You get another negative pregnancy test, grab your phone, and head straight to Google. You start searching for fast ways to get pregnant and end up down a black hole of fertility nutrition advice. Sound familiar?
When you’re dealing with infertility, it’s normal to want to find that one piece of the puzzle that you’ve been missing, the one that will help you finally get pregnant. The trouble is that there is so much, often conflicting fertility nutrition information out there, and so much of it isn’t backed by science.
In fact, there are a lot of myths surrounding fertility nutrition that may not be helping your fertility at all. Instead, they may be holding you back from enjoying your morning cup of coffee, a Friday night cocktail, or date night with your partner.
3 of the Biggest Nutrition Myths in the Fertility World
Myth #1: You need to eat a low-carb or keto-style diet for fertility.
Low carbohydrate and keto-style diets have become wildly popular in recent years. They claim to be the ultimate solution when it comes to pretty much all health ailments. But low-carb and keto diets tend to be difficult to maintain for a long period of time, particularly because they are very restrictive and often don’t allow room for you to enjoy the simple things in life.
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Research actually shows that 95% of diets fail when we look at long-term maintenance. So, while you may be thinking that you may only need to follow it for a short while until you get pregnant, there are some other concerns to keep in mind.
For example, restrictive diets like low-carb or keto can lead to overeating and binge eating. This style of eating can also take away your body’s primary energy source, carbohydrates! When your body isn’t getting the type of energy it needs, it uses other nutrients or energy stores to get the energy it needs to function, which is often muscle or fat. When your body is running on fat as its primary energy source, it goes into ketosis. Ketosis is not the natural energy pathway your body is designed to follow, and it can put additional unnecessary stress on the body. We also don't know its long-term effects on fertility.
So, what can you do instead? Eat carbs; just choose them wisely! Choosing higher fiber carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and pairing them with protein or fat helps your body get the nutrients it needs while balancing blood sugar to optimize your fertility.
Myth #2: You need to detox with a fertility cleanse.
Fertility cleanses claim to detoxify the body from harmful substances that could be impacting your fertility. But your body already has a detoxification system in your liver, kidneys, and digestive system. Even bodily functions like sweat can help rid your body of the things it can’t process. You don’t need to pay for a special cleanse or take extra supplements in order for your body to do this, even if you are taking extra hormones.
Myth #3: You need to completely avoid processed foods.
Processed food is anything that is modified from its original version. But here’s the thing: practically all of our foods are processed. Pre-cut veggies? Processed. Meat from the butcher? Processed. Butter? Processed. My point is that there are many processed foods that we consume on a daily basis that can be really helpful when it comes to making simple, healthy meals and snacks. These foods can help you get the nutrients that your body needs to support your fertility.
If spending all of your free time making everything from scratch because you are worried about processed ingredients is stressing you out, that is likely doing more harm than good when it comes to your fertility. Remember, your body is smart, even if it's not getting pregnant on your own terms. You can utilize nutrition to support and optimize your fertility while still enjoying all of the foods you like without guilt.
Susan Portz is a Registered Dietitian based in Wisconsin where she lives with her husband, dog, and cat. She is still on her journey to motherhood and is passionate about helping women break free from fertility diet culture. You can connect with Susan on Instagram @freedom.fertility.