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Is There A Link Between Fertility & Diet?

fertility diet

Between 10 and 15% of couples face fertility issues.

A quick Google search gives us hundreds—maybe thousands—of tips to boost fertility and get pregnant quick. But there’s one tip that comes up consistently—the benefits of a smart fertility diet.

A good diet and some simple lifestyle changes can make a big impact on your fertility efforts. A recent study showed that diet and lifestyle changes can improve your chances of conception by up to 69%.

Those are good stats, right?

So we’ve rounded up all the fertility foods you need, some to avoid, and an example diet to boost your baby making chances.

Grab a snack and let’s get started.

(We recommend nuts, and we’ll tell you why.)

Eating To Get Pregnant

When you’re trying to conceive, Harvard Medical School tells us our diet is one of the few things we can control. Unlike our age, genetics, and medical history, eating certain foods and avoiding others are things we can change right now.

fertility foods

Florida-based nutritionist, Sarah Krieger, R.D., says the key to a good fertility diet is, “eating as if you’re already pregnant.” This can prep your body for conception.

So what are the foods we need to embrace as we eat our way to a healthy pregnancy?

Yes to protein

Opt in on fatty fish: salmon, tuna, and sardines. These protein sources are a great way to boost your DHA and omega-3 intake. Eating these types of fish three times a week is a healthy way to increase the good fatty acids without dealing with excessive levels of mercury.

Eggs are a good source of protein and choline, which helps develop brain function in babies.

Trim poultry, pork, and beef are a good source of protein, iron, and zinc, which play a key role in healthy pregnancy. Trim is important here, because it avoids weight gain. If you don’t know already, weight gain can negatively affect your estrogen levels.

Plant proteins—from beans, nuts, tofu, and seeds—add healthy fats to your diet. Nuts and seeds are an easy snack to boost your plant-based protein, and increase the good fats in your diet.

Another fact to keep in mind when you’re TTC: studies have shown that when 5% of your total caloric intake comes from plant-based proteins, you half your risk of ovulatory disorders.

Yes to good fats

Nut butters, avocados, grapeseed oil, and olive oil are known to reduce inflammation. This can help regulate the menstrual cycle and promote regular ovulation. One study even suggest that eating healthy fats (in the study they use avocado) during the IVF cycle “increased the success rate by three and a half times,” when compared to women who don’t eat quality plant fats during the cycle. We like those odds.

foods to help fertility

Not all fats are good, though. Trans fats—animal fats, baked and fried foods, and some margarines—are known to affect normal ovulation.

Yes to whole foods

You might have heard of the Mediterranean diet. If not, it focuses on eating whole grains, vegetables, and avoiding anything processed. Researchers have shown that in women under 35, the Mediterranean diet increases the chances of a healthy conception and delivery.

Yes to fruits and vegetables

Harvard studies proved that, in a study of 19,000 women, there was a higher level of ovulatory dysfunction in women who consumed more trans fats, carbs, and animal proteins, than in women who ate vegetables and fruits at each meal.

Nutritionist and author, Alisa Vitti, rates asparagus and kale among the green goodies for the effect they have on our egg quality.

To maintain the nutrient integrity of your greens, quick roast them or microwave them with a few tablespoons of water. Boiling breaks down the goodness we’re looking for.

Yes to dairy (kind of)

It’s time to cut out the fat-free dairy. Low-fat and no-fat dairy options have been clinically proven to increase the risk of ovulatory dysfunction, when compared to full-fat options. If you can’t cut out milk altogether—which is most nutritionists recommendation—limit your intake to one or two serves of full-fat milk per day.

Full-fat Greek-style yogurt is a strong choice if you are ready to make the switch away from milk. Probiotic-rich yogurt boosts immunity. Try and convince your partner to eat some, too—Greek yogurt has been shown to improve semen quality.

Before we move on to telling you what you need to clear out of the pantry, there’s just one more thing:

Yes to vitamins

We know this is an article about foods to help fertility, but there’s just no getting around this part. The best diet for ovulation should include a high quality vitamin supplement. Women who took daily multivitamins which contained 500mcg of folic acid and 80mg of iron over eight years improved their ovulatory function when compared to women who didn’t.

Folic acid is also a building block in your baby’s early stages of development—before most women even realize they are pregnant. If you don’t know for sure you have adequate folic acid stores for your baby-to-be, take your vitamins.

No to sugar

Sugar isn’t good for us.  If you need a list of reasons to cut sugar out of your diet, you’ve come to the right place. Sugar:

  • Suppresses the immune system
  • Causes hormone disruption
  • Increases insulin resistance
  • Causes yeast infections
  • Impacts vitamin absorption
  • Can lead to weight gain
  • Can lead to PCOS

There is a major correlation between female infertility and sugar, supported by a bunch of studies. Ditching sugars in favor of natural sweet snacks—like fruits—can have a big impact on your road to conception. We know it’s annoying, and sometimes all we want is a cookie or four, but moderation is everything.

No to caffeine and alcohol

Both caffeine and alcohol dehydrate us. They’re also diuretics, helping you dispel salt and water from the body. Less moisture can affect the consistency of your cervical fluid, which can make it difficult for your partner’s sperm to get where it needs to be.

