Fertility Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid for Men and Women

Reports show that around 9% of men and 11% of women in the United States have fertility problems. 

Sometimes in infertile couples (one-third), the problem is with the man, sometimes the problem is with the woman (one-third), and in some cases (one-third), both partners have fertility issues. 

Problems with fertility put additional stress on both people and their relationships. But, it’s possible to improve fertility in many ways. This post explains how diet can help.

How does diet affect fertility?

Nutrition plays a major part in every aspect of our health. It also influences fertility. For example, a review from the Frontiers in Endocrinology found high-fat diet negatively affects male fertility and reproduction. 

The Western diet, which is characterized by high-fat foods, contributes to obesity. Excess weight is strongly associated with fertility struggles.

An unhealthy diet affects female fertility as well. A study from the Advances in Nutrition showed high amounts of fast food and lower consumption of fruits and vegetables is linked to infertility and a moderate increase in the time to conceive. 

Moreover, an unhealthy infertility diet can alter the ovarian cycle and affect hormone concentrations, all of which can create fertility problems.

While an unhealthy diet contributes to infertility, eating healthy foods can aid the management of this problem. 

You see, nutrition influences your hormone balance and thereby has both direct and indirect impacts on fertility. For example, a healthy diet can help you slim down and thereby improve your hormone profile. As a result, your fertility can improve as well. An unhealthy diet does the opposite. 

It’s also important to mention sexual and reproductive health of men and women requires various vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. 

Fertility can be reduced when you don’t supply the body with much-needed nutrients. You need to obtain those nutrients through diet in order to ensure the proper functioning of reproductive organs. 

What is a fertility diet?

A fertility diet is exactly what the name suggests – a diet for fertility or an eating plan focused on improving fertility and decreasing the time it takes to conceive a child. 

It’s important to mention that a fertility diet is not a single, specific diet to get pregnant. There are multiple nutritional approaches and diets to increase fertility.

For example, doctors at the Harvard School of Public Health developed a diet that helps women primarily improve their chances of getting pregnant. They co-authored the book Fertility Diet: Groundbreaking Research Reveals Natural Ways to Boost Ovulation & Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant. 

The book is particularly considered helpful for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and other ovulatory disorders. A fertility diet is a healthy way to help females improve the consumption of vital nutrients for pregnancy.

Optimizing your diet is a great way to improve fertility. For that reason, an optimal fertility diet meal plan is any dietary pattern that can help men and women in this situation. 

It’s not just the fertility diet described above. Other eating patterns such as the Mediterranean diet can also serve this purpose and act as fertility diets. 

Various patterns can serve this purpose, but what the best diets for fertility have in common is a high intake of fruits, vegetables, seafood, and whole grains.

12 foods that men should add to their fertility diet

A healthy lifestyle and a well-balanced diet are vital for male fertility. Making dietary adjustments and increasing the intake of certain foods can help men struggling with these issues. 

Below, you can learn more about foods that men should add to their fertility diet.

1) Fish

Eating more fish can help men improve their fertility by boosting sperm count. Studies show sperm quality is better in males who eat more white meat fish such as halibut or cod. 

Men with a high intake of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, or bluefish tend to have a 34% higher sperm count than their counterparts who don’t eat fish.

estrogen dominance diet

2) Walnuts

Walnuts are incredibly beneficial for our health, including fertility. Eating two handfuls of walnuts a day can improve sperm health, shape, movement, and vitality. 

Like other nuts, walnuts are a good source of folate, Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamin E, selenium, and zinc. All of these are important for male sexual and reproductive health.

3) Lean meats

Lean meat is an excellent source of zinc, the most significant hormone for male reproductive function. Reduced zinc levels are associated with low testosterone, poor sperm quality, and a higher risk of male infertility. 

Increasing zinc intake may result in normalized testosterone levels and improved sperm quality, resulting in better fertility.

4) Leafy greens

Thanks to folate content, leafy greens like spinach are good for male fertility. Folate is a key vitamin in the synthesis of DNA, and it can also support sperm quality. 

The best thing about leafy greens plants is that there are plenty of them, and it’s easy to add these vegetables into your diet.

BPH Vegetable

5) Oysters

Oysters are well-known for their aphrodisiac effects. They also happen to be among the best foods for fertility in men. They are abundant in zinc, which increases sperm motility and semen volume. 

Pumpkin seeds, and other seeds, are also a wonderful source of zinc. Additionally, oysters are rich in vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids, which are necessary for optimal testosterone levels.

6) Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is a great source of l-arginine amino acids. This amino acid has the potential to increase ejaculate volume and improve sperm motility and count. Also, dark chocolate can support the hormonal balance necessary for healthy fertility.

