April 7, 2014 -- intro: Let's talk about baby-making foods. No, not the aphrodisiacs that will get you and your sweetheart in the mood -- that part's on you (though it wouldn't hurt to flip through the "chocolate Viagra" chapter of my book “Eat It to Beat It”) -- but the foods linked to increased fertility in both men and women.
Infertility affects about 12 percent of couples, a statistic attributed partly by some studies to an increasingly Western-style diet, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Adding these five foods to shopping cart can help you to pivot away from heavily processed food choices, and find your path to optimal health, and perhaps, Babyville.
quicklist: 1 category: Food That Can Help Boost Fertility title: Walnuts url: text: Fertility discussions usually focus on women's aging ovaries, but we all know it takes two to tango. And research suggests that for men, a couple of handfuls of walnuts every day may be the ticket to stronger, faster, even prettier sperm.
The study printed in the journal Biology of Reproduction looked at the effect of added polyunsaturated fatty acids on the sperm health of 117 healthy men aged 21 to 35. Sure enough, those that ate 75 grams of Omega-3 rich walnuts (about 2/3 cup, or 2 man handfuls) experienced improvement in sperm vitality, motility, and morphology. The nut-free control group experienced no changes.
Most of us, men and women, can benefit from additional Omega 3s, so consider making walnuts a staple on your weekly grocery list.
quicklist: 2 category: Food That Can Help Boost Fertility title: Ice Cream url: text: Ladies, you can now add "reproductive health" to the list of reasons you need to keep the freezer stocked with ice cream.
A study published in the journal Human Reproduction suggests full-fat dairy may increase a woman's chances of ovulating. Researchers found that women enjoying a scoop of full-fat ice cream at least twice a week had a 38 percent lower risk of anovulatory infertility compared with women consuming ice cream less than once a week. Low-fat dairy, on the other hand, had the opposite effect.
The results may seem to contradict standard nutritional advice, but researchers suggest skimming the fat from dairy alters its balance of sex hormones in a way that could tip the scales against ovulation.
While more research is required into the relationship between dairy and fertility, you can check out a list of some of my favorite full-fat, minimally processed ice cream brands in “Eat It to Beat It.”
quicklist: 3 category: Food That Can Help Boost Fertility title: Carrots url: text: A study by Harvard researchers printed in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that produce rich in beta-carotene can improve sperm motility (its ability to swim toward an egg) by up to 8 percent. Carrots were singled out for their sperm-boosting properties.
Luteine, an antioxidant found in leafy greens, had a similar effect, according to the study. So make like Bugs Bunny and get snacking. When it comes to male fertility, that’s what’s up, doc!
quicklist: 4 category: Food That Can Help Boost Fertility title: Lentils url: text: An inexpensive form of vegetarian protein and fiber, lentils are also a rich source of iron, a mineral known to play a key role in reproductive health.
In a well-cited Harvard School of Health study, women who got most of their iron from plant sources reduced their risk of infertility by 40 percent. Moreover, the higher the dose of the iron supplements, the lower the risk. Women who took the highest doses, more than 41 milligrams a day, reduced their risk of ovulatory infertility by 62 percent. Iron from meat didn't show the same benefits.
While researchers don't recommend popping iron supplements as an aid to becoming pregnant, supplementing a well-balanced diet with a whole-food multivitamin may improve your overall health and, consequently, your baby-making prospects.
quicklist: 5 category: Food That Can Help Boost Fertility title: Spinach url: text: Get the man in your life to start channeling Popeye, and you may soon have a baby on board.
A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that supplemental folic acid and zinc to increase sperm counts in men with reduced fertility.
You can find sperm-boosting folic acid, the B9 vitamin, in leafy greens like spinach and kale. And lentils are a good source of zinc; one more reason to add them to your shopping list!
Dave Zinczenko, ABC News nutrition and wellness editor, is a New York Times No. 1 bestselling author. His latest book, "Eat It to Beat It!" is full of food swaps, meal plans and the latest food controversies. Sign up here for his free newsletter now!