here: The dietary pattern associated with increased fertility is a nutrient-dense diet that’s low in junk and processed food. When you take good care of yourself, all your systems will probably function better, including your reproductive system.

Does Butterfat Help You Get Pregnant?

There was, however, one finding that surprised researchers, because it doesn’t line up with widely held notions about “healthy” diets. Women who ate high fat dairy seemed to be more fertile than those who ate low fat dairy products. In his talk, Chavarro threw out a couple of hypotheses.....

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