Curious if there really are foods that promote (and reduce) fertility? We’re here to tell you, yes! This post will cover everything you need to know about eating for your fertility.
Infertility, or difficulty becoming pregnant, affects between 10-15% of couples. As you can imagine, there can be a lot of factors that contribute to this – and everyone has a unique story.
While couples can’t always control every factor in their fertility journey, they can control one thing: their food choices. And as it turns out, this is a really important piece.
The Link Between Diet and Fertility
Healthy diet and lifestyle choices can boost fertility by up to 69%. On the contrary, a poor diet can make getting pregnant more difficult.
Here’s what the latest science says.
In 2018, Harvard researchers found that the following increased fertility for both men and women:
- Vitamin B12
- Folic acid
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Low glycemic index carbohydrates
- Dietary habits that are considered healthy (e.g., the Mediterranean Diet pattern)
Note: A Mediterranean diet pattern is high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds and nuts, replaces saturated fats with olive oil, and limits red meat intake to a few times per month.
They also found that certain dietary factors appear to reduce fertility:
- Trans fats
- Saturated fats
- Dietary habits that are considered unhealthy (e.g. eating a lot of red and processed meats, potatoes, sugar, and sugary beverages)
Dairy, caffeine, alcohol, vitamin D, and soy foods had a neutral effect on the fertility of the participants in this study.
It’s important to note that this particular study was done on women trying to conceive naturally, without the use of assistive technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF). However, other recent studies have shown that Mediterranean diet patterns are beneficial for women undergoing IVF treatments as well.
A lot of studies have been done on this topic just in the last year or two. This isn’t exactly new science, as research has previously shown similar findings. However, it’s a great confirmation of the evidence that what we eat is so important to all aspects of the life cycle.
So, what are some of the foods should you eat (and avoid) when trying to become pregnant?
5 Foods That Can Boost Your Fertility
Avocados fit perfectly in the fertility-promoting diet recommendations in the studies above. Not only are avocados an excellent source of folate, they’re also full of monounsaturated fatty acids, which are known to reduce ovulatory infertility. They’re rich in fiber, low in glycemic index, and contain a number of antioxidants.
Replacing animal proteins with plant-based ones may sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! Lentils are a great, versatile choice to keep in your pantry. They’re high in protein, zinc, folate, and iron, all nutrients known to boost fertility.
Walnuts are a bit of a unicorn on the nut world. They’re the only nuts that contain the omega 3 fatty acid, alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). ALA is a precursor for your body to make DHA, an essential fatty acid for fetal brain development. Walnuts are also rich in magnesium, an important mineral for increasing progesterone and blood flow to the uterus.
4) Brazil Nuts
Selenium is a really important mineral for fertility, because it prevents oxidation and DNA damage to the egg. Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium on the planet. Eating just one of these nuts per day is typically all you need to meet your selenium requirements. Easy!
Edamame is a fantastic plant-based protein and source of choline. Choline helps to prevent birth defects and is important for proper brain function. Edamame beans are also a good source of fiber, iron, and magnesium.
Foods That Can Reduce Fertility
- Trans fats, often found in packaged snack foods and baked goods
- Saturated fats, which can be especially high in red meats
- Refined carbohydrates, like white bread and white rice
- Animal-derived protein, like chicken, pork, steak, fish, and eggs
Fertility Foods For Men
A healthy diet isn’t just for the ladies, especially when it comes to fertility. There are a few things men should keep in mind, too.
Men who eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, omega 3 fats, and antioxidants are more fertile. Folic acid, selenium, zinc, and vitamins C, B12 and E have been linked with better sperm quality. These are all found in plant foods.
On the other hand, studies have shown that men who eat a diet high in processed meat, potatoes, dairy, alcohol, and sugar often have a more difficult time conceiving.
When it comes down to it, plant foods win again (no surprise, there!). If you’re trying to get pregnant, eat a diet rich in color and low in the processed junk we’re always being told to avoid anyway.
You’ve got this, mama!