No to soy protein isolate

Soy powders, soy energy bars—basically anything with large quantities of soy protein—can have a negative effect on your ability to conceive. Soy protein has been proven to lengthen our menstrual cycles and disrupt hormone levels. The same goes for men, since soy protein isolate can impact testosterone levels.

Just to be clear, we’re not saying to avoid whole soy. When we’re trying to conceive, the plant-derived estrogen in tofu, miso, and tempeh are good for us in moderation.

And the final food group we’re going to talk about—the most popular of all:

No to (quick) carbs.

Carbs and Fertility

It’s not a no to all carbs.

Complex carbohydrates are good for the body, because we digest them slowly.

Processed carbohydrates are not good for the body, since we quickly turn them into blood sugar and they trigger our pancreas to increase insulin production. Let’s look at this for a minute.

Insulin and fertility

High insulin levels in the bloodstream can cause our ovaries to produce male hormones. This increases the level of male hormone—testosterone—in the blood. It affects everything from the length of our menstrual cycle, to ovulation, to the hormonal balance required for an embryo to implant in the uterine wall.

Researchers in the Nurses’ Health Study at Harvard University studied over 18,000 women. They examined the diet and lifestyle of these women, all of whom were trying to get pregnant. Over an eight year period, the study showed that the women who ate processed carbs had an increased rate of ovulatory infertility. Those who ate complex carbs—vegetables, brown rice, beans, and dark breads—had improved fertility.

What are processed carbs?

Cookies, cakes, white bread, white rice, pasta, pizza dough…the list goes on. Processed flours are complex carbs that have had most of the good fibres manufactured out. This makes them more ‘easily digestible’.

What are complex carbs?

Fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Whole grain bread, for example, uses unprocessed flour. Brown rice is white rice with the good fibers left intact. Sometimes we’ll see them referred to as slow carbs, because our digestive system processes them slowly. They don’t cause a spike in blood sugar and insulin. They also offer B and E vitamins, which are TTC friendly.

Switching your evening pasta for amaranth, quinoa, or millet is another strong choice. These grains help fill you up without impacting your hormones.

Whichever dietary road you decide to travel, being aware of your carb intake is one of the most important parts.

That’s why we gave it its own section here. In the Nurses’ Health Study, a low carb fertility diet plan—where the daily carb intake was under 40% of the total calories—lifted the chance of pregnancy to 80%.

What To Eat To Help Pregnancy

Most fertility specialists agree—a healthy pregnancy diet also makes a healthy fertility diet.

fertility diet plan

All of the foods we’ve outlined for women who are trying to conceive are a solid choice for women once they’ve fallen pregnant, too.

Good sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, veggies, fruits, Greek yogurt, and whole foods help your growing baby thrive. They keep you in optimal health through the changes that growing a baby brings.

Avoiding processed foods, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine, and cutting out as many quick carbs as you can—these are all things that support a happy, healthy pregnancy.

An Example Fertility Diet Plan to Follow

A lot of the things that put us off following a diet come from lack of preparation, hunger, and cravings (oh, the cravings). But planning ahead can make the transition to a healthy fertility diet so much easier.

We’ve got some meal ideas for you here. Mix and match with your favorite proteins, veggies, and fruits, to find the perfect fertility diet plan for you.

Breakfast

Veggie omelette, turkey bacon and eggs, steel-cut oats and banana, fruit ; veggie smoothies, Greek yogurt and berries.

Lunch

Salad with all the trimmings—avocado, hard-boiled eggs, chicken, tuna, or salmon. Vegetable soups with lentils, pearl barley, or beans.

Dinner

Meat and vegetable casseroles, vegetarian lasagna, grilled chicken and spinach, or our favorite: grilled salmon with asparagus and olive oil.

Snacks

Celery, cucumber, and carrot sticks. Apples, pears, watermelon—any fruits you love. A handful of nuts, or make your own nut ; seed mixes.

Keeping your fertility diet interesting

The key is to focus more on your macros, and less on your calorie intake. If you’re getting less than 40% of your caloric intake from carbs, and around 25% from proteins, you’ve got plenty of room for good fats and delicious fruit and veggies.

It’s also important to remember that eating too much of anything is a bad thing. Shake things up a little. Try vegetables you’ve never eaten. Add color to your plate through carrots, capsicum, and vibrant greens. Use fresh herbs. Add texture with quinoa and nuts. If you keep your fertility diet interesting, it becomes a lifestyle you can truly embrace.

Conclusion

If you take one thing away from this article, let it be this: when you’re trying to get pregnant, sometimes diet is the only thing you have total control over.

Improving your diet and lifestyle can boost your chances of getting pregnant by almost 70%. If the foods you put in your body can improve your cycles, balance your hormone levels, and encourage healthy ovulation and conception, boosting your baby making chances can be within reach.

Now that you’ve learned what it takes to eat your way to healthy pregnancy, what’s to stop you getting started?

 

Got some delicious fertility food ideas? Share them with us below—we’d love to add them to our list!