If your pre-mama plans include following a healthier diet, you might want to make it Mediterranean tonight. The whole foods in this healthy diet may help you with the big O (ovulation, that is).
Whole-grain pasta with tomatoes and fresh basil and a drizzling of olive oil? If you're TTC, you may want to chow down on this healthy meal—and throw in a fruit for dessert. As research from Spain shows, women who follow a Mediterranean-style diet—high in fruits, vegetables, healthy oils, lean proteins, and whole grains—are less likely to have trouble getting pregnant. The secret? Whole foods typically eaten as part of a Mediterranean diet don't raise blood sugar as much as processed and refined grain foods. And keeping blood sugar levels steady, say experts, is key to preventing insulin resistance, or "pre-diabetes", which can disrupt ovulation.
"Insulin has other functions in the body," says Dr. Jorge Chavarro, a Harvard School of Public Health researcher (via Reuters Health). "It also regulates a number of hormones, in particular the amount of hormones needed for ovulation which is essential for reproduction."
Rich in so many of the vitamins and minerals you (and your baby-to-be) will need to stay nourished during pregnancy, foods commonly consumed as part of a Mediterranean diet include tomatoes, spinach, olive oil, chickpeas, whole grain pasta, rice, fish, and chicken. These foods are less sugary than processed foods, notes Dr. Chavarro, but certain ingredients in these foods also play a special role in keeping hormone levels balanced and healthy.
"The Mediterranean diet contains nutrients that help your body clear sugar from the bloodstream while using less insulin to do this job. This makes it easier for the body to keep the balance of reproductive hormones," says Dr. Chavarro.
To track the effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on fertility, Spanish researchers looked at over 2,000 women, some with fertility problems and others who had already become pregnant and given birth. When women's fertility and eating habits were matched up, only 17 percent women who meticulously followed a Mediterranean-style diet said they'd experienced trouble getting pregnant, while 26 percent of women who followed the diet least closely—and instead ate more processed foods and fatty meats—ended up with fertility problems.
It may be time to dig out your grandma's recipe for spanikopita. Boosting chances for a baby by about 10 percent—while eating lots of healthy foods in the process? We'll take that! (And your grandma's recipe!)