Want to Get Pregnant? Eat More Protein!
If you're trying to give your preconception diet a healthy makeover, put more fish, chicken, and beans on the menu! As a new study shows, eating plenty of protein—and cutting back on carbs—could make it a little easier to get pregnant
If you’re trying to give your preconception diet a healthy makeover, put more fish, chicken, and beans on the menu! As a new study shows, eating plenty of protein—and cutting back on carbs—could make it a little easier to get pregnant.
How much protein are we talking about? At least 25 percent of a woman’s total daily caloric intake, say researchers from the Delaware Institute of Medicine, who tracked the diets of 120 women undergoing infertility treatments at a local IVF clinic. Among women who got at least one quarter of their daily calories from protein, 67 percent eventually became pregnant compared to 32 percent of women who ate less protein.
Benefiting the most, however, were women boosted their protein intake while simultaneously cutting back on carbs, say researchers. When infertile women in the study ate diets consisting of 25 percent or more of protein, but relatively few carbohydrates (less than 40 percent of total calories), a whopping 80 percent eventually became pregnant.
Fertility specialist and lead researcher, Jeffrey B. Russell, MD, was inspired to look into the diet of women undergoing IVF because he was curious why otherwise healthy women were having such a difficult time getting pregnant with fertility treatments. Being overweight has been shown to hurt fertility, but when he saw thinner women having trouble producing healthy embryos—with no obvious explanation why—he asked these patients to start keeping track of what they ate and how much. Looking over the food logs, it surprised him to see that the daily diets of some women consisted of more than 60 percent carbohydrate and 10 percent or less protein.
“Protein is essential for good-quality embryos and better egg quality, it turns out,” explains Dr. Russell, who now requires his female patients to follow a daily diet for pregnancy made up of 25 to 35 percent protein and 40 percent (or less) of carbs for three months before starting a round of IVF. His hope is that more protein will result in more healthy embryos—and in turn, a healthy, full-term pregnancy.
Sounds good, but why the limit on carbs? Eating too many carbohydrates, especially in the form of sugary processed foods and soft drinks, can lead to surging insulin levels in the body (insulin is the hormone responsible for driving blood sugar into cells to produce energy.) It’s known that making large amounts of the powerful hormone on a regular basis can affect the body’s ability to produce other hormones, including reproductive hormones. When women get enough protein in their diet, which is a naturally more filling nutrient, researchers think it may make it easier for them to avoid the lure of carb-laden processed foods—and the possibility of a hormonal imbalance.
As for “protein for pregnancy” success stories, Nicki Delorme, a 32-year old new mom living in the Washington DC area, thinks she may have one. Delorme explains that after deciding it was time to have a baby, she and her husband had tried for months to get pregnant, but nothing happened.
Until, that is, she changed what she was eating for breakfast.
“I wasn’t really thinking about my fertility, just good nutrition… I discovered whey protein and began making a shake with it every morning for breakfast, replacing the muffin and caramel mocha latte I would grab from the coffee shop before work. I estimate that changing my breakfast shaved at least 100 grams of carbs from my diet, but it also boosted my protein intake by about 30 grams.”
Delorme now wonders whether there really could be a connection making the switch to more protein and fewer carbs and becoming pregnant two months later.
“I am beginning to think that no way was this just a coincidence. When we’re ready for baby number two, I will definitely go back to drinking those shakes!”
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN