Your nutritional needs change as you age. Choosing healthful foods can help prepare your body and support hormone regulation for pregnancy.
Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, M.S., RDN, CDCES, LDN, NASM-WFS CPT
National Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Your nutrition and exercise habits can affect your endocrine system and the hormones it produces to aid in fertility and menopause. A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you create nutritious meals that include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy or non-dairy sources of calcium.
Being physically active throughout one’s life can keep your weight in check, which helps decrease the risk of developing chronic diseases such as gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes. An RDN who specializes in women’s nutrition and fitness can help create a plan that’s right for you.
Beneficial pregnancy nutrients
If you plan to become pregnant, your body will need adequate amounts of the B-vitamin folate, or another form of it called folic acid, which helps prevent neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida.
Many breads, cereals, and grains are fortified with folic acid, and numerous fruits and vegetables are reliable sources of folate. Because this nutrient is so important prior to conception, it is recommended that individuals planning to become pregnant take a daily supplement that provides 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid in addition to consuming foods that provide folate.
Incorporate foods with omega 3s such as fatty fish, walnuts, and ground flaxseed, as well as dietary sources of antioxidants which are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Consider following a Mediterranean-style diet that includes foods rich in dietary fiber, monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, and higher amounts of protein from plant-based sources, which may aid in fertility.
Eat foods with fiber to help your gut, which some research suggests may help regulate estrogen levels and potentially influence hormonal disorders, but more research is needed.
Include foods with iodine, selenium, iron, and zinc, which all play a role in thyroid health and may influence fertility. Sources of iodine include dairy products, eggs, seafood and seaweed, but the amount of iodine in these foods can vary. You can also get selenium, iron, and zinc from seafood, dairy, and eggs as well as a variety of other foods such as beans, nuts, and seeds. Your healthcare provider might recommend a supplement or multivitamin depending on your food intake, or if you are diagnosed with a nutrient deficiency.