Can a plant-based diet increase fertility in women?

A healthy plant-based diet can improve fertility in women, as it may treat the most common nutrient deficiencies. Diet changes may prevent and even reverse ovulatory infertility, which accounts for about 1/4 of all infertility cases. It may help women older than 32 years, in particular.

Plant-based protein & fertility

If you want to increase fertility, you should avoid animal protein. According to a study of Harvard School of Public Health, animal protein is bad for fertility. Animal protein has been linked to increased risk of ovulatory infertility. Especially, chicken and red meat is pretty bad for fertility in women![1]

Scientists believe that animal protein increases levels of IGF-I. High levels of IGF-I may be involved in the development of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in women. Protein in cow’s milk and dairy has also been linked to high levels of IGF-I.[2,3]

On the contrary, eating plant-based protein sources can reverse ovulatory infertility. So, consuming vegetables, legumes, or other plant-based sources of protein seems beneficial. Researchers found that eating plant-based is particularly beneficial for women older than 32 years.

A plant-based diet is low in fat

Above all, avoid consumption of trans fatty acids. Trans fat intake has been linked to an increased risk of ovulatory infertility and greater insulin resistance.[4]

Trans fats are present in highly processed foods and animal products. For instance, commercial baked products, cakes, doughnuts, cookies, potato chips, pies, or French fries are high in trans fats.

Moreover, animal products are pretty high in saturated fats. Saturated fat intake has been linked to male infertility!

Benefits of plant-based foods in fertility

According to a study of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health of Boston, the consumption of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids is particularly important for fertility in women.[5]

Furthermore, it seems that adequate amounts of vitamin B12 are necessary for female fertility. Women with low levels of vitamin B12 may deal with ovulation changes. Moreover, low levels of vitamin B12 may interfere with the development of the ovum.

Another key factor for increased fertility in women is Coenzyme Q10. A plant-based diet high in CoQ10 seems to be beneficial for women with poor ovarian response (POR). Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant that may improve ovarian response. CoQ10 is also vital for older women, as it fights certain parameters that cause infertility.[6,7]

Whole grains, nuts, and vegetable oils are great plant-based sources of CoQ10. Moreover, consuming lots of foods high in chlorophyll, along with sun exposure, helps us maintain high levels of CoQ10.

Another way to increase fertility in women is to eat lots of foods high in melatonin. Melatonin may fight oxidative stress in the body, improve oocyte quality, and even enhance IVF success rates. Daily doses of 3 mg are beneficial.[8]

Also, women of reproductive age should get high doses of folic acid every day. Before even get pregnant.

A plant-based diet improves fertility due to its high antioxidant content

Above all, following a plant-based diet may improve fertility in women and men because it substantially increases the antioxidant content of the body.

Glutathione may be the most important antioxidant in the human body. Glutathione is beneficial for increased fertility because it:

  • reduces oxidative stress
  • fights the formation of the dangerous free radicals in the reproductive system
  • protect egg quality

Moreover, oocytes with high levels of glutathione produce healthier and stronger embryos. The body reproduces glutathione naturally, but pollution, toxins, age, medication or stress can deplete it.[9]

A diet high in sulfur is beneficial for higher glutathione levels. The best plant-based dietary sources of sulfur are garlic, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, kale, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green peppers, lettuce, radish, rice, and broccoli.[10]

Furthermore, vitamin C, vitamin E, and moderate exercise help the body produce glutathione.

Studies have shown that dietary intake of vitamin C, vitamin E (e.g. almonds), and beta-carotene can increase female fertility. Women older than 35 years or overweight women may benefit the most from eating foods high in these antioxidants.[11]

Also, normal levels of vitamin D are crucial for female infertility. As a plant-based diet is poor in vitamin D, many people would benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement.[12]

Eat plant-based sources of iron

Studies have shown that iron intake may decrease the risk of ovulatory infertility. Most noteworthy, only nonheme iron seems to be beneficial. That’s the type of iron coming from plants! Heme iron, the iron from animals, didn’t decrease the risk of ovulatory infertility.[13]

Beans (e.g. lentils), legumes, spinach, broccoli, potatoes, seeds (e.g. pumpkin, sesame seeds), nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts) and certain fruits are high in nonheme iron.

Try to eat foods high in iron with foods high in vitamin C. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption!

Lose weight for increased fertility

The first step to get pregnant is to follow a healthy, well-balanced plant-based diet. Moreover, maintaining an ideal body weight is beneficial for conceiving. Overweight or obese women may suffer from:[14]

  • menstrual dysfunction
  • anovulation
  • delayed conceptions
  • increased miscarriage rate
  • reduced outcomes in assisted conception treatments
  • infertility

Losing weight can help obese women to restore menstrual cyclicity and ovulation, improving the chances of conception. A plant-based diet is beneficial for weight loss.

An ideal body weight is preferred. Underweight women may struggle with decreased fertility too.

Moderate exercise may increase fertility in women

In addition, moderate exercise can help you get pregnant. Moderate exercise may treat anovulatory infertility. Anovulation accounts for around 30% of female infertility. Obese women who started working out had lower insulin and free androgen levels.[15]

However, strenuous exercise isn’t good for women who want to increase their chances of conceiving.

Above all, you should consult your physician before taking a dietary supplement or changing your diet.