Specialist Advice on Planning Your Fertility Diet
When you visit your doctor and tell them that you are planning on expanding your family, they may advise you to ensure that you are eating a healthy, balanced diet. This is one of the easiest and ‒ when combined with moderate but regular exercise ‒ most common ways for people to improve their fertility. But what should a healthy fertility diet involve?
We don’t want you to worry about eating the wrong thing when you decide to start trying for a baby, which is why we have provided some helpful advice and information on what should be in your diet below. Read on to learn more, or contact us today to book a consultation and hear it all in person from a friendly, discreet, and understanding specialist.
Fertility and Your Diet
It is a well-known fact that nutrition plays an important role in the production of healthy sperm and egg cells. The nutrition you get through the diet you follow is therefore considered a factor in terms of your fertility potential, along with exercise, smoking, and alcohol consumption. These are all grouped under the umbrella term “lifestyle factors” when discussing potential causes of infertility and your chances of getting pregnant.
As a changeable lifestyle factor, your diet is also happily completely within your control if you should decide to change it to try for a baby. Unlike factors such as age and genetics, it is also unlikely to require much medical intervention beyond advice from a doctor, meaning that a few lifestyle changes and a recommended fertility diet could soon see you taking the next step towards becoming a parent without further need for assistance.
Fertility Diets for Women
For women, or for nonbinary or transgender patients who were born female, it is often the case that a poor diet is inhibiting their ability to get pregnant because it is impacting ovulation. This means that they may not currently be able to conceive because what they are eating is preventing their bodies from producing high-quality eggs.
Below, we have made a list of ways that a diet may be improved for women looking to conceive and what impact each change can have on their fertility:
It’s strongly recommended that you eat more complex (or “slow”) carbohydrates and cut down on ones you find in processed foods. The body digests the carbohydrates found in processed foods, such as biscuits, cakes, white bread, and white rice, very quickly and turns them into blood sugar. To stop this from leading to a spike, the pancreas will release insulin into the bloodstream, and studies have found that having high levels of insulin in the bloodstream can impede or prevent ovulation.
Swapping them out for whole-grain alternatives, fruits, vegetables, and beans is often the best way to prevent this from happening. These are all digested more slowly and have a more gradual effect on your blood sugar and insulin levels. Many of them are also loaded with fertility-boosting fibre, B vitamins, and Vitamin E.
For women, nonbinary, or transgender patients who have been diagnosed with hormonal disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), experts also suggest cutting out gluten. This is because it has been shown to create an inflammatory response in the body, which heightens C-reactive protein and sends signals to the brain that it is not the best time for the person to conceive. It has been known to have an impeding effect on ovulation, while also making implantation more difficult - even if an egg is produced.
Ordinarily, it would seem natural to assume that you should swap out your usual dairy products for low-fat alternatives. This isn’t the case for women and patients born biologically female, however; it is recommended that they consume one or two servings of full-fat dairy per day, either by using whole milk in a cup of tea or coffee or by eating yoghurt. They should also take care to limit the amount of low-fat dairy they’re consuming, as studies have shown that it raises the risk of ovulatory infertility.
Not all fats are unhealthy. Helping yourself to moderately sized portions of oily fish and plant-based fats as part of your diet plan can help to reduce inflammation in the body. In turn, this promotes regular ovulation and good fertility overall. Some experts have even suggested that having a certain amount of monounsaturated fats from avocados during cycles of IVF can increase the success rate by up to three and a half times!
Of course, there are also fats that you should try to avoid. Trans fats, which are usually found in baked goods, processed snack foods, fast food, and some spreads like margarine, increase insulin resistance for instance. Insulin resistance makes it harder to move glucose from the bloodstream into the cells, while the pancreas is still busy producing insulin. The result of this is more insulin in the bloodstream causing more metabolic disturbances that impact ovulation.
Being more selective about the animal proteins you choose to eat can help to boost fertility and improve your overall diet. Chicken, turkey, pork, fish, and beef with the fat trimmed off are all great sources of protein, as well as zinc and iron. All of these are important for the body to have to carry a healthy pregnancy. Keeping your meat lean is also key for ensuring you don’t gain excess weight, as this can have an impact on your oestrogen levels.
There are some exceptions to keeping your meat lean; fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines are all considered “fatty”, but that also makes them great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These have several health benefits, including helping a baby’s nervous system to develop in the womb. It has also been suggested that getting your recommended amount will help to lower the risk of premature birth.
Eggs are another wonderful source of protein for a fertility diet, as the yolk has stores of both protein and choline. The latter of these is a vitamin that helps to develop brain function in a growing baby.
If you would like to keep to a plant-based fertility diet many options can give you the protein you need. Beans, legumes (such as chickpeas and lentils), seeds, nuts, and tofu are all good sources.
Fertility Diets to Improve Egg Quality
Women, as well as nonbinary and transgender people who were born female, all start life with all the egg cells they will ever have. This number then declines as they age, as does the quality of the eggs overall.
While it isn’t possible for a patient to produce more eggs than they have available, they can lead a lifestyle that improves their egg quality. This means including something that all doctors will naturally recommend as part of a diet, not just one designed to improve fertility:
Fruits and Vegetables
If you’re looking for a fertility-boosting diet that improves egg quality, the most important thing to include is a variety of fruits and vegetables. For instance, watermelon and asparagus have both been found to give the body a good supply of glutathione. This is an antioxidant produced by cells and improves egg health by protecting both the eggs and the ovaries from damage.
