Fertility

What’s a Fertility Friendly Diet? By Nutritionist Jen Walpole

Eloise Edington  |   7 May 2021


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We know that nutrition plays an important role in supporting fertility and IVF success, but what exactly should a ‘Fertility Diet’ look like? We reached out to Fertility Nutritionist Jen Walpole to advise us on what we should be eating when #TTC.

Words by Jen

www.jenwalpole.com | @jenwalpolenutrition

The Mediterranean Diet

This is the most widely studied for its relevance when it comes to supporting fertility and IVF outcomes, owing to its predominantly plant-based nature, with an array of colourful fruit and vegetables, healthy fats and fish, with limited dairy and meat intake. Aim for somewhere between 6-8 portions of veg and 2-3 portions of fruit per day, which should account for half of your plate. Add in a palm-sized portion of protein, which could be plant-based such as beans or legumes, organic tofu (ideally fermented) or animal-based such as salmon or organic chicken. Half a cup of grains such as quinoa, buckwheat or brown rice and a thumb sized portion of healthy fats such as some olives, avocado or nuts would complete your plate.

I like to give clients a guide on what a week should look like. For example, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or sardines should be eaten 1-2 times per week (one portion per week in pregnancy is advised), other wild fish 1-2 times per week, organic poultry perhaps 1-2 portions per week and grass-fed red meat on occasion, ideally no more than once per week. Plant-based protein should be included in the diet every day as it is associated with positive pregnancy outcomes. An easy way to get these foods in is through dips using any type of bean, tahini and few other ingredients – it works so well and takes about 5 minutes to whizz up (find my recipe here). A couple of portions of grains per day (think oats, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, wholegrain or sourdough bread), would be adequate and a thumb-sized portion of healthy fats with each meal. In a nutshell, we are really talking about a wholefood and ideally organic diet.

Related Article – Nurturing Yourself for Fertility and Beyond

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Antioxidant Intake

This is high on the priority list when it comes to supporting fertility. The reason behind this is that DNA can become damaged by oxidative stress (OS). OS comes about due to many factors including poor diet, inflammation, stress, the environment and lifestyle factors. Antioxidants play a significant role in reducing DNA damage to the egg and sperm by sort of cleaning up the OS! The easiest way to increase your antioxidant intake is by ‘eating the rainbow’. Introducing lots of colour into your diet will ensure you are getting all the benefits of particular vitamins and minerals that have antioxidant potential. It’s also important to address the factors that increase OS. If you or your partner smoke, it’s important to quit this habit (even if it is social/occasional), reduce (or ideally stop) alcohol intake, maintain a healthy BMI, reduce toxins in your environment that you have control over such as cleaning and body products and reduce or avoid inflammatory foods, particularly processed foods, refined sugar and vegetable oils.

A good quality prenatal multi that contains 400mcg methylated folate is advisable ahead of conception. To understand the difference between folic acid and folate, read more here. However, it’s important to remember we can top up our folate from food sources. Dark green leafy veg, lentils, chickpeas, beans and peas are all good sources.

Related Article – Folate vs. Folic Acid When Trying to Conceive

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Prebiotics and Probiotics

These must be considered within any fertility diet as emerging evidence links the microbiome with fertility and reproductive outcomes. The microbiomes that are considered relevant in relation to fertility include the oral, gut and reproductive microbiomes. The oral microbiome is closely correlated to the placenta, so it’s important to maintain oral health ahead of conception. The gut microbiome is linked to fertility outcomes and conditions such as PCOS, as well as other inflammatory conditions that disturb the balance of good bacteria. The microbiome found in healthy semen and the vagina should be abundant in Lactobacillus strains, so taking a specific probiotic rich in these is advisable, including ahead of IVF treatment. Introducing prebiotic and probiotic foods into the diet would also be beneficial. Oats, leeks, garlic, onions, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and tempeh would be lovely to include as part of a fertility diet.

A whole couple approach is necessary when it comes to supporting fertility. It’s not enough that one partner is following this way of eating – it really needs to be a joint effort. It is very much 50:50, so the male partner has to be considered in the picture as well, which is why I work with couples. Numerous studies support improvements in both egg and sperm quality through nutrition and lifestyle interventions, particularly the Mediterranean Diet.

Related Article – The Importance of Fertility Nutrients and Supplements for Egg/Sperm Health

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Jen believes in the importance of a personalised approach to fertility nutrition and offers 1:1 programmes including her Couple’s Fertility Package.

“It’s important to get to the root cause of why you may be struggling to conceive, which is why functional testing is so useful to support your fertility prep alongside bespoke nutrition, supplement and lifestyle support. The way I work really takes into account that your fertility journey is completely unique”.

Jen is offering a 10% discount to her readers on her initial consultation and follow up package. Quote FHH when booking to redeem.

Related Article – The Benefits of Prenatal Vitamins to Support IVF

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