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.
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.
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.
- 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 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 it 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 sceptical 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 affect 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 other foods that may help boost your fertility nutrition.
Also known as folacin or vitamin B9, folates are a renowned antioxidant found in green leafy foods like kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. A high intake of folates is associated with higher birth rates. 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.
Meanwhile, sources of carbohydrates that are high in fiber – such as beans and whole grains, and fruits and veggies – are digested slowly. And that’ll give you the goodness of carbs without the sugar rush.
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 can make you almost 3 times more likely to conceive. And that’s quite something.
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. 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.
What foods should I avoid 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.
- 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 when trying to conceive. 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 miscarriage.
What is the best diet for fertility?
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 into your life. And even if they don’t immediately help you to conceive, many fertility foods are scrumptious and healthy.
💡 Read also:
6 Fertility Foods & The Science Behind Them
How to Get Pregnant: Expert Advice From Fertility Specialists
Ovulation Tests: How They Work & When to Use Them
7 Possible Ovulation Symptoms
What to Know About Late Ovulation