The celebrity baby bump excitement continues to flourish – at least it does here in Los Angeles! Hollywood stars seem to defy the clock with arms of steel and fresh, flawless faces, but they also seem to defy the clock when it comes to fertility. From Selma Hayek and Madonna to Uma Thurman and Geena Davis, these baby mommas go against the standard, conceiving well after the age of 35 - what many consider the optimal mommy cap.
Over the last few decades, women have been waiting longer to start having children. In 1970, the average age of a first-time mother was 21. By 2009, the average age jumped to 25.1 and, due to growing career opportunities, marriage later in life, and a number of other factors, that number is only on the rise.
Unforutnately, this also means a higher incidence of infertility issues. These can stem from a variety of reasons and finding the root cause is key. Blood work to detect hormone imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, heavy metal toxicity, and food intolerances/allergies, along with an ultrasound to see if there's an underlying physical condition may be good places to start. It is also important for your partner to get a check up as well.
Eating a healthy diet filled with a variety of plant-based foods promotes normal ovulatory function, balances hormones, and keeps you in a healthy “fertility zone” weight -- all of which support conception. Diet, however, cannot mend any of the physical impediments that can cause infertility.
Looking for the best whole foods that'll promote conception? Here are five fertility foods that shine above the rest.
1. Maitake mushrooms
A small study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine shows that consuming maitake may help induce ovulation. While the exact mechanism is not yet understood, they believe it may be related to maitake’s insulin-glucose regulating properties.
2. Avocado - A study funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that these fruits along with olive oil, seeds and nuts have been helpful for women trying to conceive through in vitro fertilization (IVF). A Mediterranean diet high in these monounsaturated fats are important for egg and fetal development. Next time you see an avocado, notice the resemblance to a pregnant belly with a seed inside!
3. Sweet potato and yams - These tubers contain antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene to help protect against cellular damage and assist with implanting a fertilized egg. Their high fiber content positively affects blood sugar, as well as helps reduce inflammation and the accumulation of bad estrogens, all of which are important factors when dealing with fertility.
4.Leafy Greens- Alkalizing green veggies supply the body with important vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Dandelion greens, spinach, mustard greens, collards, Swiss chard, and parsley are all great sources of iron and fiber to help prevent anemia and help rid the body of any toxins. Remember to include a source of vitamin C to enhance absorption of iron.
5. Figs -Figs contain two important minerals: iron and calcium. These are shared with the baby during pregnancy and should be consumed in preparation for the increase in red blood cells and the development of your baby’s bones and organs. These sacred fruits were believed by ancient Greeks and Romans to enhance fertility simply because of their resemblance to the female ovaries.
6. Lentils and Beans- These legumes are rich in folic acid, a B vitamin that has been emphasized for mothers-to-be for quite some time. In addition to the prevention of neural tube defects, folic acid helps reduce the risk of ovulatory failure. Lentils and beans are also excellent plant-based protein sources that provide ample amounts of this macronutrient so you can eat less meat – a potential risk factor for infertility. They also contain zinc, a mineral shown to reduce the chances of miscarriage, balance hormones, and help with egg development and implantation.
7. Wild salmon – Omega-3 fatty acids and other essential fatty acids are key components of a fertility diet. Include low mercury fish, such as wild salmon, fresh water trout, and canned light tuna up to two times per week. Other omega-3 sources include chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnutsand flax.
8. Whole milk - Analysis from the Nurse’s Health Study shows that 1-2 servings per day of full-fat dairy – think organic plain Greek yogurt without added sugar or organic whole milk – may help balance sex hormones in a way that positively affects ovulation and conception. If you drink milk, switching to whole milk products temporarily may help improve your chances of becoming pregnant. Once you conceive, it is advised to return to dairy-free alternatives or reduced-fat organic dairy to help prevent weight gain.
Still looking for more options?
Check out the passion-inducing foods (including a few that provide benefits for fertility) in Blasting for Sexual Health.
Finally, check out the Top 5 Thigns to Avoid for a Healthy Pregnancy.
Not only are these good to avoid during pregnancy, but also good to avoid prior to conception. In addition to these, steer clear of trans fats, excessive animal proteins and processed or sweetened carbs and sodas, as these have been shown to contribute to ovulatory infertility.