Have you been putting off having children until the time felt right? And now you find yourself wondering how fertile you are?

In a recent article for nine MSN, I reveal my top tips on how you can increase your fertility through some simple diet changes. Take a look…

Fertility is a funny thing. Most of us spend our teen years and twenties actively avoiding pregnancy, but as soon as our biological clocks start ticking, we do everything in our power to make sure our eggs are literally ripe for the picking.

As such, our diets are increasingly attracting attention from scientists — it’s becoming clear that while it’s not the be-all and end-all of good fertility, what we eat can have an impact on our chance of conceiving.

“Our bodies work best when we nourish them well,” Meg McClintock, dietitian and nutritionist at Body Beyond Birth, tells ninemsn Coach. “When we’re eating a varied, balanced diet that includes plenty of whole foods and limits heavily processed foods, we can be confident that we are giving our body the best chance to work well.”

Being mindful of what we’re putting into our bodies becomes particularly important as we get older and our egg quality can decline. “Fertility drops significantly between your mid-thirties and forties, so… having a great diet and being in shape can give you the best chance at conceiving,” McClintock says.

1. Get the right fat balance

Forget those fries and cakes — a Harvard University study found women who eat lots of saturated fats have fewer mature eggs ready for fertilisation in IVF, and past studies have shown they’re bad for sperm count, too.

At the same time, good fats are thought to help fertility, so load up on nuts, oily fish and avocado.

“Omega 3 fatty acids are important for decreasing inflammation, which contributes to insulin resistance and therefore impacts fertility,” Melanie McGrice, dietitian and author of The Pregnancy Weight Plan, told ninemsn Coach. Insulin is the hormone that controls our blood sugar levels and, when there are high levels present, it makes the pituitary gland pump out heaps of hormones that can disrupt ovulation.

2. Pump up the protein

Gym junkies aren’t the only ones who might want to increase their protein intake. A recent University of Sydney study on mice found that increased protein intake was associated with better fertility. “It appears that if you increase your protein-to-carbohydrate ratio, it overall has a better impact on reproductive function,” Dr Kirsty Walters, a senior research fellow at the ANZAC Research Institute, tells Coach.

This study was only done in mice and human studies are still a while away, but it’s still worth considering if you’re trying for a baby. “A great way to get adequate protein is to go for lean meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts or dairy at each meal and snack,” McClintock says. You don’t need too much either — a serve of protein is just a cup of milk, two slices of hard cheese, 65g of red meat or 80g of chicken.

3. Focus on folate

Doctors are quick to get women trying to conceive onto folate supplements because a lack thereof is associated with an increased risk of having a baby with neural tube defects. But did you know folate deficiency is also associated with increased miscarriage risk? When you’re trying to fall pregnant, take a supplement containing 400mg of folate each day and make sure you eat lots of leafy green vegetables plus folate-fortified breads and cereals.

“For women who are struggling to fall pregnant, it’s worth going and speaking to your dietitian about whether you are actually getting the right amount of folate for your individual needs,” says McGrice. “Women with type 1 diabetes and women who are in the obese weight category have increased folate requirements.”

4. Cut back on caffeine and alcohol

While most studies show that a small amount of caffeine or alcohol won’t negatively affect fertility, McClintock says that high amounts will.

“It may be beneficial for older women to avoid them completely while trying to fall pregnant,” she says.

5. Men need to man up, too

It takes two to tango when it comes to baby-making and women aren’t the only ones who need to get their diet shipshape. “Folate is also important for men’s sperm, as is improving their saturated-to-unsaturated fat ratio,” McGrice says. “They also need to make sure they get enough zinc — red meat is one of the best sources.” Just three 150g serves a week will do the trick.

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