Mamahood & Me

Preconception Super Nutrients

Preconception Super Nutrients

IMG_9217.JPG

A woman’s nutritional status during pregnancy depends a lot on the nutritional reserves built up during the period before she becomes pregnant. Those with deficiencies, even if they improve their diet once they are pregnant, are rarely able to make up the shortfall because of the growing demand of their baby, so maintaining good nutrition prior to conception is vital. 

All nutrients are important and they work together to help ensure that both the woman & man are in optimum health to conceive a baby. Scientific research has shown, however, that there are a few ‘super-nutrients’  which can greatly impact on fertility & conceiving a healthy baby:

Iron

Iron helps to transport oxygen throughout the blood and ensure good energy levels

Insufficient iron in the diet can lead to anovulation. Iron plays an important role in foetal growth and neurodevelopment. It is also one of the most common nutrition deficiencies within women of child bearing age! 

Best food sources:

Grass fed red meat, apricots, spinach, raw sesame seeds and asparagus

Zinc

Zinc is necessary for the healthy function of every cell in the body and plays a major role in protecting DNA. Research has shown it is a key mineral in both male & female fertility - sperm can't swim without it! Irregular or shortened periods may be a sign of zinc deficiency in women.  

Best food sources: 

Grass fed beef, lamb, raw pumpkin seeds, lentils and quinoa.

Selenium

An antioxidant that protects the female egg and male sperm from free radical damage. Selenium can help improve low sperm counts in men. 

Best food sources: 

Sardines, brazil nuts, shiitake mushrooms, raw sunflower seeds, linseed/flaxseed & egg yolks

CoQ10

CoQ10 is an important anti-oxidant that helps to protect cells from free radical damage & protects DNA. In studies CoQ10 has also been shown to increase egg health and sperm health and motility. 

Best food sources:  

Extra virgin olive oil, raw peanuts, grass fed beef, brassicas i.e cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower

CoQ10, a vitamin-like nutrient, is naturally produced in the body if a blood test shows you to be deficient then supplementation may be the best option because you would need to eat vast amounts of foods containing this nutrient to achieve the recommended dose.

Methylfolate (folate)

Methylfolate helps prevent onset of neural tube defects such as spina bifida, cleft lips & congenital heart defects. Deficiency in folate can lead to slow foetal growth, low birth weight and other complications.

Best food sources: 

Lentils, asparagus, spinach, black beans, cauliflower, beetroot

NB Folate is part of the important vitamin B complex which all work together. In addition folate works specifically with B12 to ensure baby’s genetic codes are intact. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a very significant role in fertility, in women it helps regulate menstrual cycles and improves the likelihood of successful conception and in men vitamin D improves the quality of the sperm. 

Best food sources: 

Oily fish such as mackerel, egg yolks, shiitake mushrooms but the best source of all is the sun. Practicing safe sunbathing is essential - current advice is that adults can have 10-15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to their arms and legs 2-3 times per week. In the absence of sun it is worth taking a vitamin D3 supplement.

Vitamin  E

Vitamin E increases cervical mucus in women which is essential for helping sperm stay alive. Low levels of vitamin E are usually found in men with fertility problems. Vitamin E can help improve sperm motility & quality.

Best food sources: 

Raw sunflower seeds, raw almonds, spinach, broccoli, olives.

Vitamin C 

For women vitamin C can help regulate menstrual cycles and thicken the lining of the uterus. For men vitamin C has been shown to dramatically improve sperm quality and mobility

Best food sources:

Goji berries, kiwi, grapefruit, peppers & broccoli.

Astaxanthin

This potent antioxidant supports immune function, protects damage to DNA, improves fertility & increases both sperm strength and count

Best food sources:

Wild Atlantic or sockeye salmon.

A supplement derived from H. pluvialis, the same green algae that fish  get it from is an alternative

Omega 3 fatty acids

There are two essential fatty acids omega 3 & omega 6  which both have to come from our diet. For optimum health they should be consumed in a ratio of 1 part omega 3 to 3 parts omega 6 but our modern western diet has skewed this and we consume far too much omega 6 which leads to a whole range of health issues including infertility.

Two important omega 3 fatty acids (EPA) & (DHA), were found, in a recent study, to be low in infertile women in addition these long chain fatty acids help lessen chronic inflammation-related fertility problems for example endometriosis.

In men omega-3 levels are known to affect total sperm count, sperm motility, and general sperm health.

Best food sources of Omega 3:

Wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, seaweeds. Linseed, walnuts and hemp are a good source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) which can be converted albeit not always very efficiently, to DHA.