• Although there are many different and complex reasons for a couple’s inability to conceive straight away, a few dietary changes may impact your fertility. (Tetra images RF/Getty Images)Source: Tetra images RF/Getty Images
One in six Australian couples of reproductive age struggle to fall pregnant. The good news is that your diet - a factor you can control - is a major determinant of fertility. Here's the low-down on the conception food facts (and myths you should ignore).
By
Yasmin Noone

6 Feb 2020 - 2:55 PM  UPDATED 6 Feb 2020 - 2:55 PM

It’s definitely not a given that just because you’re in your 'reproductive years' that you’ll be able to fall pregnant fast and with ease.

According to IVF Australia, infertility – the inability to conceive a pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse – affects about one in six Australian couples of reproductive age.

Although there are many different and complex reasons for a couple’s inability to conceive straight away, the good news is that there’s strong evidence suggesting that diet is a major determinant of fertility.

"So foods that are high in antioxidants might decrease the oxidative damage that happens over time and improve the quality of our eggs.” 

“For example, nutrients can affect our hormones and how our reproductive cycle is working," says Dr Anita Star, a clinical dietitian specialising in pregnancy and paediatric nutrition, "and the nutrients we consume is determined by our diet. 

“There’s also dietary considerations for fertility around the consumption of fruits and vegetables which are really high in antioxidants. As we get older, a woman’s eggs get older and can reduce in quality due to oxidative damage. So foods that are high in antioxidants might decrease the oxidative damage that happens over time and improve the quality of our eggs.”

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So what should you eat to increase your chances of falling pregnant?

Given that there’s so much information – some myths and some truths – about pregnancy and conception floating around on the Internet, Dr Star explains it’s important to separate fact from fiction to prevent undue stress while trying to fall pregnant.

Here’s her take on some of the common beliefs about diet and conception and whether they are in fact a myth or fact.

Swap processed snack foods for fruit and vegetables

There is a lot of research out there about how dietary patterns that are high in fruit and vegetables produce good outcomes [in terms of fertility].”

For example, one Greek study from 2018 found that those non-obese women who adhered to the Mediterranean diet and consumed a lot of fruit and vegetables had a higher chance of falling pregnant and having a live birth through IVF. On the other hand, non-obese women attempting fertility who did not follow the Mediterranean diet didn't share the same luck.

“However, evidence also suggests that diets, which are high in highly processed snack foods and, in particular, foods that contain a lot of trans fats may negatively impact fertility. So if you eat more fruits and vegetables, and less processed foods, that’s a good swap to make to boost your chances of falling pregnant.”

There is a lot of research out there about how dietary patterns that are high in fruit and vegetables produce good outcomes [in terms of fertility].”

Eat the pineapple core to boost your chances of embryo implantation

This IVF-related myth is currently making the rounds on the Internet. Star says that although pineapple is a nutritious food, “there’s no real research to demonstrate its benefits for fertility. So I wouldn’t necessarily go eating the pineapple core if it’s not normally your thing.”

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Eliminate red meat from your diet

Star recommends couples trying to fall pregnant consume one-to-two serves of lean red meat in their diet each week. “You want to have balanced nutrition across all of the food groups.”

However, they are also advised to eliminate processed red meat. “Processed red meats like sausages, Devon and salami may really high in saturated fats and trans fat, which can be detrimental. So it’s a good idea to eliminate them from your diet.

“But I don’t think eliminating red meat completely is a good idea when you are trying to fall pregnant.”

Star suggests that couples should also eat more plant proteins like legumes, lentils nuts and seeds, as per the recommendations of the traditional Mediterranean diet.

“But I don’t think eliminating red meat completely is a good idea when you are trying to fall pregnant.”

Eat lots of fish

The omega-3s in fish have long been known to promote fertility.

“So aim to eat two-to-three serves of low mercury fish a week like salmon and sardines, but avoid high mercury fish like flake or shark, orange roughy and swordfish.”

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Cut soft drinks from your diet

In a 2013 study of 3,628 women planning to become pregnant, the findings showed that women who had three or more servings of soft drink per day had a 52 per cent lower rate of pregnancy compared to women who didn’t have any soft drink. 

“That’s quite a profound result and a good health message. So if you’re wanting to fall pregnant, swap out the soft drinks in your diet for water.”

Consume cumin and turmeric, chard and raspberries

An Ayurvedic take on fertility suggests that women should consume foods that enhance reproductive tissue like cumin and turmeric, date or mango milkshakes, broccoli and asparagus.

“There’s not a lot of high-level evidence to suggest that these foods help to boost your fertility,” says Dr Star. “However, all of these foods are actually anti-inflammatory and high in vitamins and minerals, which [as a consequence], may help improve your fertility.”

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Meanwhile, traditional Chinese medicine advises women to eat beetroot, blackberries, raspberries, chard and other organically grown red, purple and dark green foods. It's meant to help with conception by nourishing your organs and menstrual flow. 

“We know that folate, which is present in beetroot and chard, is really good for pregnancy and fertility, while some of the other foods recommended are also rich in micro-nutrients and antioxidants that may help with fertility.

“But while this suggestion makes logical sense, there’s not a lot of specific research on the recommendations within these other types of medical practices.”

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