Eating Habits Impacting My Fertility

If you’re wondering, “What is the relationship between diet and fertility?” or “How does diet affect fertility?” you are not alone. Ask Google, and you may find yourself immediately overwhelmed. “Try this fertility diet.” “Always eat this.” “Never eat that.” 

The list of dos and don’ts can be extensive.

Let’s cut to the chase. 

How important are the foods you put into your body if you want to get pregnant? Can diet make you more fertile? Or hinder your chances of a successful pregnancy?

This article will look at your diet’s effects on fertility. 

We’ll share what foods should be part of your fertility diet. We’ll give you tips on which things to increase and which to avoid.  We’ll consider the impact of specialized diets, such as the Mediterranean diet and Keto. 

And it’s not all about you! We’ll also list foods your partner should consume (or not!) to improve reproductive health. 

Diet and Fertility: Does it matter?

The short answer is yes. The foods you eat can have an impact on your fertility. Yet, it’s more about maintaining a healthy weight than following specific fertility diets.

Let’s check out some of the foods you should eat more of if you’re trying to get pregnant. There are also foods you should reduce to increase fertility. A balanced and healthy fertility diet can set you on the path to welcoming your little one. 

So what are you waiting for? Let’s jump in!

Foods To Increase When Trying to Get Pregnant

Fruits

If you’re trying to get pregnant, adding fruits to your fertility diet is a great place to start. According to a study, women who consumed less than 1-3 servings of fresh fruits and fruit juices in a month took 19% longer to conceive and faced a 29% higher risk of infertility than those who consumed three or more servings in a day. 

While eating more fruit is a good idea for most people, it’s essential for those hoping to boost fertility. 

Small changes can make a big difference in supporting fertility. The next time you’re shopping, grab your favorite fruit and something you’ve never tried. Fruit is a great way to satisfy that craving for something sweet without added sugar. 

Fish

Research shows that eating fish can help you get pregnant more quickly. Based on this study, women and men who ate fish eight times each cycle conceived 47% – 60% more rapidly than couples who consumed one or less than one serving of fish per cycle. That’s only two servings of fish each week! It’s a small change, but it can make a big difference. 

Also, couples who ate fish twice a week had a 22% increase in sexual intercourse frequency (SIF). Trying to conceive can be stressful, but eating fish can make it more fun!

However, avoid fish with high mercury levels as these can damage your baby’s lungs, kidneys, and nervous system while in your uterus. These include shark, swordfish, ray, barramundi, southern bluefin tuna, gemfish, and orange roughy. Instead, opt for salmon, tuna, and shellfish like prawns, lobsters, and oysters.

Dairy

The jury is still out when determining the impact of dairy on fertility. Research shows mixed results on whether women should consume dairy to increase fertility. 

Quick Tip: If you are struggling with PCOS and trying to get pregnant, anecdotal evidence shows that avoiding or limiting your dairy consumption may help you conceive faster.

Speak with your OB about your nutritional needs. They can help determine if dairy should be part of your healthy eating plan.  

Plant-based Protein

There are no magic foods to induce ovulation naturally. But decreasing animal protein in your fertility diet is a great way to boost fertility!

Replacing animal protein with plant-based protein can increase your chances of regular ovulation. Ovulation is the process by which the ovaries release an egg to be fertilized. Thus, without ovulation, pregnancy cannot occur. Lack of ovulation is referred to as “ovulatory infertility.”

A study found that consuming 5% of your daily energy needs from plant-based protein rather than animal protein can reduce your risk of ovulatory infertility by up to 50%.

Legumes, nuts, spinach, tofu, beans, seeds, and peas are good plant-based protein sources to support fertility. 

Vitamins and Minerals

When preparing for pregnancy, it’s essential to ensure your body has adequate nutrients. A fertility diet to improve egg quality pays particular attention to this. 

A healthy and well-balanced fertility diet can give you the nutrients you need. Yet, extra supplementation is sometimes necessary with foods rich in minerals or vitamins. 

A good quality prenatal supplement is a great place to start to ensure adequate folic acid. From there, your doctor can help you determine if there are other supplements you should add. 

Be sure to get enough fertility-boosting nutrients:

  • Iron – found in beans, spinach, and whole grains
  • Folic Acid – found in dark, leafy green vegetables, fortified grains
  • Glutathione – found in broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus 
  • Vitamin B12 – found in fish, dairy, and eggs 
  • Vitamin C – found in citrus fruits such as orange, grapefruit, lemon, and kiwi, vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

A 2022 study found that women who took omega-3 fatty acid supplements were 1.5 times more likely to conceive compared to those not taking supplements. However, evidence is limited and in some other studies, no link has been found between omega-3 fatty acids and fertility.

Foods to Avoid When Trying to Get Pregnant

Soda and Other Sugar-sweetened Beverages

Research shows that consuming more than 7 sugar-sweetened beverages in a week decreases your chances of getting pregnant. Soda and energy drinks seem to be the worst culprits.