7) Kiwi

Kiwi is high in vitamin C, which can improve semen quality. Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant that prevents or helps manage oxidative stress. 

Evidence confirms that oxidative stress is strongly associated with male infertility through impaired sperm function. 

Besides kiwi, you may want to enrich your diet with fruits and vegetables abundant in vitamin C, including watermelon for fertility.

8-12) Other fertility-friendly foods to eat

Besides the abovementioned, men should also strive to consume these foods to improve their fertility:

lycopene-prostate-cancer

5 foods that men should avoid for fertility 

By eliminating some foods from your diet, you can give your fertility a significant boost. 

Below is the list of foods men should avoid or reduce their consumption. 

1) Processed meats

Frequent intake of processed meats can impair your ability to fertilize an egg. Processed meat is linked to reduced sperm count and altered sperm motility. They can also contribute to weight gain and negatively affect hormonal balance.

2) Soy 

Soy-based foods may harm male fertility. In one study, men with the highest soy intake had an average of 42 million sperm/ml less than their counterparts who didn’t consume soy. 

Soy contains phytoestrogens that may have a negative impact on male hormonal balance and reproductive health.

3) Trans fat

Trans fats affect reproductive health by impairing sperm morphology. They also impair metabolic pathways and contribute to weight gain, which may lead to reduced testosterone. Try to avoid trans fats and focus on healthy fats instead.

4) Full-fat dairy products

Regular consumption of full-fat dairy, particularly cheese, has been linked to poor sperm quality. For that reason, you may want to switch to low-fat dairy. 

Strive to avoid or reduce consuming full-fat dairy products because they can also contribute to abnormal sperm shape. 

dairy and insulin

5) Alcohol

Alcohol is among the biggest enemies of male fertility. Regular, especially heavy, consumption of alcohol can contribute to infertility through impaired sperm count, shape, size, and motility. 

Additionally, alcohol can also lower testosterone, luteinizing hormone, and follicle-stimulating hormone levels, as well as raise estrogen.

12 foods that women should add to their fertility diet

Like men, women can also improve their fertility by making healthy adjustments in their diet. 

So, which foods increase female fertility? What to eat when trying to get pregnant? 

In order to improve your fertility and increase your chances of getting pregnant, you should eat the following foods.

1) Foods rich in folate

Folate is one of the most significant foods to increase female fertility. Consumption of this micronutrient is associated with higher chances of getting pregnant, lower risk of neural tube defects in babies, and better success with fertility treatments. 

You can obtain folate through dark green leafy vegetables, sunflower seeds, liver, seafood, whole grains, and other foods. 

Women who don’t get enough folate through the diet may want to take folic acid supplements.

2) Foods with vitamin B12

Low vitamin B12 status in women is associated with infertility. Higher levels of this vitamin and folate could enhance fertility in women who are undergoing some form of infertility treatment. 

You can find vitamin B12 in fish, meat, dairy products, and eggs, all of which are great foods for female fertility.

3) Citrus fruits

These fruits are abundant in vitamin C and are perfect additions to the fertility diet for women. Plus, oranges and grapefruits are rich in polyamine putrescine, which is associated with improved semen and egg health. 

Eat orange slices or use citrus fruits to make juices and smoothies at home. 

vitamin c for erectile dysfunction

4) Full-fat dairy

Consumption of full-fat dairies such as milk, yogurt, and cheese can promote a more regular cycle in women and aid conception, which is why they are amazing fertility-boosting foods for females. 

You may want to consume one to two servings of full-fat dairy a day. Interestingly, low-fat dairy doesn’t have this effect, and these products aren’t good fertility foods for women. It’s also useful to mention that full-fat dairy is among the best foods for ovulation.

5) Pineapple

Pineapple is a rich source of vitamin C and one of the best foods to eat when trying to get pregnant. 

Low levels of vitamin C are linked with PCOS. Polycystic ovary syndrome is one of the most common causes of infertility problems in women. 

Moreover, pineapple contains bromelain, a natural enzyme with anti-inflammatory effects. This is particularly important because inflammatory foods affect fertility and may suppress ovulation or contribute to ovulatory infertility. 

6) Salmon

Salmon and other fatty fish are the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are a major factor in both male and female fertility. Additionally, salmon is a good source of vitamin D. 

Low levels of the sunshine vitamin are related to poor fertility. Also, salmon and other fatty fish are among the best foods that increase ovulation rate.

7) Cinnamon

Consumption of cinnamon can give a major boost to the management of irregular menstrual cycles in women with PCOS. 

