Preparing for Pregnancy
The Importance of Carbohydrates for Fertility
The importance of carbohydrates for fertility is widely argued. However, current research shows that complex (low glycemic) carbohydrates are important for fertility (1). As well, if you become pregnant, carbohydrates are one of the most important nutrients for you and your baby (2). Read on to learn more about the importance of carbohydrates for fertility.
What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates (carbs) are a macronutrient (3). This means that carbs are an essential nutrient that provides you with energy. Carbs can be broken into three major groups: sugar, starch and fibre. Your body breaks down sugar and starch into usable energy for your daily activities. However, fibre is not used as energy. Instead, fibre is broken down by the good bacteria in your digestive system.
Carbohydrates can be further grouped to be simple (high glycemic) carbohydrates or complex (low glycemic) carbohydrates (3,4). Simple carbohydrates lead to quick spikes in blood sugar levels. Simple carbohydrate foods contain more sugar and starch. In contrast, complex carbohydrates tend to contain more fibre. Due to this, complex carbohydrates take longer to digest. This results in a slower increase in blood sugar.
Examples of simple (high glycemic) carbohydrates include (5):
- Chocolate bars
- White-flour pasta
- White bread
- Baked Potato
Examples of complex (low glycemic) carbohydrates include (5):
- Fruit (ex. apples, orange, banana)
- Whole-grain bread
- Lentils & beans
- Vegetables (ex. carrots, broccoli, green beans)
- Brown rice
The Importance of Carbohydrates for Fertility
Current research shows that consuming a diet high in complex (low glycemic) carbohydrates can result in better fertility outcomes (1,4). This is in comparison to those who consumed a diet high in simple (high glycemic) carbohydrates. It was found that eating mostly simple carbohydrates resulted in spikes in blood sugar levels. The spike in blood sugar caused increased rates of infertility. This indicates the importance of consuming complex, slowly digestible carbohydrates more often for fertility health.
With this in mind, it does not mean that you can’t eat any simple carbohydrates. All foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle. However, if you are trying to conceive and are hoping to promote fertility, it is important to consume more complex, low glycemic carbohydrates (1, 4)
Carbohydrates are also very important if you continue on to become pregnant. This is because carbohydrates are the main source of energy for you and your baby that allow for growth and development (2). Therefore, the importance of carbohydrates is not only for fertility, but for pregnancy as well.
Final Notes from The Nest
As you can see, carbohydrates are very important for fertility. Following a low carbohydrate diet when trying to conceive is not recommended unless indicated by your Registered Dietitian or Doctor. It can be helpful to prioritize eating low glycemic carbohydrates, but that does not mean that high glycemic carbohydrates must be avoided completely. As mentioned, all foods fit into a healthy lifestyle. For more personalised nutrition information, book a call with one of the Registered Dietitians at The Nest.
Article Written by Hailey Belaire
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- Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. Diet and lifestyle in the prevention of ovulatory disorder infertility. Obstet Gynecol. 2007;110(5):1050-58. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.AOG.0000287293.25465.e1
- Health Canada. Prenatal nutrition guidelines for health professionals – Background on Canada’s food guide. [Internet]. Ottawa: Government of Canada; 2009 (revised 2010 Jan 14; cited 2021 Dec 21). 7p. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/food-nutrition/prenatal-nutrition-guidelines-health-professionals-background-canada-food-guide-2009.html
- Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. Cleavland: Cleveland Clinic; c2021 [updates 2021 Feb 8; cited 2021 Dec 21]. Carbohydrates; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15416-carbohydrates
- Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. A prospective study of dietary carbohydrate quantity and quality in relation to risk of ovulatory infertility. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007; 63:78-86.https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.160290
- Harvard T.H. Chan: School of Public Health [Internet]. Boston: Harvard T.H. Chan: School of Public Health; c2021 [cited 2021 Dec 21]. The nutrition source: Carbohydrates and blood sugar; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/