A plate full of colorful vegetables, healthy fats, and micronutrients to promote a fertility diet
Research,  Wellness

Fertility Diet: The Macronutrients You Need for Healthy Hormone Balance

A “fertility diet” simply means making healthy eating choices for ovarian health, egg quality, sperm quality, and ultimately a successful pregnancy. What are HEALTHY eating choices?! A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fiber, and monounsaturated fats is associated with improved fertility in women and better sperm quality in men. On the other hand, a diet high in saturated fat or sugar is associated with decreased fertility in both men and women.

In an eight year observational study, women who followed a “fertility diet” decreased their risk of infertility by 66%. This diet prioritized monounsaturated fats, vegetables, full-fat dairy, and avoided simple carbohydrates. Women who follow these principles tend to have lower rates of infertility and higher rates of healthy pregnancies


A plate full of colorful vegetables, healthy fats, and micronutrients to promote a fertility diet
Eating for Fertility = Eating ALLLLLLL the colors

With any “diet” the restriction may feel limiting. Instead, eating for fertility can be as much about inclusion as it is about exclusion. How can you maximize fiber, protein, and high-quality fats in your diet? Often, these things naturally come at the expense of less-healthy choices. For example, choosing nutrient dense berries over high-sugar fruit juice OR walnuts in place of croutons. It may help to focus on these simple swaps in the foods you normally eat. The most important part of any diet is that you find sustainable eating habits that fit into your everyday life.

Let’s take a closer look at key macronutrients for a fertility diet….

PROTEIN

Much of the research vilifying red meat is focused on conventially-raised feed lot meat. However, red meat is a great source of essential nutrients like protein and iron. Grass-fed, local beef or bison is an incredibly nutrient-dense food that can improve fertility outcomes.

>>Sourcing is SO important. I order my meat from Northstar Bison, a ranch located in Northern Wisconsin that ships all over the country<< 

A balanced diet filled with varied protein sources is still the gold-standard. A fertility diet should include seeds and nuts, beans, peas, and seafood as alternative proteins that improve overall health. 


FAT

Healthy sources of fat are essential for hormone development, neurotransmission, and cell membrane health. Women who are looking to improve fertility should focus on increasing omega-3 fatty acids from seeds, nuts, olive oil, and fish. Certain high-fat foods provide essential nutrients to support fertility. The choline in eggs is important for membrane health and neurodevelopment. Avocado is high in magnesium, and helps support progesterone! 

<<Give your body the nutrients it needs to create healthy hormones. Download my Hormone Healing Diet Guide with Meal Plan & Recipe Book>>

CARBOHYDRATES

Not all carbohydrates are bad. When eating for fertility, the fiber that comes from many foods high in carbohydrate is an essential staple. However, simple carbs such as processed foods, white bread, candy, and soda have a profound effect on blood sugar and should be avoided. High-sugar consumption is associated with lower pregnancy rates AND has been shown to decrease sperm quality in men

Instead, complex carbohydrates that are lower on the glycemic index provide steady energy and nutrients. These complex carbohydrates include starchy vegetables, legumes, and certain whole grains. For more about fiber, and how it fits into a fertility diet, see this post about the Bean Protocol. 

The Big Takeway of a FERTILITY DIET…

If you’re making dietary changes in hopes of increasing fertility, try not to be too hard on yourself. This is a lifestyle overhaul that involves implementing many SMALL steps. Every healthy choice is positive benefit, and every small deviation isn’t going to completely undo your progress. 


Are you self-motivated? CLICK HERE to get my HORMONE HEALING DIET GUIDE based on the principles of the Fertility Diet. This is a self-explanatory guide with Meal Plan, Recipes, and Shopping Lists for Omnivores and Plant-Based Eating alike.

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Want to work with a functional nutritionist to personalize your diet? Struggling with hormone imbalance, IBS, weight gain, mood changes? Let’s look at FOOD FIRST. Read more about Functional Nutrition at The Facility here.


CLICK HERE to schedule a FREE 15-Minute Nutrition Consult with Kate to determine your best course of action!

REFERENCES

US Department of Health and Human Services. (2015). US Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 dietary guidelines for Americans.

Selhub, E. (2020, March 26). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Harvard Health Blog.

