FOOD & NUTRITION

Eating for Fertility

by
Brittany Forman
Author
July 26, 2017

At Parsley Health, we recommend taking a year to prepare your body to conceive. Our Founder and CEO Robin Berzin, MD, calls this a “fertility year.”

A large component of your fertility year is focused on diet. Diet directly impacts hormone and immune health, which in turn affect your fertility. Attention to diet prior to becoming pregnant is also a great way to get into the habit of making healthy choices; once you are pregnant, what you eat will influence your baby’s development and future health.

Managing your blood sugar

High blood sugar levels during pregnancy can result in gestational diabetes, and will increase your baby’s susceptibility to developing diabetes later in life.

An easy way to keep your blood sugar in check is making sure that each of your meals and snacks include fat, fiber , and protein . For example, you could begin your day with a breakfast of eggs (protein) with avocado (fat) and greens (fiber), and later snack on a green apple (fiber) with almond butter (protein and fat).

Pregnancy superfoods

When it comes to pregnancy diets, I recommend patients focus on what I call the “pregnancy superfoods.” Each of these foods is packed with the vitamins and minerals that are critical for embryonic and fetal development.

  • Fermented vegetables. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, and fermented beets and carrots provide the probiotics (or good bacteria) needed to build a healthy microbiome that a mother passes on to her baby starting in the third trimester . More generally, studies show that exposure to bacteria in utero can affect whether or not a child will develop allergies or asthma. You should aim to eat 2-3 tablespoons of fermented foods per day. Try them mixed into salads or as a side for your favorite protein.
  • Pastured and organic eggs. Eggs are a great source of protein and contain vitamins A, D, K2, and E, iron, selenium, lecithin, folate, biotin, zinc, and choline. Choline is essential for your baby’s neurological and spinal cord development, while folate is critical to DNA production. You should aim for 2-4 eggs each day; if that sounds a bit overwhelming, try adding eggs into other dishes, like soups.
  • Wild fatty fish. Fatty fish like salmon, anchovies, and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which is critical to the brain health of both mother and baby, and vital to the development and functioning of the central nervous system. You should aim for 2 servings per week.
  • Leafy greens. Kale, arugula, chard, beet greens, mustard greens, spinach, romaine, collard greens, and broccoli are high in antioxidants, which help combat free radicals in the body and contain iron, calcium, folate, and vitamins A, C, E, K and B. They also provide fiber, which keeps you regular, balances blood sugar, and has a high concentration of beta-carotene, which promotes growth and repair of connective tissue. You should aim for 1-2 cups of greens with at least one (ideally two) of your meals each day.
  • Pastured and organic ghee. Ghee us rich in vitamins A, K2, C, D, and E, DHA, selenium, and iodine. Pastured ghee also contains butyrate, which improves colon health and supports healthy insulin levels. Short-chain fatty acids like ghee have also been shown to protect against leaky gut . You can use ghee in a variety of ways, from a cooking oil to a spread. However you choose to eat it, you should aim for 1-3 tablespoons each day.
  • Organic bone broth. With the increased popularity of collagen , you may already be eating bone broth. If not, now is the time to start! Bone broth contains glucosamine and gelatin, both of which strengthen and repair the digestive tract, bones, tissue and joints. It is also a source of glycine, which is essential for fetal and placental growth. You should aim for 1-2 cups daily.

Foods to avoid

As you munch on my pregnancy superfoods, take care to avoid the following foods and beverages. That said, if one of these slips in every now and then, don’t worry.

  • Non-organic fruits and vegetables, particularly those that are part of the Dirty Dozen .
  • Refined sugars and carbohydrates
  • Any containers that have BPA
  • High-mercury fish, like tuna, shark, largemouth bass, swordfish, marlin, halibut, pike, king mackerel, tilefish, sea bass, Gulf Coast oysters, walleye)
  • Soda
  • Gluten
  • Non-organic dairy
  • Soft cheeses like Camembert, feta, Brie, blue cheeses like Roquefort and Gorgonzola, and Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco, queso fresco, and panela
  • Raw fish
  • Soy
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Deli meats
  • Processed oils like canola, soybean, palm, peanut, vegetable oil
  • Processed foods like chips, candy bars, cakes, cookies

Keep it in perspective

While your nutrition needs will increase each trimester, the increase in caloric need is actually no greater than the equivalent of a cup of full fat yogurt and an apple with almond butter. This means that you don’t need to give into daily ice cream cravings. But hey, we’re all human ,and it’s okay to have a treat every once in awhile.

Sample day: pregnancy superfoods

Wondering how all this looks in practice? Here’s a sample day to get you started:

  • Upon waking: bone broth with chopped scallions
  • Breakfast: smoothie with 2 scoops protein powder, 1 tablespoon coconut oil, 1 cup blueberries, 1 tablespoon flax, 1 cup of fresh almond milk
  • Lunch: chicken breast served with 2 cups of arugula tossed in olive oil (½ tablespoon) and roasted squash with ghee
  • Snack: 1-2 hard boiled eggs with avocado
  • Dinner: Wild salmon served with steamed broccoli (1-2 fists), spaghetti squash (1-2 fists) or brown rice (1 cup) with tahini sauce (½ tablespoon)
by
Brittany Forman
Author

Brittany is a Certified Functional Nutritionist and Lifestyle Practitioner through Holistic Nutrition Lab as well as a Certified Health Coach through The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She has worked extensively with medical practices throughout the Bay Area. Brittany became a health coach after working in finance for several years. She found herself helping her family and coworkers heal from different ailments by making nutrition and supplements recommendations. She later founded an organic subscription snack company to make healthy snacking easier and accessible to people throughout the United States. Her goal is to empower patients with the building blocks to successfully optimize their health through nutrition and lifestyle changes. When not working with patients you can find her hiking in Marin, going to farmers markets and experimenting with new recipes in her kitchen. You can learn more about her at www.wellbeingwithbrittany.com.

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