Fertility is the ability to conceive a child and sustain a healthy pregnancy in order to deliver a baby. Such an enormous physical undertaking is incredible when you stop to think about it, so it should be no surprise that the entire body needs plenty of nutrients to thrive during this process.
Nutrition plays a crucial supporting role through every reproductive stage. And a thoughtful fertility diet contributes to healthy reproductive organs and hormones to maximize the chances of a successful pregnancy.
Find out how to increase fertility with the right foods for both women and men. Also learn which foods to avoid that can decrease fertility.
Understanding Fertility and its Factors
There are a number of factors that impact fertility; some can be controlled, while others are out of our hands. Age, for instance, is a major contributor for both women and men. Studies show that fertility begins to decline around age 30 and starts to intensify after age 35. Medical conditions impacting the reproductive system may also lower fertility rates, as do lifestyle habits like smoking and excessive alcohol use.
Similarly, a poor diet can disrupt hormones and, as a result, ovulation. Research shows that consuming more whole grains, unsaturated fats, vegetables, and fish can improve fertility in both women and men.
The Importance of a Balanced Diet for Fertility
An effective diet for fertility does not automatically mean restricting caloric intake. It's important to pay attention to the types of food you're consuming. The right balance of macronutrients, for example, plays an important role in increasing fertility. These include food groups like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. One study, for instance, revealed that reproductive function in both sexes improved with a high protein, low carb diet.
Also consider micronutrients like vitamins and minerals to support the reproductive system. The most impactful micronutrients for women include folic acid, vitamins B6, C, D, and E. Others to consider are iodine, selenium, iron, and DHA.
There are also a number of researched-based recommendations of micronutrients to increase male fertility. These include carnitines, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Incorporating these through diet or as supplements are considered a first-line treatment for fertility issues in men.
Foods to Include and Avoid in Your Fertility Diet
When looking for ways to increase fertility, try adding these foods into your diet.
Nutrient-rich foods: Think about those macro- and micronutrients that have been proven to help fertility. Think meats, beans, eggs, fish, dairy, and nuts to give you a boost of protein and healthy fats.
Anti-inflammatory foods: A recent study shows that anti-inflammatory foods improve fertility and can reduce the need for intervention. And if you do need fertility treatment, these foods can improve results. Examples include green vegetables, olive oil, root vegetables, and fish.
Antioxidants: Increasing antioxidant intake can increase fertility by reducing oxidative stress. There are many delicious foods that are high in antioxidants, including broccoli, carrots, avocados, beets, and squash.
In addition to adding nutrient-rich foods to your diet, it's also important to avoid certain types of foods that can reduce your fertility.
The following foods can disrupt hormones in as well as overall fertility:
Processed foods and artificial sweeteners can also negatively impact insulin levels. Ovulation can become disrupted or stop completely when women develop an insulin resistance. Alcohol and nicotine also harm fertility odds. In addition to hormone damage in women, both can decrease sperm count and quality in men.
When struggling with infertility, it's important to pay attention to both what foods are going in your body and what damaging substances you can keep out of it. At the end of the day, unprocessed whole foods from a range of food groups are a great starting point for adjusting your nutrition.
Using food for fertility health is a low intervention strategy worth trying before moving onto more in-depth fertility treatments. Start by cutting out the most damaging things like nicotine and excessive alcohol. Then start swapping processed foods for whole foods that are full of nourishing nutrients and antioxidants.
As you develop a more balanced diet, you'll maximize your odds of improving your fertility. While it's always smart to talk to a fertility specialist about a treatment plan, these are some great first steps that anyone can start, no matter where you are in your fertility journey.