Mediterranean diet

There are now many studies which show that a Mediterranean-style diet increases the chance of pregnancy after IVF treatment and reduces the time to achieve pregnancy in people who conceive naturally.

There are also studies that show a diet high in fast foods reduce fertility in women and in men.

So what is a Mediterranean diet?

Think Italy, minus the wine. Lots of: 

  • Vegetables and fruit,
  • vegetable oil
  • chicken
  • nuts and seeds
  • and some dairy products.

So far we don't know how long you need to be on this sort of diet to have a benefit, but we do know that sperm and eggs both take about 3 months to develop.

What is the size of the benefit?

It differs between studies, but the subjects with the best adherence to a Mediterranean pattern often have pregnancy rates up to 20% higher than the others.

Which would translate to a 35% chance of a child instead of 30% in a 37-year old starting an IVF cycle at Fertility Associates. Similarly, a poor diet could
reduce pregnancy rates by up to 20%.

What’s Alice’s advice?

  • Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day
  • Meals don’t need to be perfectly balanced - a piece of fruit, a yoghurt or a couple of pieces of toast are better than skipping meals or getting takeaways.
  • Include wholegrain high-fibre carbohydrates - these are crucial for a healthy gut.
  • Lots of fruit and vegetables
    • Eat two handfuls of fruit and three handfuls of coloured vegetables a day.
    • Different antioxidants give the vegetables their various colours, so ‘eat a rainbow’ every day to consume plenty of antioxidants.
    • You don’t need to buy organic produce - just make sure you wash all your fruit and vegetables thoroughly.
    • Frozen fruit and vegetables are an excellent choice.
  • Eat some lean protein daily - Most New Zealanders eat plenty of protein. 
    • Everyone (even meat-eaters!) should be regularly eating vegetarian proteins such as legumes (e.g. chickpeas, beans and lentils), tofu/tempeh, nuts and seeds.
    • A typical Mediterranean diet includes red meat only occasionally (e.g. 2-3 times a month), so using less red meat and more fish and seafood is a good start. Oily fish is the main source of omega-3 fats, which have a variety of health benefits including evidence of high pregnancy rates in IVF. 
  • Dairy: Lower fat options are best 
    • Dairy is our main source of calcium - Lower fat milk varieties such as calci-trim/ trim/reduced-fat are higher in calcium and protein than standard (blue top) milk.
    • If you choose not to use cows milk products or are lactose intolerant, the best nutritional substitute is calcium-fortified soy milk (rather than almond, oat, rice, or coconut
      milk).
    • People with lactose intolerance are often able to eat regular yoghurt and cheese which are great sources of protein and calcium.
  • Switch to healthier fats
    • Use liquid plant oils for cooking and use a plant-based spread instead of butter.
    • Include 30g of mixed raw nuts daily; these are excellent for overall health and male fertility.
    • Healthy spreads include avocado, nut butters, olive oil, hummus, cottage cheese, relish, or pickle.
    • Lower your saturated (unhealthy) fat intake by reducing your intake of takeaways, bakery foods, processed snacks (crisps, high-fat crackers, lollies and chocolate), meat fat,
      chicken skin, pastry, butter, and high-fat dairy products. 
  • Eat more whole foods
    • Choose foods that are in their natural state (e.g. nuts instead of nut bars) and cut down on highly processed foods with long lists of ingredients. 
    • Choosing simple wholesome food is better for us and the environment. 
  • What to drink Water and reduced-fat milk are the healthiest drinks.
    • Regular town supply water is fine.
    • Juice is not a healthy drink - it contains lots of sugar.
    • Caffeine and alcohol have been shown to reduce fertility in some studies. We recommend reducing coffee intake to 1-2 per day. Be mindful of other caffeine sources too; energy drinks are very high in caffeine while tea, green tea, cola and kombucha can still contain significant amounts.
    • Chocolate and drinking chocolate contain much less.
  • Vitamins and supplements
    • Nutritional supplements are usually not required, apart from folic acid and iodine. You will get an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals from a balanced diet, and nutrients
      are better absorbed from food than pills. The Ministry of Health recommends 800 micrograms of folic acid a day for at least a month before fertility treatment and for the first three months of pregnancy.
    • It also recommends taking 150 micrograms of iodine daily throughout pregnancy and while you are breast feeding. You can choose to take separate prescription 800 mcg folic acid pills (Apo-folic) and 150 mcg iodine pills (Neurokare) or a combined supplement with the recommended amounts, such as ‘Elevit with Iodine’.
    • Vitamin D is also important, though most people will get enough from being outside in sunlight.
    • Women with low iron should make specific dietary changes and take a combined iron and Vitamin C supplement. There is evidence that omega-3 fish oil or B vitamin
      supplements improve fertility status; it is much better to get these from eating oily fish and wholegrain carbohydrates.
    • Many New Zealanders have a low selenium intake - just 1-2 Brazil nuts each day will give you the recommended amount; other dietary sources include chicken, eggs, seafood and
      imported legumes.
      sunlight. Women with low iron should make speciic dietary changes and
      take a combined iron and Vitamin C supplement. There is evidence