Health and lifestyle are important factors to consider when trying to fall pregnant or undergoing fertility treatments. There are many factors that can help improve male and female fertility, such as reducing stress levels, monitoring ovulation, limiting alcohol consumption, and eating a healthy diet.
Most people are quick to know what foods you can and can’t eat whilst pregnant—but when it comes to trying to conceive, ensuring that you’re eating the right diet can help get your body baby-ready. If you’re trying to conceive, supplements can help—so can a well-balanced diet with certain types of food.
We speak with Dr. Ann Tan, Medical Director at Virtus Fertility Centre, Singapore as she provides her professional feedback on four delicious recipes Stefanie Valakas APD, a nutritionist who specialises in women’s health, fertility, and pregnancy nutrition, has curated that you might want to consider swapping your chicken and rice for.
#1 Maple, Ginger & Sesame Salmon & Vegetable Tray Bake
Omega-3 fatty acids play a key role in any healthy diet, but there’s also been research to show this helps to protect egg health as women age. These long-chain healthy fats found in cold-water fish and some plant foods. The Omega-3s from marine sources, such as salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are much better absorbed by the body than those that are from plants such as walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds. The Australian Heart Foundation recommends that we eat at least two to three servings of fish per week, which is equivalent to around 250-500 mg of marine-sourced Omega-3s per day. However, many Singaporeans today struggle to eat well-balanced, healthy diets due to their hectic schedules.
“Fertility demands that both the sperm and egg are healthy, and various studies have shown that levels of Omega-3s have been found to correlate with improved sperm morphology and motility. Besides the benefits for the sperm, Omega-3 fatty acids also appear to be helpful for female-related fertility issues, such as aiding to prolong reproductive function into an advanced maternal age,” she says.
#2 Garlic Prawn & Cashew Nut Stir-Fry with Buckwheat Noodles
New research has shown zinc is released when the sperm and egg meet, playing a role in the fertilisation and embryo development. However, most women don’t get enough of this essential mineral. Seafood is a great source of zinc, especially shellfish, as well as some plant sources such as legumes and beans, nuts and seeds such as cashews, and other meats such as red meat and chicken.
Dr. Ann Tan explains: “Zinc plays a vital role in many body functions as it is required for normal functioning of many enzymes and supports cellular function and division. Hence it plays and an important role in both egg and sperm development. Zinc is also well known to improve our immunity to infections, which negatively impacts any reproductive cycle. An adequate intake of zinc is thus important for both partners.”
#3 Lentil Lasagne with Rocket, Strawberry & Feta Salad
Folate, the naturally occurring B vitamin found in food, and folic acid, the form of the vitamin found in most supplements, is key in the development and protection of genetic material and in the prevention of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. It’s been widely recommended by experts worldwide to boost your folate levels 1 to 3 months before you conceive. In addition to folic acid supplements, foods rich in folate include green leafy vegetables such as spinach, rocket, as well as lentils, strawberries, and avocado.
Dr. Ann Tan says, “Certain nutrients play a vital role in the reproductive system—and what we eat is an important way to get those nutrients. While folic acid will not help you to conceive, it is widely accepted that folic acid is vital for supporting healthy neural tube development in the very early stages of pregnancy. For this reason, it’s considered an essential supplement for every woman’s conception and pregnancy routine.”
#4 Healthy Berry Crumble
This delicious dessert is rich in antioxidants that help fight inflammation, free radicals damage to the genetic material found in both eggs and sperm. Antioxidants aren’t just great for fertility, but also help reduce your risk of heart disease and even some kinds of cancers! Antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables, as these are the plants’ defence system against bugs, and so they give us these amazing gifts to help our bodies fight disease and damage to our cells! Antioxidants are found in all plant foods, but the richest sources are berries, cherries, grapes, herbs and spices, artichokes, beetroot, spinach, red cabbage, kale, beans, and so much more!
“While there is no high-quality evidence that antioxidant directly increases a woman’s chances of having a baby, but antioxidants help cancel out the effects of too many free radicals. Excess free radicals lead to a condition called oxidative stress, which negatively impacts both female and male fertility,” she adds.