A healthy, well-balanced 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.
Avoid animal protein
If you want to increase fertility, you should avoid animal protein. Especially, chicken and red meat are pretty bad for female fertility.
According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, animal protein is bad for female fertility. Animal protein has been linked to an increased risk of ovulatory infertility.
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.[2,3]
Protein in cow’s milk and dairy has also been linked to high levels of IGF-I.
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.
Role of saturated & trans fatty acids in fertility
Above all, avoid the consumption of trans fatty acids. Trans fat intake has been linked to an increased risk of ovulatory infertility and greater insulin resistance.
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!
What vitamins are important for increased female fertility?
Furthermore, it seems that adequate amounts of vitamin B12 are necessary for female fertility.
Pregnant women require 2.6 mcg of vitamin B12 while lactating women require 2.8 mcg.
Women with low levels of vitamin B12 may deal with ovulation changes. Furthermore, low levels of vitamin B12 may interfere with the development of the ovum.
Additionally, vitamin B12 deficiency may lead to defective implantation. On the contrary, women with high levels of vitamin B12 seem to have higher chances of having a baby, in both natural pregnancies and pregnancies after ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) treatment.
Women need to check their vitamin B12 levels before conceiving and also in early pregnancy.
As high vitamin B12 levels are vital for female fertility, scientists suggest that women should take a higher daily dosage than the recommended intake. Women who want to conceive could benefit from taking up to 7 mcg of vitamin B12 a day.
However, vitamin B12 deficiency is pretty common! Especially, among vegans, vegetarians, or people who follow a plant-based diet. Plants don’t contain any vitamin B12. Therefore, it seems a good idea to take a vitamin B12 supplement. A weekly vitamin B12 dosage of 1,000 mcg is more than enough in most cases.
As vitamin B12 deficiency is common, couples who try to conceive should check their vitamin B12 levels.
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.[8,9]
Folate & melatonin
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.
Also, women of reproductive age should get high doses of folic acid every day. Before even getting pregnant.
Antioxidants improve female fertility
Above all, following a healthy, antioxidant-packed diet may improve fertility in women and men.
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
- protects 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.
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.
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 vitamins with potent antioxidant actions.
Eat plants rich in 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 animal sources, didn’t decrease the risk of ovulatory infertility.
Try to eat foods high in iron with foods high in vitamin C. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption!
The beneficial effects of selenium
Brazil nuts are the richest source of selenium, which is necessary for increased fertility both in men and women. Consuming just a Brazil nut a day is enough to meet your daily needs!
Selenium is a trace element with powerful antioxidant properties.
According to a study, low levels of selenium are associated with male infertility.
Selenium levels between 40-70 ng/ml substantially improve chances of conceiving. Lower levels or selenium levels higher than 80 ng/ml have been linked to high abortion rates!
High selenium levels may increase infertility in women, due to ovarian dysfunction!
Selenium deficiency is bad for female fertility as well. It may lead to miscarriages.
Also, selenium deficiency may damage the nervous and immune system of the fetus! Moreover, low selenium levels in the early stage of pregnancy may cause low birth weight of the newborn.
Furthermore, selenium may protect the quality and quantity of follicles and oocytes in the ovary. Women older than 35 years can benefit the most. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant and could protect reproductive functions of women over 35, increasing fertility.
Most noteworthy, selenium is beneficial for women undergoing IVF! Scientists observed that the levels of selenium drop in women undergoing IVF. They suggest increasing the selenium intake in order to reach normal selenium levels. Copper and zinc levels may drop as well.
The role of omega-3s in female fertility
According to a study by 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 better fertility in women.
In fact, omega-3s may improve oocyte and embryo quality. Omega-3s have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, protecting the vulnerable oocytes.
Furthermore, high serum levels of omega-3s have been linked to higher chances of successful birth, among women undergoing ART (Assisted Reproduction).
Additionally, the administration of omega-3s may be beneficial before IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) treatment, improving clinical pregnancy and live birth rates!
Also, omega-3s may prolong reproductive function and improve oocyte quality.
On the contrary, high consumption of omega-6s seems to be bad for female fertility. A high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio may cause poor oocyte quality, and decreased female fertility!
Also, omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy lowers the risk of premature birth and increases the length of pregnancy and birth weight. Additionally, omega-3s may be beneficial for the child’s brain development.
Furthermore, high levels of serum omega-3s might decrease the risk of postpartum depression!
In addition, omega-3s are necessary for normal cortisol values and reduced anxiety!
Therefore, women should increase their daily consumption of omega-3s. Food supplements based on fish oil are pretty popular. But, you shouldn’t depend on them. They may contain high levels of environmental toxicants, making them dangerous for pregnant women.
A healthy body weight is crucial for increased fertility in women
Maintaining an ideal body weight is beneficial for conceiving. Overweight or obese women may suffer from:
- menstrual dysfunction
- delayed conceptions
- increased miscarriage rate
- reduced outcomes in assisted conception treatments
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.
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.