Eat lots of brussel sprouts this Christmas if you are trying to have a baby! And yes for the diets of both partners. Brussels sprouts are very much a ‘love them or hate them food’ but according to a recent article in the Daily Mail:
“Trying for a baby? Eat Brussels sprouts: Vegetable helps boost fertility in both men and women.
~ 9% of babies are conceived in December – more than any other month
~ This is partly down to the parties and increased alcohol consumption
~ Expert says may also be because we eat more Brussels sprouts at this time
~ Sprouts are high in folic acid which boosts fertility and reduces miscarriage and birth defect risk”
Okay, so it’s the time of year where you expect to see this type of story in the media. But it’s an important topic for those trying for a baby and diet plays a very important role in preconception planning; and certainly brussel sprouts would be recommended as part of the diet.
In a perfect world for both mums and dads to-be a lifestyle with no alcohol, minimal caffeine, good exercise and a diet rich in fruit and vegetables would be some important tips to boost the chances of pregnancy. Below we take a closer look at some foods commonly associated with preconception planning; especially foods popular at Christmas.
Brussel Sprouts & Leafy Greens
As noted above ‘sprouts are high in folic acid’ and folic acid is a water-soluble ‘B-Complex’ vitamin; you will also see this vitamin termed as Folate. Folate is derived from the term “foliage”, which indicates where this vitamin is found: in green, leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach) as well as oranges, beans, rice, brewer’s yeast and liver.
A number of studies provide evidence of a link between folate intake and sperm abnormalities and hence a suitable and regular intake of folate rich foods for dads to be is a good idea.
Folic acid is vital for the baby during early pregnancy and in particular it is needed by the baby for the development of the neural tubes. Appropriate nutrition is essential for the foetus from day one and often women are unaware that they are pregnant until days or weeks later. Folic Acid has a number of approved health claims and this includes ‘Folic Acid/Folate contributes to normal maternal tissue growth during pregnancy’.
The UK Department of Health current recommendation is that “Women who are planning a pregnancy or might become pregnant, or who are already pregnant, should take a folic acid supplement and vitamin D supplement”
If you are planning to take a supplement with folic acid we would recommend Methylfolate (5MTHF) – this is the most stable, safe and bioeffective supplement form of Folate and it is ideal as a supplement for pregnant women and women planning pregnancy.
Brazil nuts are an excellent food source of the mineral Selenium. Selenium has a number of approved health claims and this includes “Selenium contributes to normal spermatogenesis” so we can see its importance for preconception planning.
Indeed suitable Selenium levels are important for men and women at all stages of life. Selenium is most commonly associated with immune support and is necessary for the production of ‘prostaglandins’ and as such plays an important role in maintaining male fertility and reproductive functions.
Other good food sources of selenium are brewer’s yeast, meat, fish and shellfish, grains, cereals, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, radishes, garlic, onions, molasses and dairy products.
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent and healthy natural source of the mineral Zinc. Zinc has a number of approved health claims including ‘Zinc Contributes to normal fertility and reproduction’ and ‘Zinc Contributes to the maintenance of normal serum testosterone concentrations’. So this is another mineral important for preconception planning for both partners, and in particular men.
Soil exhaustion and the processing of food adversely affect the zinc value of the food we eat today. Other foods with usually good Zinc levels are whole-grain products, brewer’s yeast, wheat bran, wheat germ, herrings and squash seeds.
Both pumpkin and squash seeds are tasty as a healthy snack in moderate quantities and also add flavor and texture to salads by sprinkling some of the seeds on top of lettuce etc.
A recent study in the journal Biology of Reproduction suggests that “Eating around two handfuls of walnuts a day improves sperm health in young men. Sperm shape, movement and vitality improved in men who added walnuts to their diet over 12 weeks. The fatty acids found in these nuts are thought to have helped sperm development. It is not known if this would help improve male fertility.” (BBC News)
Walnuts are a good source of the ‘healthy fat’ alpha-linolenic-acid (ALA) and a popular vegetarian and vegan alternative to fish and fish oils for people wanting a good Omega 3 intake. Walnuts also contain good levels of minerals and amino acids.
‘Fruit intake linked to smooth pregnancy’
“A study by London-based scientists who monitored more than 5,600 first-time mothers shows importance of diet. A high intake of fruit in the month leading up to conception results in a higher chance of an expectant mother having an uncomplicated pregnancy.
That’s according to new research from scientists at King’s College in London, who monitored more than 5,600 first-time mothers from the UK, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland.” As reported by Fresh Produce Journal (link to full article below).
Needless to say we would completely encourage a diet rich in fruit and vegetables for everyone; and especially for those planning a baby and mothers-to-be. Fruits and vegetables are rich in natural antioxidants and plant nutrients (flavonoids and carotenoids) and there has been recent research into diets high in fruit and vegetables and improved fertility.
These are just a small selection of foods that are commonly associated with preconception planning. There are of course many other food sources often cited as important to preconception and pregnancy, for example Vitamin D, Iron for women and Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids.
We provide links below to two of our earlier blog articles on preconception nutrients and folate and pregnancy. These articles cover a wider range of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids deemed important. They also note the types of vitamin and mineral supplements available for men and women to support preconception and pregnancy.
A happy and healthy Christmas everyone!
If you have any questions regarding this article, preconception or pregnancy planning or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time.