Gaskins, A. J., & Chavarro, J. E. (2018). Diet and fertility: a review. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 218(4), 379–389.

Panth, N., Gavarkovs, A., Tamez, M., & Mattei, J. (2018). The Influence of Diet on Fertility and the Implications for Public Health Nutrition in the United States. Frontiers in public health, 6, 211.

Chavarro, J. E., Rich-Edwards, J. W., Rosner, B. A., & Willett, W. C. (2007). Diet and lifestyle in the prevention of ovulatory disorder infertility. Obstetrics and gynecology, 110(5), 1050–1058.

National Institutes of Health. (2017, January 31). What are some possible causes of female infertility?

Gaskins, A. J., Rich-Edwards, J. W., Hauser, R., Williams, P. L., Gillman, M. W., Ginsburg, E. S., Missmer, S. A., & Chavarro, J. E. (2014). Maternal prepregnancy folate intake and risk of spontaneous abortion and stillbirth. Obstetrics and gynecology, 124(1), 23–31.

Westphal, L. M., Polan, M. L., & Trant, A. S. (2006). Double-blind, placebo-controlled study of Fertilityblend: a nutritional supplement for improving fertility in women. Clinical and experimental obstetrics & gynecology, 33(4), 205–208.

Toledo, E., Lopez-del Burgo, C., Ruiz-Zambrana, A., Donazar, M., Navarro-Blasco, I., Martínez-González, M. A., & de Irala, J. (2011). Dietary patterns and difficulty conceiving: a nested case-control study. Fertility and sterility, 96(5), 1149–1153.

Karayiannis, D., Kontogianni, M. D., Mendorou, C., Mastrominas, M., & Yiannakouris, N. (2018). Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and IVF success rate among non-obese women attempting fertility. Human reproduction (Oxford, England), 33(3), 494–502.

Salas-Huetos, A., Bulló, M., & Salas-Salvadó, J. (2017). Dietary patterns, foods and nutrients in male fertility parameters and fecundability: a systematic review of observational studies. Human reproduction update, 23(4), 371–389.

Attaman, J. A., Toth, T. L., Furtado, J., Campos, H., Hauser, R., & Chavarro, J. E. (2012). Dietary fat and semen quality among men attending a fertility clinic. Human reproduction (Oxford, England), 27(5), 1466–1474.

Nassan, F., Chiu, Y., Vanegas, J., Gaskins, A., Williams, P., Ford, J., Attaman, J., Hauser, R., Chavarro, J., EARTH Study Team. (2018, November). Intake of protein-rich foods in relation to outcomes of infertility treatment with assisted reproductive technologies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 108(5), 1104–1112.

Moran, L. J., Tsagareli, V., Noakes, M., & Norman, R. (2016). Altered Preconception Fatty Acid Intake Is Associated with Improved Pregnancy Rates in Overweight and Obese Women Undertaking in Vitro Fertilisation. Nutrients, 8(1), 10.

American Heart Association. (2018, April 16). Carbohydrates.

Mayo Clinic. (2020, April 25). Female fertility: Why lifestyle choices count.

Karmon, A. E., Toth, T. L., Chiu, Y. H., Gaskins, A. J., Tanrikut, C., Wright, D. L., Hauser, R., Chavarro, J. E., & Earth Study Team (2017). Male caffeine and alcohol intake in relation to semen parameters and in vitro fertilization outcomes among fertility patients. Andrology, 5(2), 354–361.

Hatch, E. E., Wise, L. A., Mikkelsen, E. M., Christensen, T., Riis, A. H., Sørensen, H. T., & Rothman, K. J. (2012). Caffeinated beverage and soda consumption and time to pregnancy. Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.), 23(3), 393–401.

Giahi, L., Mohammadmoradi, S., Javidan, A., & Sadeghi, M. R. (2016). Nutritional modifications in male infertility: a systematic review covering 2 decades. Nutrition reviews, 74(2), 118–130.

Kate Daugherty is a Functional Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist candidate specializing in mind-body wellness. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to bring the physiological body into balance. Kate offers nutritional consultation and functional medicine healing at her clinic, The Facility, in Denver, Colorado. Read more about her nutritional approach here and her background here.

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