From whole milk to whole grain, bee pollen to big breakfasts, there’s a lot of info out there on foods to help fertility. But a fertility diet? Is it something you should try?
Before you make any big change, of course, you want some evidence. And, lucky for you, we’re here to point you in the right direction!
The truth? Some women swear by it and others might not see any effect whatsoever.
After all, while the evidence behind fertility diets is strong, no one said that eating differently will guarantee that you’ll conceive.
But there’s no harm in trying to give our chances a little boost.
So, with a spirit of balance, we want to give you some info on the best diet for fertility – and let you know some foods to avoid when trying to conceive.
In this article: 📝
- What is the fertility diet?
- What foods increase female fertility?
- Other fertility diet meal plans
- What foods are bad for fertility?
- What is the best fertility diet?
- How can I make myself more fertile?
What is the fertility diet?
The internet’s awash with dietary plans that promise to boost your fertility.
But the one that’s worth knowing comes from the book by two researchers at Harvard.
That’s The Fertility Diet: Groundbreaking Research Reveals Natural Ways to Boost Ovulation and Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant (available on Amazon).
Perhaps not the catchiest title. However, the book was indeed pretty groundbreaking.
Based on studies of the diets of 18,000 women, the researchers argued that what you eat makes the biggest difference to your chances of conceiving.
And they outlined a ‘fertility diet’ that optimizes those chances.
Cool, so what do they recommend?
Alongside quitting smoking and doing lots of physical exercise, they suggested the following:
- Avoid trans fats – artificial fats in processed food used to boost its shelf life – and try unsaturated fats instead. These you find in vegetable oils and oily fish like mackerel and sardines.
- Get protein from vegetables, rather than meat. Beans, peas, and nuts are great sources of vegetable protein.
- Drink whole milk. According to the researchers, skim milk appears to negatively affect fertility. The proper full-fat stuff is a better option. This is due to the fact that dairy which is rich in saturated fat such as whole milk, is beneficial for fertility.
- Make sure your diet is full of iron. That means cereals, spinach, tomatoes, and beans.
- Drink lots of water – but give caffeine, alcohol, and sodas a miss.
Does the fertility diet work?
Does it work? Well, according to the researchers, it does.
They found that women who stuck to this fertility diet when trying to conceive had a 66% lower risk of infertility caused by problems with ovulation – and a 27% lower risk of infertility overall.
So, you may well find that the fertility diet works for you.
But, disclaimer (!): it’s not as simple as eating this thing will increase your fertility by that much.
There’s not a single hack that’ll improve your chances all by itself.
That’s why some people are a little skeptical of the fertility diet.
It might just be that it’s a pretty healthy diet – and that good health increases your chances of conceiving!
We know, for example, that being overweight or underweight can impair your fertility.
As a result, getting a good level of healthy fats and boosting plant proteins – as the diet suggests – can surely help.
What foods increase female fertility?
This specific fertility diet is one way to ensure your body enjoys the perfect conditions for conception.
But are there other foods that affect fertility? There sure are, in principle at least.
But keep that disclaimer in mind – there’s nothing we can guarantee.
So, what else might be part of the best diet for fertility?
Here are some of the key foods on the fertility diet meal plan:
Also known as folacin or vitamin B9, folates are a renowned antioxidant found in green leafy foods.
A high intake of folates is associated with higher birth rates, so if you’re TTC, folates are a must to add to your fertility diet menu.
Folate-high fertility diet foods include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Romaine lettuce
And, luckily, if you’re no big fan of sprouts (we get it), there are folate supplements available that can help.
‘Refined’ or highly processed carbohydrates, like those in cakes or cookies, are quickly converted into sugar when you digest them.
This makes your blood sugar spike – and this can knock your chances of pregnancy, making them a great addition to your fertility diet.
Meanwhile, sources of carbohydrates that are high in fiber (aka complex carbs) are digested slowly.
And that’ll give you the goodness of carbs without the sugar rush.
Some complex carb foods to add to your fertility diet meal plan are:
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Bean sprouts
- Kidney beans
In fact, most veggies are great sources of complex carbs, so stock up on your favorite for your fertility diet meal plan!
A big breakfast?
Not exactly a food, we get that.
But eating a big breakfast may help improve your chances of getting pregnant.
Why? It’s all about when you consume most of your calories in your fertility diet meal plan.
If you get more than half of your energy in the morning, your insulin resistance drops, and your testosterone levels decrease too.
And both of these boost those chances of conception.
According to The Fertility Diet, a single portion of whole milk can help you to have more regular menstrual cycles, which can help you to get pregnant if you’re TTC.
In 2007, a study was carried out into whether drinking full-fat dairy products helped women to get pregnant. As it turned out, dairy foods with a higher fat percentage tended to reduce the risk of infertility.
So there could be something in switching from skimmed to full-fat for your fertility diet meal plan.
The Fertility Diet also encourages eating more plant-based foods for your protein, rather than meats.
Plus, according to this study, increasing your plant-based proteins in place of animal-based proteins could also reduce the risk of infertility.
Looking to try more plant-based proteins in your fertility diet? Try some of these:
- Brussels sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
- Nutritional yeast
- Wild rice
Other fertility diet meal plans
Looking for a fertility diet that’s more suited to your individual fertility needs or lifestyle choices?
Check out these other fertility diet suggestions:
IVF diet plan
While there’s no official IVF diet plan for fertility, some of our IVF mamas on Peanut have shared their recommended foods to include in your IVF fertility diet plan:
- Full-fat yogurt
- Brown rice
- Olive oil
PCOS fertility diet
If you’ve been diagnosed with, or you think you have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), and you’re trying to conceive, some fertility diet foods can help boost your chances.
