What to Eat to Conceive in the UAE
Alice Sabounji, a dietitian at Danat Al Emarat Hospital for Women & Children in the UAE looks at which foods to eat to help you to conceive…
What changes should a woman make to her diet in order to conceive?
Following a healthy diet which includes high fibre foods, fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins can help women achieve a healthy weight and provide the nutrients needed to create a safe environment for the baby.
Are there any specific foods that help with conception?
These are some of the nutrients required to improve a woman’s chances of getting pregnant:
• Whole grains
Whole grains are packed with fibres and vitamins. Fibres can help stabilise your blood sugar and insulin levels, which can improve fertility. Instead of white rice, white bread and semolina pastas, choose their brown counterparts: brown rice, brown bread and wholewheat pasta.
• Vegetable protein
Research has shown that switching from animal (beef, chicken) to vegetable protein (beans, nuts) can highly decrease the risk of ovulatory infertility, the inability to produce healthy baby-making eggs.
• Iron-rich foods
Iron is linked to proper placental development by providing oxygen. It is believed that having sufficient amounts of iron in the body makes women more fertile. Sources: lentils, spinach, sesame seeds, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds (raw), garbanzo beans, navy beans, molasses and beef
• Unsaturated vegetable oils
Vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and cold-water fish such as salmon can improve insulin sensitivity, regulate blood sugar and cool inflammation which is beneficial when a woman is trying to conceive.
What foods should women stay away from in order to easily conceive?
Although a clear link between coffee and in fertility has yet to be established, having too much caffeine has been found to affect fertility. It is ok to have some in moderation, but no more than 200 mg/day. This is the equivalent of two mugs of instant coffee or three mugs of tea. Caffeine can also be found in chocolate, colas and some energy drinks.
Also known as hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils, trans-fats can be found in processed and fried products.
• High-mercury fish
A heavy metal found in fish, mercury can accumulate in the body and affect fertility. However, women should not stop including fish in their diet as it is also a high source of omega-3 fatty acids which are important for a healthy pregnancy. It is recommended to have eight ounces/week of fish that is low in mercury. Fish that is high in mercury and should be avoided include swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, tuna and shark.
Do vitamins play a role in helping women conceive?
Vitamins are crucial to the development and proper functioning of the reproductive system either through enhancing the maturity of organs or regulating sex hormones. Ideally, a healthy diet should include an array of vitamins from different food sources, but sometimes our diets are far from being perfect so a vitamin supplement as prescribed by the doctor may be required.
• Vitamin D
This very popular vitamin is essential for ovarian cell health and the production of sex hormones. Sources: Wild salmon (fresh, canned), mackerel (not king), sardines, herring, milk (fatfree, 1% low-fat), soy milk, fortified yogurt (fat-free, lowfat) and egg yolks
• Vitamin E
Vitamin E plays a role in the formation and maintenance of the placenta. Sources: Sunflower seeds, almonds, olives, spinach, papaya and dark leafy greens
If a woman is looking to conceive, should she take folic acid supplements? Folic acid is one of the first vitamins that doctor and dietitians recommend for women in childbearing. Ideally, it is better to start taking it at least three months before trying to conceive. It is needed to prevent neural tube defects, which develop only three to four weeks after conception. Sources of folate: liver, lentils, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, asparagus, spinach, black beans, navy beans, kidney beans and collard greens
How important is maintaining a healthy weight t o a woman’s efforts in conceiving?
Maintaining a healthy weight is the most important factor when it comes to increasing your chances of getting pregnant. Weight extremes can be the cause of around 30% of infertility cases. Having a low Body Mass Index (BMI <18.5) means low fat storage, which can lead to low estrogen levels and irregular menstrual cycles. As for overweight or obese women (BMI >25), they can face fertility problems caused by hormonal imbalances and problems with ovulation. However, research has found that if these women lost only 5% of their weight, they could highly improve their fertility. Following a healthy meal plan helps in maintaining a healthy body weight (BMI 19-24.9) and supplies the body with the essential nutrients in preparation for a healthy pregnancy.