If you’re trying to conceive, take a close look at dairy in your diet. More specifically, learn how full-fat dairy products such as homogenized milk, full-fat yogurt and high-fat cheese affects your ability to conceive. Dairy affects your monthly cycle, ovulatory fertility, and ability to get pregnant. Here’s what the research says about why full-fat milk products are better than low or no-fat dairy for women who want to get pregnant.
“Think about switching to full-fat milk or dairy products as a temporary nutrition therapy designed to improve your chances of becoming pregnant,” write Jorge Chavarro, MD, and Walter Willett, MD in The Fertility Diet: Groundbreaking Research Reveals Natural Ways to Boost Ovulation and Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant: “If your efforts pay off, or if you stop trying to have a baby, then you may want to rethink dairy – especially whole milk and other full-fat dairy foods – altogether.”
Below these doctors explain how dairy affects fertility, why it’s so important to get calcium, and why you may want to eat less dairy after you get pregnant. In The Fertility Diet book they go into more detail about how galactose, lactose, different types of dairy products, and other sources of calcium affect female fertility. This is one of their simplest and most interesting research-based theories about dairy products and getting pregnant. In this short post, I summarize their information and offer tips for not gaining weight on a full-fat diet. If you’re trying to get pregnant, you don’t want to risk a battle with obesity or create health concerns for your baby, such as gestational diabetes.
Before you change how and what you eat, make sure you talk to a health practitioner or doctor who knows you and your body. You may not be able to eat a full-fat diet and stay healthy – especially if you’re lactose intolerant. These tips about dairy and fertility are general research findings, not specific advice for you as an individual. Same with my list of foods to avoid if you’re trying to get pregnant. Not everything works for every women; it’s important for you to find what works for you.
Why Does Full-Fat Dairy Protect Fertility and Help You Get Pregnant?
Eating just one serving a day of full-fat dairy food, particularly milk, decreased the chances of ovulatory infertility. In other words, the fat in milk, cheese, yogurt and cottage cheese protects our ovulation and fertility. It’s not just full-fat or whole milk itself that helps you get pregnant. It’s the foods made from whole milk, such as full-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, and even ice cream.
But, these doctors stress, you don’t have to eat a pint of ice cream or a block of cheddar cheese a day. A serving is half a cup of ice cream or full-fat yogurt.
In contrast, skim milk, low-fat milk and 0% yogurt can be detrimental to your fertility and ovulation cycle. This makes logical sense if full-fat dairy products protect you from ovulatory infertility and help you get pregnant.
Removing fat from milk radically changes its balance of sex hormones in a way that could tip the scales against ovulation and conception. Proteins added to make skim and low-fat milk look and taste ‘creamier’ push it even farther away.
In The Fertility Diet: Natural Ways to Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant, the doctors describe how separating the fat in whole milk to make skim milk can decrease the vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, and other substances in the milk. This can lead to ovulatory infertility.
The more low-fat dairy products – such as sherbet and frozen yogurt – a woman eats, the more likely she is to have trouble getting pregnant. The more full-fat dairy products – especially whole milk and ice cream – she eats, the less likely she’ll have problems getting pregnant.
To learn more about fertility and diet, read Doctor’s Orders! 7 Things to Avoid if You’re Trying to Conceive.
How to Eat a Full-Fat Dairy Diet Without Gaining Weight
1. Know what a proper serving of dairy is. It’s crucial to remember that a serving is half a cup. To get enough dairy in your diet, you need to eat two or three servings of milk or dairy products every day – which only translates to a cup or two a day of full-fat yogurt, milk, cottage cheese, other cheeses, ice cream, etc.
2. Reduce other high-fat foods in your diet. You won’t gain weight on a full-fat dairy diet if you cut something else out. For instance, don’t dip your veggies in Ranch dip or top your salad with dressing (I put raisons, nuts, and seeds on my salads instead of dressing, which gives me protein and vitamins without the unhealthy fat of dressing). Don’t just add high-fat dairy products to your diet…make sure you delete something else – such as tip #5!
3. Remember that exercise is important – but it doesn’t significantly affect weight loss. “Exercise has many health and emotional benefits, but it doesn’t make a huge difference when it comes to weight loss,” says James Hill, the director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. “You can restrict your food intake by 500 to 1,000 calories starting tomorrow, but you have to work out for a long time, or at a very high intensity, to burn as many calories.” To lose weight or avoid weight gain on a full fat fertility diet – especially if you want to protect your fertility and get pregnant – focus more on what you eat than how many miles you run.
4. Weigh yourself regularly. “Successful dieters tend to weight themselves regularly to stay on track. The scale has been vilified, but it helps you stay focused,” says Hill. “Successful dieters also keep food diaries or count calories. And they are seven-day-a-week breakfast eaters. Eating a meal first thing in the day seems to help people manage hunger better.”
5. Eat more fruits and veggies; vegetarian diets help with weight loss. Vegetarians tend to be slimmer than meat-eaters, and have lower rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. “There is evidence that a vegan diet causes an increased calorie burn after meals, meaning plant-based foods are being used more efficiently as fuel for the body, as opposed to being stored as fat,” says Dr. Neal D. Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Vegetarian or not, the best diet is one that includes plenty of fresh, healthy foods.
6. Consider healthy frozen dinners to avoid weight gain. Portion size is the biggest struggle of losing and maintaining weight loss, especially since we tend to underestimate how much we actually eat – even if it’s healthy food. There’s far less room for error in frozen dinners, and less temptation to go back for second helpings. Eating frozen dinners can help you learn portion control (such as what a proper serving size is!), which may help you eat “regular” meals (non-frozen dinners).
Bonus tip: figure out why you’re eating. Emotional eaters have a hard time losing weight and keeping it off. Do you eat for emotional reasons, such as when you’re lonely, sad, or bored? You’re more likely to gain weight than if you eat for fuel, nutrition or even external reasons such as a birthday party or potluck dinner.
If you like eating veggies better than full-fat dairy – like me! – read 23 Best Vegetables to Eat for a Normal Menstrual Cycle. Regulating your periods is almost as important as protecting your ovulatory infertility when you’re trying to get pregnant.