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FAQ - Preparing to start a family

By Debbie Paddington Dip ION

Expert nutritionists share their frequently asked questions…

Q - "My daughter and her husband would like to try for a baby within the next six months. What should they be doing to support themselves nutritionally to increase their chances of producing a healthy baby?"

A = Folic acid is very important before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Your daughter should start taking 400mcg of folic acid daily; ideally, included in a multivitamin and mineral specially formulated for pregnancy.

A healthy fertility diet should consist of good-quality protein, such as quinoa, beans, lentils and organic meat. These foods are good sources of important nutrients for fertility, such as zinc and the amino acids L-arginine and L-carnitine. Plenty of fruit and vegetables are also essential as a source of antioxidants, which help to protect the body from free radicals. Damage by free radicals may affect the development of sperm and could be linked to chromosome breakage, which may cause birth defects and miscarriages. The antioxidant selenium is particularly important for fertility. Selenium levels are often very low in our soil, which, consequently, means that foods grown in these soils also contain very little. Therefore, an antioxidant supplement that contains selenium may be advisable for both would-be parents.

Oily fish, nuts and seeds are important to include in a fertility diet as they are also a good source of protein and contain essential fatty acids. Alternatively, they could take their essential omegas in supplement form, ensuring that they choose products that have been screened for contaminants, PCBs and heavy metals.

Balancing blood sugar levels is important for overall hormone balance, so they should try and eat little and often and avoid chocolate, sugary foods, salty snacks and processed foods. Stimulants, such as alcohol and coffee, are best avoided, as studies have shown that both have a negative effect on fertility levels.

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