Conception requires an optimal environment for the fertilisation of a healthy egg by healthy sperm, and a major component of the health of all of these factors comes back to optimum nutrition (Gardiner, et al, 2008, p.S345). While there are preconception supplements available, your diet is the best place to start to provide your body with all the nutrients it needs to create a healthy environment for your future bub to be conceived.
These list of foods I have compiled are foods high in the nutrients and properties that not only encourage fertilisation, but protect the health of yourself and your baby during pregnancy and birth (Ramakrishnan, et al, 2012, p.285; Twigt, et al, 2012, p.2529).
One cup of chickpeas boasts one third of the minimum dietary folate requirements during pregnancy, but ensuring your levels are optimum before you conceive protects the DNA of your egg and growing foetus from mutation and malformation (including neural tube defects) from the point of conception and through the first trimester of pregnancy in particular (Ramakrishnan, et al, 2012, p.286). Chickpeas also provide calcium, protein, iron and magnesium.
Broccoli, like other leafy greens that need to be abundant in your diet every day, are another great source of folate, but also of choline, a nutrient essential for the strength of cell structure. This means broccoli has two ways it protects against neural tube defects in a growing foetus (Shaw, et al, 2009, p.716). It also offers calcium and Vitamin C when eaten raw. Why not try dipping raw florets into hummus for a crunchy treat?
During pregnancy, your need for iron is four times greater than that of an average adult (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2006, p.189). Kangaroo steak is a lean source of protein and rich in iron. 150g of kangaroo steak supplies around 20% of your daily need while pregnant, so best to give your body a rich supply before you conceive. Try coating your kangaroo in oregano, mint, lemon juice and garlic to give it more flavour before you cook it.
Fresh grapefruit juice
Chemicals known as furanocoumarins in grapefruit juice have been shown to inhibit the detoxification of progesterone in the liver, so drinking it daily may increase circulating progesterone, the hormone that prepares the body for pregnancy and stimulates the generation of blood vessels to support a growing foetus (Kane & Lipsky, 2000, p.939; Guo, et al, 2000, p.769-771; Trickey, 2011, p45).
Just three tablespoons of these wonderful seeds gives your body nearly five times the minimum amount of omega-3s required during pregnancy without the burden of heavy metals that can come from eating fish (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2006, p.38). Omega-3s have been shown to improve both the quality of human eggs and the length of the reproductive lifespan (Nehra, 2012, p.1046). They are also a great source of protein and calcium, essential nutrients for the growth of your baby. Why not swap your regular breakfast for a chia pudding to give your body these nutrients first thing in the morning? The best part about a chia pudding is that it takes only a couple of minutes to prepare the night before and it’s ready for you first thing the next morning.
Another fantastic protein source, two eggs will supply your body with calcium, folate, choline, omega-3s and 20% of your daily vitamin D requirement (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2006, p.132). Vitamin D deficiency of the mother during conception and pregnancy have been linked to the prevalence of respiratory infection and asthma later in childhood and may contribute to pregnancy complications, such as pre-eclampsia and low birth weight (Hollis & Wagner, 2013, p.134).
Don’t forget that you need a wide variety of food in your diet at all times. This is just a short list of foods that may be particularly beneficial when wanting to conceive a child. Aim for a diet full of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, good quality oils, raw nuts and seeds, legumes and plenty of water. The more colour on your plate, the better!
Gardiner, P, et al, 2008, ‘The Clinical Content of Preconception Care: Nutrition and Dietary Supplements’, American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynacology, S345-S356
Guo, L, Fukuda, K, Ohta, T & Yamazoe, Y, 2000, ‘Role of Furanocoumarin Derivatives on Grapefruit Juice-Mediated Inhibition of Human CYP3A Activity’, Drug Metabolism and Disposition, Vol.28, pp.766-771
Hollis, B & Wagner, C, 2013, ‘Vitamin D and Pregnancy: Skeletal Effects, Nonskeletal Effects, and Birth Outcomes’, Calcified Tissue International, vol.92, pp.128-139
Kane, G & Lipsky, J, 2000, ‘Drug-Grapefruit Juice Interactions’, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, vol.75, pp.933-942
National Health and Medical Research Council, 2006, ‘Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand’, Australian Government Department of Health and Aging
Nehra, D, 2012, ‘Prolonging the Female Reproductive Lifespan and Improving Egg Quality with Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acids’, Aging Cell, vol.11, pp.1046-1054
Ramakrishnan, U, et al, 2012, ‘Effect of Women’s Nutrition Before and During Early Pregnancy on Maternal and Infant Outcomes: A Systematic Review’, Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, vol.26, no.1, pp.285-301
Shaw, G, et al, 2009, ‘Choline and Risk of Neural Tube Defects in a Folate-Fortified Population’, Epidemiology, vol.20, no.5, pp.714-719
Trickey, R, 2011, ‘Women, Hormones & the Menstrual Cycle’, 3rd edn, Melbourne Holistic Health Group, Australia
Twigt, J, et al, 2012, ‘The Preconception Diet is Associated with the Chance of Ongoing Pregnancy in Women Undergoing IVF/ICSI Treatment’, Human Reproduction, vol.27, no.8, pp.2526-2531
About Miranda Partridge
Miranda Partridge is a nutritional medicine practitioner, self-love advocate and lifestyle blogger based in Brisbane. Through her website she shares tips, insights, thoughts about her wellness journey and her quirky and dorky sense of humour. Miranda's clinical practice, workshops, blog posts and videos are all about embracing your own unique qualities, enjoying the healthy habits you create and feeling empowered to live your best life without the need to aim for perfection. Just real food and real strategies for real people.
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