Fertility Diets for Men
For men, or for nonbinary or transgender patients who were born male, most issues surrounding potential infertility will be related to sperm production and the overall quality of the cells. This may mean that the diet they are currently following is having an impact on these, and preventing their sperm from being of the best possible quality when they are trying to conceive.
Here, we have listed some of the ways male fertility could potentially be improved through a planned fertility diet:
Specific types of nutrients have been linked to better fertility in men. Of course, it is important to ensure you have a balanced diet that offers you a wide variety of nutrients rather than focusing on specific individual foods, but including ones that offer you a good amount of selenium, such as nuts, fish, chicken (or turkey), and eggs can all help to improve sperm motility and morphology.
Alongside this, studies have also shown that low levels of zinc can have an impact on sperm count and overall levels of testosterone. Alongside nuts and meat, you can also include shellfish (such as oysters), dairy products, and wholegrain cereals to keep your fertility diet rich in zinc.
While oysters are mentioned on this list and are famously considered an aphrodisiac, we must note that there is no evidence that aphrodisiacs have any effect on male or female fertility.
Getting the right vitamins through servings of fruit and vegetables is also an important step to take when planning a fertility diet for men. Vitamin C in particular has been shown to improve all aspects of sperm health (including count, morphology, and motility) and can be found in a range of citrus fruits, red peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
Dark, leafy green vegetables are also important sources of folate (the natural form of vitamin B9), which helps the overall health of sperm. It can be found in spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus in particular.
Studies have found that oligozoospermia, otherwise known as a low sperm count, can be treated over time with an amino acid called arginine. A good quantity of arginine can be found in dark chocolate, so you may be able to improve your fertility by switching out white and milk chocolate for dark varieties.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The omega-3 fatty acids found in different types of fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and herring, have all been suggested to help improve the quality and quantity of sperm produced. If you would prefer a vegan or vegetarian alternative to this, you can find alternatives in chia seeds and flaxseeds, walnuts, edamame or kidney beans, soya bean oil, or seaweed or algae.
Not only is staying hydrated with water good for your health in general, but it is also good for male fertility. This is because it helps to create healthy seminal fluid (or semen).
Advice on Fertility Diets for Couples
For couples looking to conceive as soon as possible, switching to a diet plan that improves both male fertility and female fertility is a highly recommended route. This is because it’s possible for either partner or even for both at the same time, to be experiencing issues that are causing infertility as a result. Switching both your diets to a healthier one, with lots of fruit and vegetables, healthy fats from nuts or oily fish, and proteins like chicken or tofu can help.
Cooking together and committing to a diet plan can also be a great opportunity for couples to bond and work towards their overall goal of forming their dream family.
Foods to Avoid When Trying to Conceive
Naturally, while there are foods that people should look to include as part of a fertility diet, there are also certain types of food and drink that they should avoid. These include:
Drinking alcohol is often a factor in male and female infertility; it can reduce libido (sex drive) in men, cause problems with sexual function, and affect the quality of sperm cells. Alcohol can also reduce the chances of women becoming pregnant.
Caffeine (Advice for Women in Particular)
While it is still possible to drink tea and coffee in moderation when planning your family, having too much can lead to dehydration. This can lead to a change in the consistency of cervical mucus in partners who are biologically female, making it harder for them to get pregnant.
Sugary Drinks (Advice for Women in Particular)
Much like processed foods, processed drinks with a lot of sugar can create issues with insulin production in biologically female bodies. Artificial sweeteners that are often alternatives to sugar can also become stressors on the system and create a cortisol response as a result. Because cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone, having too much of it in your system can inhibit ovulation.
Dairy (Advice for Men in Particular)
While full-fat dairy is recommended for women, nonbinary, and transgender patients who were born female, some experts have suggested the exact opposite for men and people who were born male. Full-fat versions of dairy products like cheese, milk, and yoghurt have been associated with lower quality semen. Meanwhile, low-fat alternatives have been seen to support male fertility.
Soy (Advice for Men in Particular)
While whole and fermented soy products are fine in moderation, some experts recommend avoiding soy protein isolate (found in powders and energy bars). This is because the oestrogen-mimicking properties can disrupt hormone levels and may have an impact on testosterone levels as a result.
Setting Up a Fertility Diet Plan
Your doctor, or even your fertility or nutrition specialist if you already have one, may be able to help you set up a meal plan based on the diet that will work best for you. At GENNET City Fertility, we work with Dr Michelle Braude of Tailor Made Nutrition to help patients optimise their diet. Whether they are looking for weight loss advice to bring down their BMI before treatment can begin or would like to set up a planned fertility diet to increase their chances of conceiving naturally, we can provide the specialist advice they need.
Book a Consultation with a Specialist
If you and your partner feel ready to take the next step on the road to parenthood but feel you may need some help getting there, such as through a diet designed to improve fertility, contact us today. We’ll be glad to get you booked in for a free, 30-minute mini consultation with one of our specialists as soon as you get in touch.
After taking you through an initial assessment they should be able to provide advice on fertility-boosting lifestyle changes or recommend working with Tailor Made Nutrition to give you the best possible chance of getting pregnant. They may also offer suggestions for professional treatments, though you will never be pressured into taking this next step with us if you feel more comfortable following a fertility diet plan to form your ideal family.