Whether you are considering starting a family or have been trying for some months now, preconception care should be made a priority to prepare the body for pregnancy. The health status of both parents can not only play a vital role in enhancing fertility but can also play a large role in the health of the baby. Naturopathic Medicine has a lot to offer individuals, both women and men wanting to plan for a healthy pregnancy. Preconception care should start about 3-6 months prior and goes beyond just taking a prenatal vitamin. In a Naturopathic world, preconception care includes, addressing underlying health concerns, optimizing nutrition, assessing toxic burden on the body, achieving hormonal balance and making necessary lifestyle changes to support a healthy pregnancy.
Several dietary factors have been identified to promote optimal fertility. Most women pay special attention to their diet once they find out they are pregnant but it is super important to choose meals wisely even before this as a means to prepare the body. Adequate nutrient status can affect (A) the ability to get pregnant (B) the health of the egg and sperm, ultimately affecting the health of the child. In light of this, let's talk about macronutrients (Protein, Fat & Carbohydrates) in the diet to optimize digestion and elimination in an aim to prepare the body for conception.
- Aim for 1 g of protein per kg of body weight (May change depending on activity levels)
- Eat leaner sources of protein like poultry, fish (pay attention to mercury levels), vegan protein powder and eggs that are dense sources of protein while minimizing high-fat animal proteins like beef, pork, lamb and bacon
- Try swapping out one animal protein serving for a plant protein like quinoa or beans
2. HEALTHY FAT
- First and foremost, not all fat is bad for you! Yes, avoiding TRANSFATS is crucial as they are made from the processing of other fats and are associated with an increased risk of Cardiovascular disease. They can also promote insulin resistance and prevent ovulation. Avoids foods that are high in Transfats like, Margarine, baked goods, crackers, etc.
- Instead include healthy fats like, Olive oil, Flaxseed oil, Coconut Oil, Nuts, Seeds & Avocado’s which can help with optimizing hormonal balance in the body
- The Mediterranean diet has been well studied for its positive effects on Cardiovascular disease and overall mortality. Recently, it has been studied for its positive effects on fertility! Below is a snapshot of what a Mediterranean diet would like.
- Reduce refined carbohydrates and replace them with healthier complex carbohydrates like brown rice and whole grains that keep insulin levels steady and keep reproductive hormones balanced
- Include carbohydrates that are high in fibre and have a low glycemic index/load
- Aim for 2-3 servings of fruit and 6+ servings of veggies a day! Fruits and veggies are high in antioxidants and vital for both egg and sperm health. Aim to eat as many colours as possible throughout the day
- Environmental Working Groups Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen has some great tips on which fruits and veggies are the most important to purchase organic
- Cook with spices, like turmeric and ginger instead of sauces to avoid the processed refined sugars and to get some added health benefits!
Diet plays a big role in the building blocks to support conception and maintain a pregnancy. By overhauling your diet now it will be much easier to stick to a healthy, well-balanced diet once you get pregnant. Stay tuned for a follow-up article on which micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) are important for optimal fertility and a healthy pregnancy.
Written by: Dr. Saira Kassam | 2018