Most of us enjoy a fast-food indulgence now and then, but too much of it could prolong the time it takes to conceive, according to a recent study published in Human Reproduction. If you're trying to conceive, replace your side of fries with a fruit cup, researchers say.
The study looked at the diets of about 5,600 women without children who lived in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Ireland and found that women who ate fast food four or more times a week took about a month longer to get pregnant compared to those who never or rarely ate fast food, upping their infertility risk from 8 percent to 16 percent. Also, women who ate fruit less than one to three times a month took a half a month longer to become pregnant compared to those who consumed fruit three or more times a day.
Information on the father's diet was not collected so there is a chance that other factors might have affected the speed of fertility.
"Eating a good quality diet that includes fruit and minimizing fast food consumption improves fertility and reduces the time it takes to get pregnant," said Claire Roberts, a professor at the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute in Australia and lead author of the study.
The data used in the study was collected between 2004 and 2011. Of the study participants, 94 percent had not received any fertility treatments. Previous to this study, research focused on the role diet plays in women diagnosed with or receiving treatment for infertility and the general population was not considered.
"Everyone—men and women—need to start preparing for a healthy pregnancy months...possibly years... before conceiving to optimize their health, the health of the pregnancy and the health of the child," said Serena Chen, M.D., a fertility specialist with Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey, who was not involved in the study. She added that she was pleased to see more proof that preconception health has a critical effect on fertility.
Like fast food? Elizabeth Shaw, RDN, a California-based dietitian and author of Fertility Foods Cookbook+: 100 Recipes to Nourish Your Body, said she tries to encourage people to make nutrient-dense choices when dining out. For example, opt for a veggie burrito bowl with healthy fat from avocado, plant-based protein from beans and veggies.
Want to boost your fruit intake? Shaw recommends fruits rich in antioxidants such as blueberries, strawberries, oranges, and tangerines.