Tag Archives: #foodsforfertility

Eat to Conceive: Food and Fertility

Chances are, you’re familiar with someone struggling with infertility, and you may not even know it. About 15% of couples have trouble getting pregnant, which makes infertility quite common.

I wrote about infertility in Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy, and while I’m aware of the stats, they don’t convey the fact that women who face fertility issues may experience shame.

Talking more openly about infertility can help to ease a couple’s burden, and hopefully, reduce bad feelings about a condition that is not their fault. Registered dietitians Elizabeth (Liz) Shaw and Sara Haas, also a chef, have taken the lead in this regard in the Fertility Foods Cookbook, 100+ Recipes to Nourish Your Body. I spoke with Liz about book, which is full of amazing recipes, one of which I prepared, and feature below.

Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN

Why did you write this book with Sara?

I always knew that I wanted to write a book, and when I realized that there was a need for a fertility foods book, I reached out to Sara Haas, a friend that I had made online through our mutually-exhaustive experiences with infertility. After asking Sara for her opinion about my book idea, she told me that she wanted to work on a fertility book, too! Two heads are better than one, and so began our book adventure. We took the opportunity to tell our uniques stories and struggles with fertility, and to let our audience know that they are not alone.   

Chef Sara Haas, RDN, LDN

A healthy body weight improves fertility in women and men

What makes a food a fertility food? Do fertility foods differ from other foods?

While fertility-fueling foods are certainly no different than other wholesome, delicious foods, there are some principles of an eating plan conducive to conception that are important to consider. We recommend plant-based eating. You don’t have to eat a vegan diet, or severely restrict animal foods, but the bulk of your plate should be plant-based. We discuss ways in which combining healthy fats with whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and plant-based proteins, such as soy and legumes, creates a plate that promotes fertility, giving couples a sense of control over a condition that sometimes feels so out of their control.

Here’s one of the recipes from the book that I tried and loved:

Chickpea Salad with Tahini Vinaigrette from the Fertility Foods Cookbook by Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN and Chef Sara Haas, RDN, LDN is easy, delicious, and can be served as an entree or as a side dish. It’s a plant-based recipe that everyone in the family will enjoy! 

Are fertility foods for women only? If not, would you explain why?

Absolutely not! It takes two to Tango, right? Although we specify in the introduction that the book is directed toward females, we include advice about food choices for men, and how some may be different than for women. While females who struggle with anovulatory infertility are encouraged to choose whole milk dairy products to enhance fertility, men are encouraged to stick with low-fat dairy. Slow-releasing carbohydrates, such as those found in whole grains, vegetables, legumes and soy, are good for both genders. One other interesting note is the research that suggests regular walnut consumption may help support male fertility in animal studies.

Walnuts may help support male fertility. They are also good for your gut health, and your partner’s.

Are there foods to avoid when trying to conceive and why?

While Sara and I certainly don’t want to discourage any food, we do recommend limiting added sugar, as well as reliance on highly-processed foods. Most highly-processed foods supply fewer nutrients than their less-processed counterparts. While nearly all the foods you eat, including plain milk, eggs, and lettuce, are technically “processed,” it’s possible to make better choices. For example, whole wheat bread is better for you than highly refined white bread, even though both foods are processed.

Don’t worry about engaging in a slice of birthday cake or other special occasion treats. Rather, focus on a fertility-fueling mindset most of the time. In addition, since those actively trying to conceive may become pregnant, we also recommended focusing on safer seafood choices, such as salmon, canned light tuna, and shrimp, and steering clear of fish that tend to be higher in mercury, such as King mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish (Gulf of Mexico), and big eye tuna (not canned) that is typically used in sushi.

This recipe from the Fertility Foods Cookbook is next on my list to try! 

Heavenly Chocolate Cake with Rich and Creamy Chocolate Frosting is gluten-free, vegetarian, and packed with far more protein, fiber, and other nutrients than regular chocolate cake.

In your discussions with those who are trying to conceive, what are they most confused about? 

One of the common misconceptions is that couples think they need to completely avoid carbohydrates, maybe because of the gluten-free trend.  (Men and women with diagnosed celiac disease should avoid gluten.) My job is to help educate people about the importance of including whole grains, many of which are gluten-free, in a diet that can help fuel fertility. I find once people recognize that they can become satiated, satisfied and at ease with a nourishing bowl of quinoa, mixed vegetables, and a delicious walnut sauce, their mindset about eating for fertility shifts. They start thinking of food preparation not as another chore but as a controllable way to fuel their fertility.

If you know someone who is struggling with fertility issues, check out BumpsToBaby.com, the support community that Liz started and runs. BumpsToBaby offers a free, closed group for those seeking health and support from others who are trying to conceive.

 
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