If you’re trying to have a baby, you’ll want to optimize your body’s fertility level. Getting pregnant relies on the reproductive health of both you and your partner. One way to provide your body and reproductive system with the healthy start they need is to follow a fertility diet.
What’s a fertility diet?
The fertility diet is a loose set of guidelines encouraging foods that promote fertility in women. Evidence shows that some foods promote healthy ovulation, so a fertility diet includes these foods specifically.
In general, the fertility diet is a healthy well-balanced diet that can be followed by anyone. It promotes healthy whole food choices as opposed to processed, harmful foods. Like many other diets, the fertility diet emphasizes plant-based protein and complex carbs.
The Harvard School of Public Health’s fertility dietary guidelines promote the consumption of “good” fats, whole grains and plant protein. According to the guidelines, the other “bad” fats (found in red meats and processed foods) can limit your ability to ovulate.
Do fertility diets actually work?
Studies clearly show that certain foods and nutrients can affect fertility positively. According to a 2017 study by researchers at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, these vitamins and minerals are definitely beneficial to fertility in women:
- Folic acid
- Vitamin B12
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Diets high in trans fats, carbohydrates and sugar were found to have a negative effect on fertility in women
Another study published in the Human Reproductive Journal found that whole milk and whole dairy products are beneficial to ovulation while low-fat dairy products are detrimental. In this study, women who ate two or more servings of low-fat dairy products per day increased their risk of infertility by 85 percent. Women who ate at least one serving of high-fat dairy per day reduced their risk of infertility by 27 percent.
While more needs to be studied on foods affecting fertility, we do know that a healthy diet and lifestyle promotes healthy ovulation. The fertility diet provides essential nutrients that we know aid in ovulation. Combined with exercise and total body health, the fertility diet can set your body up for reproductive success.
17 ways to naturally boost fertility
Increasing your potential for fertility takes more work than just watching what you eat. Your entire body needs to be at its best for optimal baby-making conditions. Follow these 17 tips to start making life changes and improving your chances of getting pregnant.
1. Eat more fiber
Fiber is an important part of your diet that helps regulate your blood sugar levels. Sugar levels, in turn, help regulate estrogen levels.
Aim to exercise for 30 minutes at a time, at least three or four times per week. Women who exercise regularly are more likely to become pregnant. Avoid exercise that is too vigorous, as your body can become stressed, which can lead to fertility problems.
3. Drink whole milk
Whole milk has been found to have a positive impact on women’s fertility, while those who consume lower-fat milk have been found to have lower fertility levels.
4. Take a vitamin
Though your diet should give you most of the vitamins and minerals you need, supplements can help fill in the gaps. Take a daily multivitamin that includes folic acid and B vitamins. If you don’t eat fish often, it’s a good idea to take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement as well.
5. Quit smoking
You already know that smoking is bad for your health. If you’re having trouble kicking the habit, use your fertility as motivation to quit for good. After you quit smoking, your body will eventually be restored to its original health, and your pregnancy chances will increase.
6. Look at medications
Your fertility can be affected by medications you take on a regular basis. When in doubt, talk to your doctor about potential fertility side effects. You may need to switch medications or take additional dietary precautions.
7. Drink water
Water is essential to your body’s function. Make sure you drink at least eight to ten glasses per day and more when it’s hot or you’ve been physically active.
8. More fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids benefit ovarian health. A team of Boston researchers found that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids prolongs the reproductive lifetime for women and improves egg quality in older women.
9. Take iron
The Nurses’ Health Study II found that women struggling with fertility and taking iron via supplements or food sources had increased fertility. Foods high in iron include beans and some fruits, spinach and quinoa.
10. Change protein types
Try to rely less on animal protein and more on plant protein. This will help eliminate harmful trans fats from your diet.
11. Trade bad fats for good fats
Avoid fried foods, processed foods and sweets that are often loaded with the “bad” fats. Instead, opt for monounsaturated fats like those found in avocadoes or olive oil.
12. Reduce caffeine intake
Don’t worry. You can still have your coffee. However, decreasing your daily intake to one cup per day will aid in your fertility efforts. Too much caffeine can disturb your reproductive health.
13. Change your carbs
Choose complex carbs in foods like whole grains, beans and vegetables.
14. Avoid soft drinks
Eating too much sugar can affect hormone function, which in turn can affect your fertility.
15. Reduce stress levels
When your body undergoes high levels of stress, ovulation processes can be affected. Make sure you get adequate time for rest so your body can perform at its best.
16. Consume more antioxidants
Antioxidants are complex nutrients found in fruits and vegetables. They are great for your body because they destroy free radicals, protecting your cells from damage. A diet high in antioxidants will help your reproductive system and fertility stay healthy.
17. Eliminate or limit alcohol
Alcohol is hard on your body. A report in Fertility Research and Practice claims that excessive alcohol use can cause damage to the ovarian system. Not to mention, alcohol can harm your fetus should you become pregnant.
Your next steps
Now that you know more about the fertility diet, you probably want to start making changes. Remember to take it one step at a time so you don’t become overwhelmed. To get some help, check out these handy fertility apps.
What’s the first lifestyle change you will make to increase your fertility naturally?
Valerie Sizelove is a freelance writer of blog posts, career guides and more. Her specialties lie in writing about mental health, careers and parenting. When she's not writing up a storm, you might find Valerie cooking a huge dinner for her family of 6 or tinkering around in her amateur vegetable garden. Books are pretty good, too. You can find her on LinkedIn and Facebook.