Mediterranean Diet for Fertility

The Mediterranean diet is well known for its health effects, but did you know it could also help your fertility? It’s true! Scientists have known for decades that following the Mediterranean diet is associated with a whole host of positive health benefits. And now we know that one of those benefits is improved fertility outcomes. Keep reading to learn why you should consider trying the Mediterranean diet if you’re trying to conceive. 

About the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional foods eaten by people in the Mediterranean region. These typically include whole grains, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, herbs, beans, and legumes. While it also incorporates small amounts of dairy, lean protein sources, and occasional red meat, the Mediterranean diet is mostly plant-based. 

The Mediterranean diet also traditionally includes red wine, though we recommend abstaining from alcohol while trying to conceive. Alcohol may negatively impact your fertility, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) often develop before you receive a positive pregnancy test. Crucially, children born with FASD often suffer lifelong health effects. 

What Makes the Mediterranean Diet Healthy

Many of us were raised on a Western diet with plenty of red meat, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fat. Unfortunately, basing our meals around meat, white potatoes, and soft drinks isn’t the healthiest diet, and is linked to a host of health problems, including many that impact your fertility. 

By contrast, the Mediterranean diet mostly consists of nutritious foods, like olive oil, whole grains, fish, and an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and legumes. When you follow a Mediterranean diet, you’re not clogging your arteries with saturated fat and cholesterol, overloading your body with sugar and refined carbohydrates, or depriving your body of the fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients it needs. Instead, the Mediterranean diet helps lower inflammation in your body, regulate your blood sugar, balance your hormones, and reduce oxidative stress. Plus, it helps you maintain a healthy weight.

The Mediterranean Diet and Improved Fertility

Many conditions that adversely affect your fertility, such as obesity, polycystic ovarian syndrome, diabetes, and hormonal imbalances are improved by a switch to a Mediterranean diet.

Its anti-inflammatory effects are directly beneficial to your fertility, too. Following the Mediterranean diet for fertility has been shown to help regulate the menstrual cycle, improve sperm quality, and increase chances of successful embryo implantation. 

Following a Mediterranean Diet May Improve Your Chances of Successful IVF

The Mediterranean diet isn’t always enough to help patients conceive naturally. After all, there are many causes of infertility, and not all of them are related to diet and lifestyle choices. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still beneficial! In fact, studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet may improve your chances of successful in vitro fertilization (IVF). 

This is partially due to anti-inflammatory effects, although specific nutrients abundant in the Mediterranean diet also seem to help. For example, omega-3 fatty acids, DHEA, and COQ-10 appear to be helpful for women who’ve had poor ovarian response in the past and for couples who’ve struggled with poor embryonic development. Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to fertility treatments, but since the Mediterranean diet is associated with better health and better fertility outcomes, it’s definitely worth trying. 

The Mediterranean Diet Lowers Your Risk of Some Pregnancy Complications

In addition to the many reasons discussed here in favor of adopting the Mediterranean diet, you can add lowering your risk of some pregnancy complications to the list. Gestational diabetes and preeclampsia are both serious pregnancy complications that can endanger both your health and that of your baby. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of developing these conditions.

Further, following a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of preeclampsia even more in Black women and women over age 35. That’s especially notable because these are two of the groups most at risk for developing preeclampsia. 

How to Follow a Mediterranean Diet for Fertility

Are you ready to try following a Mediterranean diet for fertility? That’s great! Every step you take toward improving your health and giving your body the nutrition it needs also helps improve your fertility. To get started, we always recommend discussing dietary changes with your doctor or nutritionist to address your specific needs.  

But in general, following a Mediterranean diet is easy. Start by swapping refined carbohydrates, like white bread and white rice, for whole grains, such as brown rice, oats, and whole-grain bread. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes. And enjoy healthy fats, like olive oil and avocados. 

If you eat a lot of meat, you’ll need to cut back. Fish and poultry can be eaten a few times per week, but red meat should be eaten sparingly. Dairy, like yogurt and feta cheese, can be enjoyed in moderation. And don’t forget to season your food with healthy herbs, like basil and rosemary.

Healthy–and tasty–foods you may enjoy on a Mediterranean diet for fertility include Greek salad and whole-grain bread with olive oil; salmon with wild rice and steamed vegetables; or hummus with crudités. A quick online search will also help you find tons of delicious recipes. 

At RISE Fertility, we’ll discuss your diet and other lifestyle factors as part of your comprehensive care. It’s just one more way we RISE. Schedule a consult today to learn more!

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