Are you expecting? Or planning on expecting soon? Guest author Ethan Lynette shares food strategies for better health before and during pregnancy.
Pickles. Ice cream. Donuts. Potato chips. These are the foods most people associate with pregnancy cravings.
But let’s put those tired traditions to bed. You know nutrition is closely linked to your ability to conceive and maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Some women choose to go organic during their pregnancies, while others try to incorporate a variety of nutrient-rich seasonal fruits and vegetables into their diet. Either way, eating seasonally is a great way to go easy on the environment and get fresh, flavorful produce in abundance. Plus, some of these seasonal favorites even have fertility-boosting powers to prep your body for pregnancy and promote healthy development of the fetus.
Delicious Seasonal Foods to Try
The availability of produce varies depending on your location, but here are some seasonal foods containing vitamins and minerals that can help fertility and boost overall health:
- Dark green leafy vegetables: Kale and spinach are packed with folate, iron, and manganese. Folate is best known for its role in preventing neural tube defects, and studies show manganese helps women become pregnant faster.
- Apricots: Apricots are packed with vitamin A, which is necessary for infection resistance and DNA health.
- Berries and cherries: Berries are full of antioxidants that protect sperm from oxidative stress by warding off free radicals, so they’re a perfect snack to share with your partner. Antioxidants are also important for promoting egg health, and they’re high in folate, which plays a key role in fetal development.
- Melons: Melons contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant nutrient that is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for healthy fetus growth and warding off infections.
- Apples: Apples contain vitamin E, which protects vital RNA and DNA function and creation and reduces the risk of congenital defects.
- Root vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.): Most of these foods contain beta-carotene, which forms vitamin A and promotes healthy fetus growth.
- Brussels sprouts: Brussels sprouts contain vitamin K, which can help maintain healthy blood clotting — a vital function for giving birth — and protect newborns from infection and illness.
- Pomegranates: Pomegranates are packed with antioxidants, vitamin C, and potassium.
3 Food Strategies for a Fertile Body and Healthy Baby
According to Suzanne Munson, staff nutritionist at Fairhaven Health, “Any little steps you take to improve your overall health and diet will have the added benefit of improving your fertility.” After you’ve filled your shopping cart with fresh organic produce, Suzanne offers three additional diet strategies to help you optimize your fertility and ensure a healthy pregnancy:
1. Include high-quality fats in your diet.
High-fat diets contribute to a variety of health problems — including weight gain, certain types of cancer, and heart disease — and can contribute to hormone imbalance and fertility issues. However, avoiding fats at all costs is not helpful for fertility. It’s important to focus on the quality of the fats consumed and to eat enough — but not too much.
Try to avoid the saturated fats found in butter and meat and trans fats found in margarine and hydrogenated oils. Incorporate monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, in reasonable quantities. Opt for sources of omega-3 fatty acids — such as fish, green leafy vegetables, and walnuts — that help maintain the integrity and proper function of egg cells.
2. Replace processed grains with whole grains.
Whole grains are sources of complex carbohydrates and contain naturally occurring nutrients that are essential to a healthy pregnancy diet, including fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin E. Replace processed grains with whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat, and millet.
3. Emphasize plant protein over meat protein.
According to Harvard researchers, replacing a serving of meat each day with beans, peas, soybeans, tofu, or nuts can improve fertility. Plant-based protein gives you a wider range of nutrients and more fiber than meats.
Remember, “eating for two” doesn’t apply to the quantity of food as much as the quality of food. The nutrients you take into your body get passed on to your baby. The higher-quality fruits and vegetables you eat, the better.
Ethan Lynette is partner for Fairhaven Health, a company that manufactures products that help couples conceive naturally and provides support to women throughout pregnancy and nursing. Fairhaven believes it’s crucial to get to know its customers well and provide support and education to couples desiring to start a family.
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