So, if you find yourself reaching for a soda, make the switch to natural fruit juices instead. Reducing the amount of refined sugar in your diet may help boost fertility. It could also be the start of healthier habits!

Fast Food

It can be tempting to run through the drive-through at the start—or end—of a busy day. Yet, with some planning, you can reduce the fast food you consume. And this may increase your chances of conception. 

Studies show that women who consumed fast food more than four times a week had a 41% increased risk of infertility compared to those who did not consume fast food. While fast food is easy and convenient, there are many healthy alternatives too. Consider grabbing a salad or pre-packaged fruit or vegetables for an easy meal on the go.

Red Meat

Preliminary data reflect that red meat may negatively impact fertility. This means that the more red meat you consume, the more difficult it may be to get pregnant. 

Why is this? Studies show that eating red meat can reduce blastocyst formation. Blastocyst formation is the process of cells dividing several days after the egg is fertilized. This process is especially important in cases of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). 

It is recommended that both males and females avoid red meat in their fertility diet. 

What Diet is Best for Conceiving a Baby? 

Are you looking for the best diet for fertility? If you like to follow a particular dietary plan, you’re in luck! Some well-known diets include lots of fertility-friendly recommendations. 

Mediterranean Diet 

Many people follow the guidelines of the Mediterranean diet for fertility. This diet is high in vegetable oils, fish, and legumes. Couples who follow the Mediterranean diet increase their chances of getting pregnant. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to increase red blood cell folate, vitamin B6, and follicular fluid. These things are essential for the development of the baby inside the uterus. 

Low-carb Diet

There is a lot of talk about low-carb diets these days. This may have you wondering about the relationship between carbohydrate consumption and fertility. 

Studies show that women who consume large amounts of carbs are at a 78% greater risk of failing to ovulate. (This is called “ovulatory infertility.”)

Regardless of whether you go low-carb, the quality and amount of carbohydrates matter. Choose your carbs wisely. Avoid refined carbs, as they can impact your ability to become pregnant. Add foods with a lower glycemic index such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, green vegetables, and fresh fruits.

Low-Calorie Diet 

What diet is best for conceiving a baby? In general, the better your health is, the higher your chances of conceiving. With this in mind, a low-calorie diet is ideal for those who are overweight or obese and suffering from ovulatory infertility or trying to get pregnant. And don’t forget to include exercise! Specifically, aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, running, cycling, and swimming are proven to be beneficial. Additionally, reducing fat and refined carbohydrates can also benefit your fertility. 

What Foods Cause Fertility Issues?

Western Diet

The term “Western Diet” refers to a diet high in calories, trans fats, refined carbs, added sugars, and red and processed meats. These types of foods should be avoided, as they are linked with decreased fertility and increased time to conceive. This diet also has a low intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, unrefined grains, low-fat poultry, and fish. 

Foods to Maximize Male Fertility 

As with female fertility, general health plays a significant role in male fertility. Studies show that up to 50% of fertility issues stem from the male. 

Obesity can have a significant adverse effect on both sperm quality and sperm quantity. It can negatively impact sperm function, sperm composition, and male hormone levels.  One study found that overweight and obese men had an 11% and 42% higher risk of oligospermia (low sperm count in the semen), and 39% and 81% higher risk of azoospermia (absence of sperm in the semen) respectively, compared to men with normal body weight.

The health of the male can impact the ability to conceive. It can also affect the development of children in utero and their health.

What To Eat: Male Edition

A healthy diet can impact the quality of semen and sperm health. Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, zinc, vitamin D, folate, vitamin C, and vitamin E can help improve semen quality and promote sperm motility. So, make sure to  include fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. 

What to Skip: Male Edition

Diets high in processed meats, soy, full-fat dairy, coffee, alcohol, and refined sugar reduce semen quality. This can negatively impact male fertility. 

The Big Picture of Diet and Fertility

It can be easy to get overwhelmed when you’re preparing to conceive. It can be tempting to grasp at control and search for solutions that promise your desired result. Your diet is a perfect place to start when it comes to making positive changes. 

There are no silver-bullet fertility foods that guarantee a little one in your arms. Yet, you can make many positive changes to improve fertility. Adding nutritious foods will make you feel better. And increase your chances of conceiving too!

Putting It All Together

  • Your diet and fertility are connected. 
  • While there is no magic fertility diet, healthy food choices can help you get pregnant faster. 
  • Increasing your intake of fresh fruits can boost fertility.
  • Eat low-mercury fish twice weekly to improve your chances of conception.
  • Decrease animal protein sources to reduce ovulatory infertility or cycles without ovulation.
  • Take a quality prenatal vitamin to ensure you get enough folic acid in your diet. 
  • Reduce or cut out altogether drinks that are high in sugar when trying to get pregnant. 
  • Avoid fast food and red meat, which can make getting pregnant harder. 
  • The Mediterranean diet includes many foods that may help improve fertility.
  • A healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, improves your chances of getting pregnant. 
  • The male diet also affects the quality of semen, sperm health, and fertility.
  • Male partners should increase their intake of fish, fruits, and vegetables and avoid processed meats, sugar, and alcohol.

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