If you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s worth paying close attention to your diet. The foods you eat can have a big impact on your reproductive system. To figure out the ideal diet for women trying to conceive, Harvard researchers followed 18,000 women trying to get pregnant for eight years and recorded what they ate. They found some interesting correlations between food and fertility.

Here are some dietary changes you may want to make if you’re trying to conceive.

Cut out trans fat

The biggest threat to fertility that the Harvard researchers identified was trans fat. For every two percent increase in daily calories from trans fat, a woman’s chance of ovulatory infertility increased by a whopping 73 percent.

Eliminating trans fat from your diet can be tricky, because in the United States, food manufacturers are allowed to label a product as “zero trans fat” if it contains less than 0.5 grams per serving. This may seem insignificant, but because there is no safe level of trans fat, even a small amount is cause for concern. Watch out for these prepared foods, which usually contain trans fat. And remember that trans fat is naturally present in meat.

fertility, women's fertility

Replace meat with beans, peas and nuts

The Harvard study found that with each additional serving of unprocessed or processed meat (beef, pork, or poultry) per day, a woman’s risk of ovulatory infertility increased by 32 percent. Of all meats, the worst offender was poultry. For each additional serving of chicken or turkey per day, a woman’s risk of infertility increased by 50 percent.

In contrast, women who ate more plant-based proteins, like beans, peas, and nuts, had a significantly lower risk of ovulatory infertility. Scientists think this may be related to the fact that consuming meat increases our levels of IGF-1, a hormone that has been linked to cancer.

Increase your nonheme iron intake

The study also found that women who consumed more nonheme iron had a lower risk of infertility. Here, it’s important to clarify the difference between heme iron, the type of iron in meat, and nonheme iron, the type of iron in spinach, beans, peas and lentils. The researchers found that only nonheme iron consumption was correlated with increased fertility; heme iron was unrelated.

So, if you want to increase your chances of getting pregnant, try eating more iron-rich plant foods, or taking a nonheme iron supplement.

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Choose whole milk instead of skim

Interestingly, the Harvard researchers found that women who consumed low fat dairy foods like skim milk had a higher risk of infertility, while women who ate high fat dairy foods had a lower risk of infertility.

It’s unclear whether this is due to a particular quality of dairy fat, or if consuming more fat (that isn’t trans fat) generally improves fertility. There was another study which concluded that consuming dairy products dramatically increases the likelihood of conceiving twins. But this study did not record the difference between full fat and low fat dairy.

Switch soda for water or unsweetened tea

A separate study done in Denmark found that women who drank more soda had poorer fecundity rates than average, while women who drank tea had slightly better fecundity rates than average. The researchers admitted that these correlations could have been due to other lifestyle factors that they did not measure. However, there is certainly no harm in cutting out soda and switching to water or tea.

Getting pregnant often takes some time, but making the above changes may help you conceive more quickly. And keeping your body healthy will get your baby off to a great start.

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