There's no shortage of old wives' tales (and Internet legends) touting the fertility benefits of certain foods - and the baby-busting potential of others. And if you're thinking about starting a baby making campaign (or you're already waging one), you're probably wondering which are fertility fact...and which, fertility fiction. The truth is, you can get pregnant no matter what you eat - and no matter what you don't eat. But there is some fascinating, if preliminary, research showing that your fertility may be what you eat - and that filling your belly with certain foods (and avoiding others) may just help you fill your belly with a baby faster. The scientific jury's still debating the food-fertility connection (or is there one?), but in the meantime it's definitely interesting food for thought. And speaking of food, take the following list with a grain of salt (and a prenatal vitamin - which is a proven preconception must). Fill up on those foods that have fertility promise (they're all healthy anyway), and avoid as best you can foods researchers have speculated may decrease your chances of conceiving. Bottom line (and you don't need a scientist to tell you this): eat a nutritious, balanced prepregnancy diet, and you're likely fueling your fertility. Make a diet of junk food and fast food, and you're probably not doing your fertility a favor.
Dairy. It pays to bone up on dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese) when you're trying to conceive. Adding dairy to your preconception diet is good not only for bone health but also - potentially - for your reproductive health. So drink that milk, spoon up that yogurt, sip that smoothie, nibble on that cheese. Sticking to low-fat or fat-free dairy products makes sense most of the time, especially if you're trying to lower your bottom line preconception (after all, extra weight can weigh on fertility). But there is some early research showing that women who have problems with ovulation may benefit from splurging on a serving a day of full-fat dairy. Before you dip too far into the Ben & Jerry's, though, remember that overdoing the full-fat will defeat the purpose if it packs on the pounds.
Lean animal protein. Let's talk (lean) turkey...and lean chicken and lean beef. All these protein sources are chock-full of iron - an important nutrient that helps beef up fertility. In fact, studies show that women who pump up their iron intake during the preconception period have a higher fertility rate than women who are iron-deficient. A couple caveats: Steer clear of high-fat cuts of meat (bring home the pork tenderloin, but not the bacon), and don't overdo any kind of animal protein (stick to no more than 3 servings). That's because research shows that too much protein (even lean protein) can decrease fertility. Consider swapping out one serving of animal protein for a serving of plant protein (think beans, tofu, or quinoa). If you're a vegan, be sure your prenatal vitamin has iron in it, and ask your practitioner if you might
need any extra supplementations.
Fatty fish. Salmon (choose wild if you can), sardines, herring, and other types of fatty fish are swimming in fertility-boosting benefits, thanks to the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids they boast. Loading up your diet with those fabulous fats allows for increased blood flow to reproductive organs and may help to regulate reproductive hormones. Not a fan of fish? Hook your omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed (you'll find it in some breads), almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and enriched eggs (you'll see them marketed as "omega" or "DHA" eggs).
Complex carbs. Never came across a carb you didn't like (and what estrogen producer has)? It's time to get a tad more discriminating. When you can, consume carbs of the complex kind (whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits) as opposed to the refined varieties (white bread, white rice, refined cereal, sugary treats of all types). That's because there may be a link between your carb choices and your fertility. Here's why: Digesting refined carbs causes an increase in blood sugar and insulin in the body - and increased insulin levels can disrupt reproductive hormones and mess with the menstrual cycle (not a good scenario when you're trying to conceive). Complex carbs, on the other hand, take longer to digest and don't cause spikes in insulin levels - they may also promote regular ovulation. Holy whole wheat, batmom!
Oysters. You've heard that oysters can heat things up between the sheets, but did you know they can also boost your fertility? The oyster - famous for being Nature's answer to Viagra - is the food chain's most concentrated source of zinc, a nutrient that's crucial for conception. Zinc deficiency can disrupt the menstrual cycle and slow the production of good-quality eggs - neither of which is good for fertility. Not a fan of oysters in any form? Slurping those bivalves is not the only way to get your share of zinc. Find zinc in smaller amounts in other fertility-friendly foods, incuding beef, poultry, dairy, nuts, eggs, whole grains, and legumes.
Yams. If you're hoping for a bun in your oven, think about cooking up some yams for dinner. Some researchers have suggested that this Thanksgiving staple may contain an ovulation-stimulating substance, offering as evidence the fact that wild yam eating populations have a higher rate of twins. Whether or not this theory pans out (after all, the yams we eat are raised, not wild), it's worth tossing a few in the pan tonight anyway. After all, they're super-rich in fertility-friendly vitamins (their deep color is a giveaway).
Berries. Thinking pink or blue? Think raspberries and blueberries. Packed with antioxidants, these members of the berry family protect your body from cell damage and cell aging - and this includes cells in your reproductive system (aka your eggs). Wondering whether you should be picking other berries, too (like strawberries and blackberries?) Definitely do. All berries are berry, berry good for your fertility...it's just that raspberries and blueberries are the berry, berry best. Out of season? Buy them frozen.