Which Type of Food is Benefitial for Female Fertility?

By (gynecologist), (embryologist), (nurse) and (psychologist).
Last Update: 12/13/2021

Diet and lifestyle are factors which you should consider when trying to get pregnant. A varied, low-fat diet of high nutritional value ensures optimal reproductive function. These are the changes in eating habits that you must acquire before trying to get pregnant.

More food does not always mean better nutrition. Both the excess and the lack of nutrients will make it difficult for you to get pregnant.

In addition, for women who are in good shape and have ideal weight, there are a variety of foods that should be included in the diet to strengthen fertility.

Food and fertility in women

Until a few years ago, knowledge about the relationship between fertility and nutrition was scarce. Today, nutrition is one of the branches that make up a fertility treatment.

According to data collected by the Spanish Fertility Society (SEF), a body index greater than 30 or less than 20 may affect fertility. Therefore, food is a crucial factor when yo want to get pregnant.

Obesity or overweight in women is associated with ovulation problems. Specifically, a high body weight correlates with altered maturation of the ovarian follicles and greater degeneration of them, leading to poorer egg quality.

However, low body weight also affects the functioning of the FSH and LH hormones responsible for regulating the ovulation cycle. In these cases, there is a blockage of ovulation and menstruation.

Foods to boost female fertility

To improve ovulation, fertility, and baby development, it is recommended that different nutrients and minerals be included in the diet. There are no miracle foods for fertility, but it is best to have a healthy and balanced diet.

Below, we are going to list the groups of nutrients which help you get pregnant.

Macronutrients

Macronutrients are defined as those nutrients that provide the body with the greatest amount of energy. These include lipids (fats), proteins and carbohydrates.

Women who want to boost their fertility should eat fewer processed carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, etc.) and more whole-grain carbohydrates such as quinoa or whole-wheat bread, resulting in a slower increase in blood sugar concentration and lower insulin production. These effects favor fertility, as insulin resistance can promote ovulation alterations.

In relation to lipids, it is recommended to eat about 350g a week of fish low in mercury (prawns, canned light tuna, salmon, or catfish), as they have a high omega 3 content. In addition, both omega-3 and omega-6 support the immune system and the health of the ovaries and eggs. These macronutrients, therefore, have a positive effect on female fertility.

Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids. These types of lipids must be incorporated into the diet because our body is not able to synthesize them.

Besides, according to numerous studies, replacing animal proteins with plant proteins favors ovulation in women. For this reason, specialists recommend eating broccoli, lentils, or quinoa, among other foods.

Vitamins

Vitamins are essential substances for people's health, as they are responsible for regulating many functions of the body. Thus, it should not be surprising that a vitamin deficiency can affect fertility.

Please keep in mind that our body is only able to produce vitamin D from sunlight, and vitamins K, B1, B2, and folic acid are formed in the intestinal flora in small amounts. The rest of the vitamins must be incorporated into the diet through food or supplements.

When you aim at getting pregnant, some vitamins are crucial. Among them are:

Vitamin B
vitamin B6 enhances female fertility by helping to balance estrogen and progesterone. This vitamin is also a hormone regulator in the third phase of the menstrual cycle (ovulation phase). Another effect of vitamin B6 is that it reduces the risk of miscarriages. Foods rich in vitamin B include viscera, meats, dairy products, eggs and fish.
Vitamin C
helps maintain progesterone levels. This vitamin can be found in parsley, peppers or citrus such as orange, lemon or grapefruit for example.
Vitamin D
despite being synthesized by the organism, milk, butter, eggs and oily fish such as sardines are also a source of vitamin D.
Vitamin E
in charge of regulating the hormonal system, avoiding alterations in the menstrual cycle. In addition, this vitamin protects the eggs from alterations. Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, etc.) or olive oil contain vitamin E.

If you want to learn more about vitamins and their effects on pregnancy, we recommend you visit the following article: What vitamins should be taken during pregnancy?

Minerals

Adequate intake of some minerals can help improve a woman's fertility.

Here are some of the minerals that support the body's reproductive function:

Zinc
low levels of this mineral is associated with menstrual cycle irregularities in women. Therefore, it is recommended to eat lean meats, fish, Shellfish and eggs.
Selenium
is an essential nutrient for reproduction and placenta development. In addition, this mineral helps reduce oxidative damage to both sperm and eggs. Selenium is present in nuts, cucumbers, beans, mushrooms, etc.
Calcium
to prevent decalcification of both mother and baby. Sources of calcium are dairy products, lettuce, figs, oranges, etc.
Potassium
is involved in the production of hormones. The sources with the highest potassium content are bananas, plums, raisins, and fruit juices.
Iodine
is important for reducing the risk of miscarriage or malformations in the fetus.
Iron
is of vital importance, as it favors ovulation and intervenes in the implantation of the fertilized ovum. Maintaining adequate iron levels during pregnancy is crucial to preventing anemia in women. Veal, ox, cockles, mussels, clams, etc. are foods rich in iron.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are molecules whose purpose is to prevent oxidation and aging of the body's cells. Therefore, a diet rich in antioxidants can improve female fertility, as it improves ovarian response and helps prevent aging of the ovaries.

Among foods that contain large amounts of antioxidants are strawberries, tomatoes, cranberries, carrots, and spinach.

Fiber

Dietary fiber is a set of components that the body is unable to digest.

In general, fiber is found in cereals, vegetables, and legumes. Consumption of these foods in adequate amounts supports conception and fetal development. In addition, fiber helps decrease the risk of polycystic ovary.

Habits that harms female fertility

There are lifestyles and eating habits that can affect women's ability to conceive.

Alcohol consumption or smoking is not the only habits involved in them. There are also foods that affect women's fertility, such as coffee or foods rich in saturated fats.

