If you’re ready to start a family, going plant-based is a great way to take care of yourself and improve your reproductive health at the same time. Typically, a plant-based diet means that most of your food comes from plants, not animals. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
You could be a vegan who avoids animal products altogether, you could be a flexitarian who occasionally eats some dairy and meat, or you could go somewhere in between. The point is to fill your plate with nutritious fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and plant proteins in a way that suits your lifestyle, needs and abilities.
Let’s take a look at how a whole-food, plant-based diet can be a key player in self-care and supporting your reproductive health all at the same time.
The Overall Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
A vegan and plant diet offers numerous self-care benefits for your overall health.
- Improved cardiovascular health and reduced blood pressure
- Improved mood and brain health
- Healthier weight management
- Lower risk of type-2 diabetes and easier management of existing diabetes symptoms
- Increased longevity due to a reduced risk of chronic disease
- Reduced risk of cancer
Following a Plant-Based Diet for Improved Reproductive Health
When you’re following a plant-based diet for improved reproductive health, you’ll want to prioritize vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. You can include organic dairy, meat, fish, and poultry occasionally if you want to. Avoid any processed or junk foods that are loaded with unhealthy ingredients that have little to no nutrition.
Following a plant-based diet is a great place to start when it comes to improving fertility because it’s rich in nutrients that support reproductive health. These include antioxidants, selenium, iron, iodine, zinc, B6, and folate. These nutrients are the building blocks of hormones and cells that play a key role in the reproductive health of both men and women.
This type of diet reduces inflammation and boosts your immune system, which can have positive effects on your reproductive health, too. Here’s a deeper look at the benefits of a plant-based diet for fertility.
Increased Antioxidant Intake
Plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices are naturally high in antioxidants which protect the body against oxidative stress. Antioxidants are beneficial for fertility health in both men and women.
In men, antioxidants can improve sperm count and quality. In women, antioxidants are essential for a healthy uterus and ovaries. They’re especially beneficial for women who are undergoing fertility treatment.
Reduced Risk of Anovulatory Infertility
Eliminating low-fat dairy foods from your plant-based diet is especially important for reducing your risk of anovulatory infertility. Plant-based diets are also rich in folate, which lowers the frequency of sporadic anovulation and offers numerous benefits for your future baby’s development.
Potentially Reduced Risk of Preeclampsia
Vitamin E may reduce the risk of preeclampsia during pregnancy, and is abundant in plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, and cold-pressed plant oils.
Improved Gut Health
Gut health plays a major role in fertility because many important hormones are produced in the gut. Consuming plant-based foods supports the microbiome by providing prebiotics that feed the healthy bacteria in your gut.
Supported Thyroid Health
Iodine deficiency is becoming more and more common, and this can be an issue for your thyroid. The thyroid produces many hormones that are vital for metabolic processes and the growth and development of your future baby’s brain. The best sources of iodine on a plant-based diet are seaweed, fortified grains, and iodized sea salt.
Plant-Based Protein May Improve Fertility
Many people think plant-based diets are deficient in protein, but that’s not the case at all. Beans, soy, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and even leafy greens can provide all the protein you need, and it turns out these proteins are better for your reproductive health.
Studies show that plant-based proteins lower the risk of ovulation disorders that may create fertility issues by 66%. Incorporating one serving of soy protein each day has been shown to increase pregnancy rates, especially in women who are trying to conceive with IVF.
Less Toxic Exposure
Eating plant-based foods can reduce your toxic overload, especially if you’re choosing unprocessed, organic options.
For example, dioxin is a chemical that degrades very slowly and has been found in seafood, dairy, and meat products. It can accumulate in the adipose tissue of humans as well as animals and has even been found in breast milk. Studies show that it disrupts endocrine function which can harm reproductive health.
Choosing more plant-based foods also lowers your exposure to BPA, which can also harm the endocrine and reproductive systems. You can further reduce exposure to BPA by avoiding disposable plastic containers and canned foods that are not preserved in BPA-free cans.
Optimizing Your Plant-Based Diet for Better Reproductive Health
- Get Your Choline: Choline plays a vital role in reproductive health and preventing neural tube birth defects. However, it is most abundant in animal food like meat, dairy, seafood, and eggs. It can be found in smaller amounts in broccoli and cauliflower, so be sure to include them in your diet regularly when you’re trying to conceive and after you become pregnant.
- Prioritize B12: B12 is another nutrient that is vital for reproductive health and fetal development. Unfortunately, it’s only mainly in animal products. You’ll want to ensure that your prenatal vitamin contains B12 or supplement your plant-based diet with fortified dairy alternatives and nutritional yeast.
- Maximize Your Mineral Absorption: Phytic acid inhibits the absorption of minerals that are found naturally in plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, and whole grains. To maximize your mineral intake, these foods should be soaked before cooking to reduce the phytic acid they contain.
- Maintain Your Iron Stores: Plant-based diets can be deficient in iron, which can lead to a lack of ovulation and poor egg health. To overcome potential iron deficiencies, include leafy greens, beans, seeds, and dried fruits in your diet regularly and talk to your doctor about taking an iron supplement.
Following a plant-based diet is a great way to support your reproductive health. With a little planning, you can easily get all the nutrition you need without the negative impacts of animal-based foods. Be sure to talk to your health care provider before getting started. He or she might have some great tips to help you get the most from your plant-based diet.