Here are some PCOS fertility diet foods suggested by our PCOS mamas on Peanut:
- Flax seeds
- Pulses and beans
- Nut butters
Endometriosis diet for fertility
Endometriosis is another medical condition that can affect your fertility and make pregnancy that bit more difficult.
There are some fertility treatments and medications that can help with endometriosis, but some of our endometriosis mamas on Peanut have also found these foods can be beneficial as an endometriosis diet for fertility:
- Bell peppers
Some of our endometriosis mamas on Peanut have also said that opting for a gluten-free fertility diet helped reduce their symptoms, too ‒ which may work for you, too.
Mediterranean diet for fertility
Look for pretty much any suggestions for healthy eating and you’ll find the so-called Mediterranean diet.
High in whole foods, fresh fruit and vegetables, and naturally occurring fats from vegetable oils and fish, this diet helps your fertility too.
According to one study, sticking to a Mediterranean diet for fertility can make you almost 3 times more likely to conceive. And that’s quite something.
Keto diet and fertility
What about the keto diet for fertility? A low-carb, high-fat fertility diet, perhaps?
Well, there haven’t been many studies on the keto diet and fertility, so it’s hard to say.
But, technically, a low-carb diet may be detrimental to your fertility.
Your body needs carbs to work at its best.
Although switching from processed carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, and white pasta) to complex carbs (whole grain bread, wild/brown rice, and wholegrain pasta) can be good additions to your fertility diet.
Fasting and fertility
Intermittent fasting as a fertility diet ‒ eating for a few hours of the day or limiting your calories a couple of days per week ‒ may not be beneficial.
If you’re restricting your calorie intake drastically, your body will go into reserve mode, reducing certain functions to keep the fundamental organs performing as they should.
That could mean your reproductive system gets put on the back burner.
If you’re looking to try fasting as a fertility diet, we’d suggest chatting with your doctor first.
Plant-based diet and fertility
According to this Harvard study in 2018, “a fertility diet comprised of plant protein from vegetable sources” had a 66% “lower risk of infertility”.
So making the switch to full-on vegan (or even part-time vegan) could improve your chances of getting pregnant.
Low-carb diet for fertility
Can a low-carb diet for fertility increase your chances of getting pregnant?
Maybe. According to this study, a low-carb diet for fertility showed “significant improvement in menstrual cyclicity and/or ovulation rates”.
So a low-carb diet could help your menstrual cycle regularity, which, in turn, could increase your chances of pregnancy.
However, it’s worth noting that the carbohydrates in this study were complex carbs, not processed carbs.
So it’s about both the quality and the quantity of carbs in your fertility diet.
What foods are bad for fertility?
And the foods to avoid when trying to conceive?
We mentioned trans fats, alcohol, and caffeine above, but there are a few others to look out for with your fertility diet:
- Sodas. High blood sugar can negatively affect your chances of conceiving. However, even sugar-free soft drinks can cause difficulties, due to the artificial sweeteners.
- Fast food isn’t great for us, in a whole lot of ways. But another thing it may affect is our fertility. Those of us who eat fast food more than twice a week take an average of a month longer to conceive.
- Caffeine. You’ll have heard that loads of coffee while pregnant is probably not the best idea. The trouble is that, even before pregnancy, caffeine can impair your fertility. It’s a good plan to keep it to just one or two cups of coffee a day in your fertility diet meal plan. Sorry!
- Raw animal products and unpasteurized cheese. It might be the tastiest food to ever grace a plate. However, raw fish and meat make a risky meal when you’re trying to conceive. These, along with unpasteurized cheeses (think camembert, brie, or gorgonzola) can contain bacteria like listeria, which can increase your risk of pregnancy loss.
What is the best fertility diet?
If you’re looking to boost your chances of conception a teeny bit, a fertility diet might be a handy way to do it.
It’s easy, it’s affordable, and it won’t demand any radical interventions in your life.
And even if they don’t immediately help you to conceive, many fertility foods are scrumptious and healthy.
How can I make myself more fertile?
We had a chat with fertility specialists Dr. Serena Chen and Dr. Shahin Ghadir, who suggested these top tips on how to make yourself more fertile:
A reasonable amount of exercise in your weekly routine can be beneficial to improving your fertility.
Whatever feels right for you.
2. Taking prenatal vitamins
Folic acid, in particular, is really important.
Supplemental folic acid intake increases maternal folate status.
Low maternal folate status is a risk factor in the development of neural tube defects in the developing fetus.
As well as playing a role in the process of cell division, folic acid also contributes to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy.
The beneficial effect is obtained with a supplemental folic acid daily intake of 400µg for at least one month before and up to three months after conception.
If you’re not sure which preconception supplements to take, our Peanut community loves Vitabiotics Pregnacare Conception Max, which provides 400µg folic acid in an advanced form L-Methylfolate plus zinc which contributes to normal fertility and reproduction.
400µg folic acid is the exact level recommended by the Department of Health for all women who are trying to conceive.
3. Knowing when to have sex
Understanding when you’re ovulating can be one of the best ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant.
4. Managing your stress levels
Being stressed can affect your fertility, so crack out the bubble bath and get meditating!
5. Cutting down the alcohol
Yup, putting down the wine glass can also boost your fertility.
There you have it! All there is to know about the fertility diet, along with some other fertility diet meal plans suited to your lifestyle and fertility situations.
Keen to get more fertility diet meal ideas? Have a chat with our mamas, mamas-to-be, and our TTC community on Peanut!