In one study, women with PCOS reported twice the number of menstrual periods while taking cinnamon daily than their counterparts from the placebo group. For that reason, cinnamon is a valuable addition to your fertility meals.

cinnamon benefits

8-12) Other foods to eat

In addition to the fertility food options listed above, women who want to improve fertility should also add the following foods to their TTC meal plan:

  • Oysters
  • Berries
  • Yams
  • Complex carbs instead of simple carbohydrates 
  • Lean animal protein

8 foods women should avoid for their fertility

While some foods can do wonders for your fertility, others aren’t so beneficial. 

To improve your chances of getting pregnant, you may want to avoid or reduce your intake of the following foods that decrease fertility in females.

1) High-mercury fish

Consumption of high-mercury fish is linked to an increased risk of infertility. That happens because increased mercury levels in the body impair reproductive function and contribute to the abnormal menstrual cycle. 

Examples of fish that don’t belong to fertility nutrition include swordfish, fresh tuna, king mackerel, shark, and tilefish. 

2) Soda 

Both diet and regular soda are linked to lower fertility. These beverages are usually abundant in sugar, which can contribute to inflammation and metabolic changes in the body, such as high insulin levels

An unhealthy infertility nutrition diet is abundant in soda, so you should strive to avoid it.

3) Trans fats

Trans fats are bad news for fertility because they cause insulin resistance and inflammation. They can also damage blood vessels and thereby impair the proper flow of nutrients to the reproductive system.

4-8) Other foods to avoid 

Like men, women should also avoid processed meats and alcohol. You may also want to avoid soft cheese, foods with a high glycemic index, and raw animal products. 

Lifestyle changes that can help improve fertility 

Diet modification is one of the most important measures for improved fertility. Other lifestyle changes are also necessary. 

You also need to:

  • Maintain a healthy weight or slim down if you’re overweight/obese
  • Exercise regularly, but avoid overtraining 
  • Try supplements that improve fertility
  • Manage stress
  • Quit smoking
  • Get enough sleep
  • Reduce caffeine intake
  • Prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Avoid or reduce exposure to toxins such as pesticides, lead, and dry-cleaning solvents
  • Avoid fad diets
  • Manage underlying health conditions

Conclusion

Men and women alike may struggle with infertility. Dietary changes can improve fertility and increase the chance of successful conception and healthy pregnancy. 

This post focused on foods men and women should eat and avoid in order to improve their fertility. 

Remember, other lifestyle changes are also important. If you’re struggling to conceive, you may want to see your doctor. 

A combination of standard medicine and lifestyle modification could improve your fertility. Your doctor can provide useful services and information that will make it easier for you to overcome these problems.

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Sources

  1. Pini T, Raubenheimer D, Simpson SJ, Crean AJ. Obesity and Male Reproduction; Placing the Western Diet in Context. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7991841/
  2. Skoracka K, Ratajczak AE, Rychter AM, Dobrowolska A, Krela-Kaźmierczak I. Female Fertility and the Nutritional Approach: The Most Essential Aspects. Adv Nutr. 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8634384/
  3. Colagar AH, Marzony ET, Chaichi MJ. Zinc levels in seminal plasma are associated with sperm quality in fertile and infertile men. Nutr Res. 2009. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19285597/
  4. Bisht S, Faiq M, Tolahunase M, Dada R. Oxidative stress and male infertility. Nat Rev Urol. 2017. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28508879/
  5. Ricci E, Al-Beitawi S, Cipriani S, Alteri A, Chiaffarino F, Candiani M, Gerli S, Viganó P, Parazzini F. Dietary habits and semen parameters: a systematic narrative review. Andrology. 2018. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/andr.12452
  6. Chavarro JE, Toth TL, Sadio SM, Hauser R. Soy food and isoflavone intake in relation to semen quality parameters among men from an infertility clinic. Hum Reprod. 2008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2721724/
  7. Gaskins AJ, Chiu YH, Williams PL, et al. Association between serum folate and vitamin B-12 and outcomes of assisted reproductive technologies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4588741/
  8. Pavine L. C. Lefèvre, Marie-France Palin, Bruce D. Murphy, Polyamines on the Reproductive Landscape, Endocrine Reviews, Volume 32, Issue 5, 1 October 2011, Pages 694–712. https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/32/5/694/2354766
  9. Wang, H., Ruan, X., Li, Y. et al. Oxidative stress indicators in Chinese women with PCOS and correlation with features of metabolic syndrome and dependency on lipid patterns. Arch Gynecol Obstet 300, 1413–1421 (2019). https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00404-019-05305-7
  10. Kort DH, Lobo RA. Preliminary evidence that cinnamon improves menstrual cyclicity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2014. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24813595/

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