Caffeine

Caffeine is one of the most consumed stimulants and is not only found in coffee, but also in tea, soft drinks, chocolate...

This substance alters estradiol levels and also affects ovarian maturation. Therefore, if you want to get pregnant, it is not recommended to drink high amounts of caffeine.

What's more, caffeine also reduces prolactin levels, thereby reducing the likelihood of conceiving.

Specialists say that 2 cups of coffee a day should not affect fertility.

Tobacco

Smoking adversely affects reproductive outcomes and people's health.

Women who smoke have elevated levels of FSH and LH hormones, causing less uterine responsiveness and more difficulty in achieving pregnancy.

Smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the tissues and reduces the quality of the reproductive cells, as well as causing damage to their genetic material. All of this leads to an increased risk of miscarriage.

Saturated fats

The saturated fats that are present in red meat, pork, or industrial bakery are associated with poor maturation of oocytes in women, which decreases their fertility. This is because a high intake of saturated fat causes an imbalance between the amount of progesterone and estradiol in the body.

General recommendations

When a couple is planning to become pregnant, it is important to conduct a dietary assessment to detect if there is a nutritional disorder that may affect fertility.

A varied diet, composed mainly of fruits and vegetables, ensures the necessary supply of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and antioxidants that are crucial for reproductive health. In addition, you should not forget to include healthy fats (nuts, olive oil), proteins, and dairy products.

The amount of food each day should be adjusted to each person's body weight, as both excess weight and underweight affect fertility. In addition, daily water consumption of approximately 2 liters is recommended.

Last but not least, the specialist may recommend taking a food supplement in particular cases so that no nutrient is lacking.

FAQs from users

Is it true that diet influences a woman's fertility?

By Miguel García Fernández B.Sc., M.Sc. (nurse).

The answer is yes. Diet has an effect on all vital functions of the human being and, therefore, also on fertility.
Read more

What foods should I include in my diet to get pregnant?

By Elena Santiago Romero M.D. (gynecologist).

Fertility, among other things, depends on the health of each person, so food is one of the most important bases before and during pregnancy.

It is advisable to follow a healthy and varied diet. The Mediterranean diet is ideal for this, as it provides the necessary nutrients for a healthy lifestyle. In addition, you can eat as many times a day as necessary, but taking into account the appropriate amounts for each person.
Read more

By Marta Barranquero Gómez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

No. Both canned and plastic-packed foods may contain traces of Bisphenol A, a chemical compound that acts as an endocrine disruptor and interferes with the hormone cycle. Therefore, bisphenol A could worsen the quality of the oocytes and make it difficult to get pregnant.

Does diet increase the risk of miscarriage?

By Marta Barranquero Gómez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Yes, a deficit of folic acid and some B vitamins (such as B12 or B6) cause an increase in homocysteine levels, an amino acid in the blood that favors the formation of thrombi and the appearance of spontaneous abortions.

Most of the recommended foods have an effect on a woman's menstrual cycle. If you want to learn more about it, you can read on here: The menstrual cycle: what happens in each of its phases.

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References

Gambineri A, Laudisio D, Marocco C, Radellini S, Colao A, Savastano S. Female infertility: which role for obesity? Int J Obes Suppl. 2019 Apr;9(1):65-72. doi: 10.1038/s41367-019-0009-1.

Garruti G, Depalo R, De Angelisc M. Weighing the Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Female Reproductive Function. Curr Med Chem. 2019;26(19):3584-3592. doi: 10.2174/0929867324666170518101008.

van Elten TM, Karsten MDA, Geelen A, Gemke RJBJ, Groen H, Hoek A, van Poppel MNM, Roseboom TJ. Preconception lifestyle intervention reduces long term energy intake in women with obesity and infertility: a randomised controlled trial. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2019 Jan 8;16(1):3. doi: 10.1186/s12966-018-0761-6.

Guadalupe González-Rodríguez L, López-Sobaler AM, Perea Sánchez JM, Ortega RM. Nutrición y fertilidad. SSN (electrónico): 1699-5198 - ISSN (papel): 0212-1611.

FAQs from users: 'Is it true that diet influences a woman's fertility?', 'What foods should I include in my diet to get pregnant?', 'Is the intake of canned foods recommended when it comes to female fertility?' and 'Does diet increase the risk of miscarriage?'.

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Authors and contributors

 Elena Santiago Romero
Elena Santiago Romero
M.D.
Gynecologist
Bachelor's Degree in Medicine and Surgery from the Autonomous University of Madrid. Master's Degree in Human Reproduction from the King Juan Carlos University and the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Several years of experience as a gynecologist specializing in Reproductive Medicine. More information about Elena Santiago Romero
License: 282864218
 Marta Barranquero Gómez
Marta Barranquero Gómez
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Embryologist
Graduated in Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences by the University of Valencia (UV) and specialized in Assisted Reproduction by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH) in collaboration with Ginefiv and in Clinical Genetics by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH). More information about Marta Barranquero Gómez
License: 3316-CV
 Miguel García Fernández
Miguel García Fernández
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Nurse
He holds a Diploma in Nursing from the University of Oviedo and a Graduate Degree in Nursing from the Complutense University of Madrid. In addition, Miguel has completed a course of University Expert in Nursing Services Management at the UNED and a Master in Bioethics Research, as well as another course of Expert in Human Reproduction Nursing at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos. More information about Miguel García Fernández
10570 CODEPA
Adapted into english by:
 Cristina  Algarra Goosman
Cristina Algarra Goosman
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Psychologist
Graduated in Psychology by the University of Valencia (UV) and specialized in Clinical Psychology by the European University Center and specific training in Infertility: Legal, Medical and Psychosocial Aspects by University of Valencia (UV) and ADEIT.
More information about Cristina Algarra Goosman
Member number: CV16874

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