When you’re gearing up to get pregnant there’s a lot to consider, and high on the list is what to eat and drink before, during and after your pregnancy. Most sources agree that the Mediterranean diet is not only the healthiest diet for humans in general, but it turns out it’s also the healthiest diet for potential parents, whether you’re facing fertility treatments or conceiving naturally.

What is the Mediterranean diet, and why is it so great?

The Mediterranean diet doesn’t refer to one specific diet, but instead refers to the diets of several countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, which were noted as having far less heart disease than other parts of the world as far back as the 1950’s. Since then, numerous studies have unanimously confirmed that these eating patterns, or diets, are the healthiest for the human body.

While these diets may differ somewhat in their flavor profiles or specific vegetables, they have the following common factors:

  • Plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Plenty of whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds, spices, herbs
  • Olive oil instead of butter or other fats/oils
  • Moderate amounts of full-fat dairy (like milk and yogurt)
  • Moderate amounts of eggs, fish and poultry

Sanctioned by Science

The American Heart Association sanctions the Mediterranean diet as a healthy lifestyle, and also sanctions the DASH diet, which meets the criteria for a healthy human diet. 

But it’s important to note that the AHA does not endorse what it calls “fad” diets “such as KETO, Atkins, paleo, interval, zone and Whole30,” which do not meet AHA’s science-based criteria for a healthy eating pattern. If you’re currently on one of these diets, it’s time to switch.

Top Tips for Fertility Nutrition

While the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center also sanctions the Mediterranean diet for improving fertility, they also mention the importance of other nutrients important for fertility:

  • Antioxidants: found in foods like walnuts, antioxidants can improve fertility in both men and women by decreasing the free radicals in the body. Free radicals can damage both egg and sperm. 
  • Vitamins and minerals: while they’re found in the food we eat, taking a multivitamin can lower your chances of ovulatory infertility, and adds a layer of security to ensure you’re getting all the essential micronutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy. Folate is especially important. 
  • Healthy fats: eating healthy fats and avoiding trans fats – hydrogenated oils found in margarine, fried and processed foods, baked goods – will greatly improve your health and your fertility.
  • High fat dairy: studies show that women who include high fat dairy products like full fat milk and yogurt in their diets were 27 percent less likely to have fertility issues.
  • Complex carbohydrates: swap empty carbs like sugar for low-burning, protein packed complex carbs. Skip the white bread, white rice and pasta, which are all full of refined carbs. Instead, include brown rice, whole grain bread and crackers, whole grains like oats, quinoa and polenta, and include more beans and legumes, full of both complex carbs and protein.
  • Fiber: an important element for your digestive system, fiber helps your fertility by ridding your body of excess waste, including excess hormones lingering in the intestines. If you’re following a Mediterranean diet, you’re already including plenty of fiber in the form of fruits and vegetables, legumes and beans, nuts and seeds. 
  • Choose healthy protein sources: research shows that reducing your intake of animal proteins and increasing your intake of vegetable proteins can help increase fertility. Choose nuts, beans or other vegetable-based protein instead of meat. Another healthy protein source: low mercury fish, such as salmon.

Where to find the best recipes

Wonderful sources online for healthy recipes to support your fertility, including the Fertility Finders recipe database. 

The Mediterranean Dish offers recipes for every meal, including shopping lists and ideas.

The Fertility Kitchen  has tips and recipes to keep you happy on a healthy diet. Check out their Carrot Cake Oats

The switch is easy! With a few easy additions, you’ll be on your way to the healthiest diet possible.

Sources:

National Library of Medicine, The influence of Diet on Fertility and the Implications for Public Health Nutrition in the United States (7/31/2018) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6079277/ 

American Heart Association, What is the Mediterranean Diet? (1//2020)

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/mediterranean-diet

Mayo Clinic, Mediterranean diet for Heart Health (7/23/2021) https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801 

The Mediterranean Dish https://www.themediterraneandish.com/best-mediterranean-diet-recipes/

The Fertility Kitchen https://thefertilitykitchen.co.uk/food

Healthline, 16 Natural Ways to Boost Fertility (8/13/2020) https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-fertility-tips-to-get-pregnant