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Dietitians Dish: Nutrition ties into fertility

By By Stephanie Whitley
Jan. 14, 2014 at midnight
Updated Jan. 13, 2014 at 7:14 p.m.


As the new year begins, many couples are hoping to add to their family, and it just so happens that nutrition ties into fertility very closely.

Here are some pointers from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help increase your chances of conception and be in your best health as you begin or continue parenthood.

The first thing to consider is your weight. It is important for both parents to have a healthy weight. This will increase the quality and quantity of sperm, keep hormone levels balanced and promote normal ovulation.

The goal is to maintain a body mass index between 19 and 25. To calculate this, take your weight in pounds and divide it by your height in inches twice.

Then, multiply this number by 703 and you have your BMI. To achieve and maintain a healthy BMI, it is important not to follow fad diets or a significant calorie restriction because this can decrease fertility. Being underweight also interferes with normal ovulation in some women, further decreasing your chances of getting pregnant.

For men and women, the best way to maintain a fertile BMI is through healthy diet and exercise. If you are looking for more direction, you can follow the fertility diet, as published by Harvard researchers.

Some key points of the diet are to consume more protein and iron from plants and less from animal products. Good plant sources of iron are beans, lentils, spinach, fortified cereals and other enriched grains.

Don't forget that vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, so have an orange with your cereal in the mornings.

Also, stick with whole-fat dairy products, which are associated with a positive effect on fertility versus low-fat dairy.

Focus on lower glycemic index foods and monounsaturated fats. Also, make sure you are taking a multivitamin. For women, a prescription pre-natal multivitamin from your doctor should do, while men will be safe with most any multivitamin found at the grocery store.

If you are looking for a nutritionally sound book to help you get on the right track, I would recommend "Eating Expectantly," by Bridget Swinney, Master of Science, registered dietitian.

Stephanie Whitley is a registered and licensed dietitian DeTar Healthcare Systems. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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