Fertility and Nutrition

Recent studies and articles have piqued my interest in nutrition and the affects it has on male and females in regards to fertility. I have taken the most up-to-date research based evidence to give a list of foods and nutrients that have been shown to provide benefits while attempting to become pregnant if included in your daily diet. I will also touch on the foods that you may want to avoid or limit due to negative correlations with fertility.

According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, it is reported that 10% of the population is affected by infertility. We can’t control some causes of infertility but we can control what we eat! A healthy body weight is just a start for creating a healthy lifestyle and nourishing your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly. “The National Infertility Association reports that 30 percent of infertility cases are due to weight extremes, which can alter hormone levels and throw ovulation off schedule. For women who are overweight, as little as 5 percent weight loss could improve fertility.”3 Lack of adequate body fat can also affect fertility, keeping your BMI >18.5 is recommended. “A certain amount of body fat is needed for regular ovulation and menstrual cycles because some estrogen is produced in women’s fat stores. In fact, body weight changes of just 10% to 15% below normal can disrupt menstrual cycles.”4

Addition: 

  • Iron rich foods: beans, eggs, lentils, fortified cereals, long-grain enriched rice and whole grains. Pairing these foods with foods high in Vitamin C like citrus fruits or orange juice can enhance absorption of food sources of iron as well.
  • Seafood/Omega-3’s: Fish high in omega-3 fats are salmon, albacore tuna (fresh and canned), sardines, lake trout and mackerel.
  • Vegetables: spinach, chile peppers, black and green olives, mushrooms, asparagus, arugula, radicchio, beets, broccoli, artichokes, and red peppers
  • Fruits: blackberries, red currants, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, pineapple, plums, and pomegranates
  • Monounsaturated Fats: avocados, nuts, plant oils like canola oil and olive oil,  and peanut butter
  • Vitamin D Rich Foods:  Salmon, swordfish, fortified skim milk, fortified orange juice,  whole grain cereal (Sunlight is the most efficient source of vitamin D for people so just go grab some rays outside!) Research shows that vitamin D deficiency contributes to infertility issues and is now included in prenatal counseling due to the importance of adequate Vitamin D in the beginning of pregnancy as well as while attempting to become pregnant.2

Avoid: 

  • Processed Meat and Red Meat – shown to reduce sperm quality compared to men who consumed high amounts of vegetable proteins and fish
  • Alcohol – studies have shown that alcohol intake can affect implantation and conceiving as well as increase your risk of early miscarriages.
  • Sugar-Sweetened Beverages + Sweets – it is well known that increased consumption of sugar sweetened beverages  and sweets in general contributes to excess calories consumed throughout the day which in turn results in increased weight gain and a higher BMI which in males is related to low sperm count. Avoiding sugar sweetened beverages in hand with a healthy body weight is ideal. 5
  • Trans-Fatty Acids – intake of trans fatty acids may be related to lower semen quality. Trans fatty acids are man-made fatty acids created to increase shelf-life of common foods, there are no benefits associated with consuming trans-fatty acid. 6

Fertility Foods Cookbook

This is a beautiful cookbook, written by two registered dietitians, filled with well-researched nutrition recommendations. These recipes are inclusive of variety, flavor and satisfaction and would be great for anyone — trying to conceive or not.

In summary, consume more antioxidant rich foods, limit your meat consumption and try more meat-less meals, manage your stress, add fruits and vegetables to all meals and make sure you are getting appropriate amounts of all vitamins and minerals (consume a prenatal!). Avoid simple carbohydrates and too many sweets, choose nutrient dense and make sure you are consuming 5-6 smaller more frequent meals throughout the day.

-Cinthia Scott, RD, LD, CNSC

References:

  1. Human Reproduction Update, Volume 23, Issue 4, 1 July 2017, Pages 371–389,https://doi.org/10.1093/humupd/dmx006
  2. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2017 Dec 17. pii: S0960-0760(17)30382-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2017.12.011.
  3. http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/pregnancy/fertility-and-reproduction/fertility-foods
  4. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/050113p38.shtml
  5. Human Reproduction, Volume 29, Issue 7, 1 July 2014, Pages 1575–1584,https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/deu102
  6. Hum Reprod. 2014 Mar; 29(3): 429–440.
  7. Published online 2014 Jan 12. doi:  10.1093/humrep/det464

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