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Nutrition Has a Major Impact on Fertility


LindaRD sees several women from Alamo, CA, Walnut Creek, Ca, Lafayette, CA, Pleasanton, CA, Orinda, CA who are concerned with how their diet is affecting their ability to become pregnant. I am glad to inform you that there has been groundbreaking research from the long term Nurses’ Health Study that indicates that various components of diet can help avoid infertility. The researchers chose nurses for the study because they can be counted on to provide accurate and reliable information. In 1989 the second round of the Nurses’ study specifically explored fertility and was led by Drs. Jorge Chavarro and Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health. The results of the study were that simple nutrition changes can offer a powerful boost to ovulation-related fertility.

Here are some of the important findings which I have attempted to incorporate into my counseling:

Avoid trans fats which are artificial fats that have been extensively discouraged but are still widely used in commercially processed foods such as in French fries, donuts, and margarines. Healthy fats such as olive oil, canola oil, and peanut oil should be substituted.

You must get more protein from plants and less from animals. The study revealed that women that consumed the highest animal protein were 39% more likely to experience infertility. Thus, adding one serving a day of red meat, chicken, or turkey predicted a one third increase in risk for infertility while adding a serving of legumes, tofu, or nuts protected against infertility. In my work with couples I introduce to them a plan to still enjoy animal protein along with incorporating dishes that are plant protein based and simple and easy to prepare.

Choose whole grains instead of highly refined white flour products that will create a slower effect on blood sugar and insulin levels. The study showed that women eating easily digested carbs such as white bread, pasta, sodas, and juices with little fiber exhibited insulin resistance. The resulting increase in insulin levels disrupts the finely tuned balance of hormones needed for reproduction. It is my job to show my clients how to substitute the carbs they enjoy with whole wheat breads, brown rice, and new grains such as quinoa and bulgur and to be creative with lots of bean dishes. I tell them that during the summer keep all the types of beans you enjoy in the frig, and enjoy them with salsa or an olive oil vinaigrette like the old-fashioned three bean salad.

The study shows you must have a full fat dairy product such as a glass of whole milk or a small dish of ice cream every day. Removing fat from milk radically changes its balance of sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and androgens that can create infertility. The more full fat dairy products the nurses had in their diet, the less difficulty they had with pregnancy issues. Many of my female client get nervous when they hear this and I help them add the dairy and then teach them to compensate by eating less fat in the other meals of the day.

The study addresses the need to take prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid, iron, and B vitamins. For folic acid the women who got at least 700 mcg a day from diet and supplements were 50% less likely to have infertility vs. women that were getting less than 300 mcg a day. For iron, the benefit came with high doses of 40-80 mg. It was surprising that the sources of iron mattered. Women receiving their iron from meat were not well protected, while those receiving iron from veggies, beans, and supplements were more successful. I work with clients on a two part strategy, including foods rich in folic acid and iron in their diet.

Beverages do matter. Water is great; coffee, tea and alcohol are OK in moderation. Leave sugared sodas and juice alone. A glass of wine once a week or cup of coffee once a day will not adversely affect ovulation. Women in the high caffeine group were no more likely to have problems with infertility compared to women who had barely any caffeine.

Lastly, I receive many referrals from OBGYN’s for women that are suggested to lose weight to increase success with pregnancy. Excess weight causes insulin levels to climb and causes an increase in the amount of testosterone in the ovaries and bloodstream which can contribute to infertility. The Nurses’ study showed us that women with the highest BMI’s had trouble with infertility. I work very closely with my clients, holding their hand, talking to them each day, and making sure the weight comes off as quickly as possible with a healthy and tasty diet based on their favorite foods. I know this is an emotional time, and support is very important especially with work schedules and social occasions.

Please feel free to call me about your nutritional concerns. I can be reached by phone at (925) 855-0150, e-mail at Please look at my website for past articles, recipes and nutrition tips.