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Does the Fertility Diet Actually Work?

There are many foods that will supposedly boost your chances of getting pregnant, or foods that are healthy for pregnancy. IIt turns out there's some truth to the fabled fertility diet, but it's probably not the foods that you think.

March 5, 2021
Charlotte Pearse

For those hoping to get pregnant, you can find countless tips and tricks from the internet or your friends that are supposed to help your chances. And since the fabled “fertility diet” is fairly simple, plenty of people have tried it while trying to conceive.

But how baseless are these tips and tricks? Is there any truth to them?

Unfortunately, most foods you’ll have heard of actually won’t help much with boosting your fertility, but there are foods that can.

A fertility diet that will actually work, to some degree at least, was found with an eight year study on the fertility and diets of more than 18,000 women. This study resulted in suggestions for improving fertility that are based in fact rather than fiction.

Deciding to go on a fertility diet is geared towards decreasing ovulatory infertility, which only makes up about one fourth of cases. Eating foods that help with this won’t have any effect on other reasons for infertility, such as blocked tubes, and it doesn’t guarantee you a pregnancy, but it is an easy way to up your chances.

What to Eat

An overall healthy diet is the best way to go for a healthy lifestyle in general, but it turns out that many foods that are good for you are also good for fertility!

For example, fruits— particularly citrus —and vegetables have been found to give you a fertility boost, along with other plant-based foods. You can get a lot of iron from plants, which is a plus, but getting iron from supplements is also a valid route. 

Whole grains are also beneficial, along with nuts and legumes, which can both be a good alternative source of protein to meat.

An image of a bowl of cashews sitting atop a dark, wooden table.
Cashews are just one type of nut that is said to help boost fertility. They’re low in sugar, but high in the kinds of fibers, fats, and proteins that you want on your fertility diet.

Carbohydrates that digest slowly, like the aforementioned whole grains, are ideal, particularly when they’re rich in fibers. This will help maintain the proper blood sugar levels, and you definitely don’t want to eliminate carbs from your diet completely.

In terms of meat, seafood is the way to go. Search for types that are rich in omega-3,  a polyunsaturated fatty acid that’s common in salmon, mackerel, and some trout.

You don’t want a lot of saturated fat in your diet, which is why monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are so important. The former can be found in vegetable oils, and both help ease inflammation as well as improve insulin sensitivity, which are both conducive to increased fertility.

Another good place to get fat or protein is dairy— go with whole milk rather than skim, or make sure you’re eating some other dairy products, because they have been known to give a boost in fertility.

Multi-vitamins are another good idea, though these should also be cleared with your doctor. Extra folic acid will begin to prepare you to eat for both yourself and your child, and if you’re lacking any nutrients this could be a way to build up your health beforehand as well as to help your chances.

What Not to Eat

Trans fats seem to be the biggest fertility faux-pas, since not only do they harm your fertility chances but your heart as well.

Highly processed foods, too, are a detriment to your health and your potential for pregnancy. And you’ll also want to stay away from simple and refined carbohydrates.

Make sure to avoid sodas, as the excess amounts of sugar can contribute to issues with ovulatory infertility. Though it hardly needs to be advised, it’s best to stay away from alcohol not only while pregnant, but also when you’re trying to conceive. And smoking is an absolute no-go.

Tea and coffee can be fine in moderation, but too much caffeine is a bad idea as well. More than 500 mg a day is no good.

An image of three hands clinking three cups of coffee together in cheers, two hot with latte art and one iced.
These days, it seems like hardly anyone can go without their coffee. However, if you want to go on a fertility diet, you’ll have to hold back from going for that second cup of joe.

The best beverage for these circumstances is, hands down, just a simple glass of water. And make sure to drink a lot of it, as your health is of utmost importance.

There’s a reason pregnant women always have to go to the bathroom— because they’re taking care of themselves, and their unborn children! It’s important to do the same if you’re preparing to conceive.

It also could very possibly be morning sickness, but you’ll have to save that for the pregnancy part. For now, avoiding these harmful types of foods should help with your goal, and also to keep the throwing up to a minimum.

What Else

Weight is an incredibly important thing to keep in mind while trying to get pregnant, which is why healthy fertility diets are so important

A fluctuation in weight can throw off your menstrual cycle, and thereby also mess up your ovulation, which is what fertility diets work to boost in the first place. The best BMI range for fertility is 20-24, so whether you need to gain or lose weight you should aim for those numbers.

In addition, if you’re overweight, losing just 5-10% of your body weight can cause you to start ovulating.

You’ll also want to make sure that you’re staying active, though it’s important to not overwork yourself or strain your body too much once your hope for a pregnancy becomes a reality. Too much exercise can also make conception in the first place more difficult.

But you’ll want to keep up with your daily exercise routine, or start one if you don’t exercise much.

An image of someone's legs, either running or walking along a path in the middle of a wide expanse of grass.
Going for daily runs, or even daily walks, can be a great way to not only exercise and get in better shape, but to ensure you’re getting a breath of fresh air and some Vitamin D. Making sure you’re not lacking in any sort of nutrients and keeping your body healthy is essential for fertility.

This can be another good way to lose weight if you’re over the best range, but if you’re underweight or on the lower end of the spectrum you’ll want to be careful. Too much exercise can also mess up your ovulation.

Adhering to these healthy practices and going on a real, science approved fertility diet can considerably improve your chances at pregnancy.

Fertility diets are an easily available way of increasing your fertility chances without negative side effects, and they encourage physical health for your potential pregnancy and beyond.

While they can’t guarantee a pregnancy as a result, they certainly can’t hurt, as most foods you’ll find in real, working fertility diets are just a good way of staying healthy in general.

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