Aug 23, 2022Preconception

The Fertility-Boosting Diet

by Lisa Dreher
The Fertility-Boosting Diet

If you are thinking about starting a family, actively trying or struggling with infertility, the food you choose to eat is one of the most powerful ways to improve your chances of a healthy, successful pregnancy. Even in the face of infertility, there is evidence that certain dietary patterns can nourish the reproductive organs, balance hormones, reduce inflammation and improve egg as well as sperm quality.

You may have heard about the MedDiet, but many people don’t know what the diet consists of or what research has uncovered. The MedDiet happens to be the single most researched diet in scientific literature with numerous proven benefits. First, a brief look at the dietary patterns:

 

  • Emphasis on whole, unprocessed fresh foods
  • Lots of vegetables, colorful fruits, whole unprocessed grains, legumes (beans and lentils), herbs, spices and healthy fats 
  • Healthy fats – nuts, seeds, avocado, olives and lots of extra virgin olive oil
  • High quality protein – fish at least twice a week, eggs, whole-fat dairy (especially sheep and goat’s milk products) and smaller quantities of animal protein (think of them as a condiment, or “condimeat” as Dr. Mark Hyman has suggested for years)
  • Limited sweets

The MedDiet for Egg Quality 

A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have, and the number of eggs and quality of those eggs slowly declines over time. However, with a MedDiet, you can actually improve egg quality even as you age! In fact, it has been shown that women undergoing IVF treatment who followed a MedDiet for six months prior to treatment had a 65-68% greater chance of having a successful pregnancy and birth compared to those who were eating very differently from the MedDiet. 

 

The MedDiet for Sperm Quality

Up to 50% of infertility cases are driven by male factors such as low sperm volume, poor motility and morphology. This is why it is so important to pay attention to the ways diet can impact sperm. Research shows that men who closely follow a MedDiet have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count, as well as improved motility and morphology. 

 

Timing for Optimal Fertility

Since it takes between 2½ to 3 months for sperm to mature, it is recommended to start following the MedDiet at least 3 months prior to conceiving. And with the MedDiet linked to maintaining a healthy body weight and reducing risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia/Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, cancer and depression, it’s recommended that both partners continue following this pattern of eating.  

 

Adopting The Mediterranean Lifestyle

Although not part of the scientific research, it should be noted that following the Mediterranean lifestyle, not just dietary patterns, may also improve your chances of a successful pregnancy. At the base of the Mediterranean food pyramid is actually not food at all, it’s all about connection! Every day, Mediterranean culture encourages fun and natural physical activity such as walking, dancing, martial arts, gardening and other movement that have evolved alongside traditional cultures. There is also strong emphasis on enjoying these activities, especially meals, together with family and friends. Preparing and sharing meals with those around you is one of the highest acts of love and communion we can experience as humans, and it can significantly enhance our quality of life while decreasing our levels of stress.

So when you think MedDiet, really think MedLifestyle, as you prepare your body, mind and spirit for the amazing journey that lies ahead.

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Lisa Dreher

Lisa Dreher

Lisa is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Integrative Health. She has been practicing for over a decade and works full time at Dr. Mark Hyman's UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts.

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