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When a woman becomes pregnant, she often starts joking about “eating for two.” But what she consumes before she tries to conceive may have a hand in her ability to get pregnant—and to stay that way, according to Janine Higbie, MS, CNS, a board-certified nutritionist and founder of JH Wellness, a company that specializes in preconception, prenatal, and postpartum nutrition.
Infertility—which is clinically defined as failing to get pregnant within one year of trying—affects approximately one in six couples, and it isn’t only a female issue; male infertility plays a role in about half of couples seeking medical intervention.
In fact, three meta-analyses have documented downward trends in sperm concentration and total sperm count over the past eight decades, which coincides with the trends in worsening diet quality and increasing obesity. The study authors reported that “although there is strong and consistent evidence that [being] overweight and obesity play a significant role in maintaining semen quality and a couple’s fertility, there are no clear dietary guidelines for men.”
Higbie’s advice: “A modified Mediterranean diet is the best dietary approach for both men and women to support fertility, conception, and a healthy pregnancy.” The Mediterranean diet primarily consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, fish, and olive oil, making it rich in nutrients that support healthy sperm and egg development and fetal growth. Adds Higbie: “Because blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity are critical to fertility, I recommend focusing more on starchy vegetables and fiber-rich legumes and less on breads, rice, and pasta.”
The following foods fit the fertility-enhancing bill for you and/or your partner are looking to conceive. And for more, check out the 7 healthiest foods to eat right now.