Many patients ask us what they can do at home prior to starting their fertility treatment. Recently, a lot of research has begun to closely examine the roles of nutrition and dietary quality in improving fertility for both men and women.
There have been many “crash diets” and “miracle foods" reported in the media with very little research to back them up. However, health and nutrition play a very vital role in fertility. The food and diet choices that you make can positively affect your fertility treatment in a number of ways. In addition to the direct impact of a nutritious diet on fertility, nutritious food choices are necessary to supply the building blocks necessary for fetal development.
Good Sources of Antioxidants:
In general, try to fill half of your plate up with healthy fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants are nutrients that neutralize free radicals and flight inflammation. Free radicals are the unstable electrons that damage cellular health and the DNA within a cell. Oxidative stress refers to the imbalance between levels of antioxidants and free radicals in the body. Due to its ability to reduce oxidative stress, antioxidants are one of the most important dietary factors in improving fertility status, for both women and men. Antioxidants are especially good for ovarian health.
- Citrus Fruits
- Bell Peppers
- Acai Berries
The egg and sperm are highly sensitive to stress from these free radicals. Antioxidants provide a shield for the sperm and egg to protect themselves.
The Pineapple has become the face of the infertility community in recent years. In spite of its iconic image, we do not recommend consuming large amounts of pineapple while trying to conceive at this time. Pineapple does offer the antioxidant beta-carotene but unfortunately contains an enzyme called bromelain. Consuming bromelain in the form of a dietary supplement is discouraged, as the dose may be too high and can actually impede conception.
Overall pineapples are presumed to help boost fertility because they are rich in nutrients like vitamin C, beta carotene, copper, zinc, and folate, but too much might be a bad thing.
of Folic Acid
Folic acid (also known as vitamin B9) is another essential nutrient for fertility and early pregnancy. Studies at Harvard University has shown that consuming folic acid can greatly help in preventing issues with infertility.
- Green leafy vegetables (spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens)
- Whole grains
- Brussels sprouts
- Winter squash
Like many other minerals, Zinc is believed to be exceptionally helpful when it comes to conception. Zinc has been positively correlated with egg yield, as it is aids in producing progesterone.
- Lean Meats
Fats obtained from plants and seafood are very beneficial when it comes to a fertility diet. Fish are rich in both iron and protein, which are beneficial to the body in pregnancy. Fatty fish (such as salmon) are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and can enhance fertility. The body is unable to create omega-3 fatty acids on its own, so these essential fatty acids must be acquired from dietary sources.
Plant-based fats are also highly beneficial in your fertility journey. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that those who consumed the highest amount of plant-based monounsaturated fats (in the form of avocados) during the IVF cycle were 3.4 times more likely to be successful in conception.
However, fats are not all created equal. We recommend total avoidance of trans fats. Consumption of trans fats can lead to insulin resistance, which can negatively affect ovulation.
Drinking enough water is recognized to be as important as nutritious food choices in the optimization of fertility. Fluids play a key role in transporting hormones, developing follicles, and thinning out biological fluids. Inversely, caffeine, and alcohol act as diuretics and can be dehydrating. The use of these substances may prevent mucus membranes from staying moist, consequently affecting the consistency of cervical mucus and ejaculate fluid.
At Generation Next Fertility, we recommend sticking to drinking one cup of coffee per day. Research has also drawn a connection between a high intake of caffeine and an increased chance of miscarriage. We recommend that caffeine intake should be limited to under 200 milligrams a day (the equivalent of 10 oz. regular coffee) if pregnant or hoping to become pregnant.
Whether two people hope to conceive naturally or opt to receive help from a fertility provider, it is important that all involved maintain a healthy weight. The ovaries and fat cells regulate estrogen production in women, which affects ovulation. If a woman is overweight, she may be producing an excess amount of estrogen. Extra body weight is also correlated with a higher incidence of insulin resistance, which can further disrupt patterns of ovulation. If a woman is too underweight, she may not be producing enough estrogen. Women who are too thin are also at a higher risk for preterm birth. There have been many “crash diets” and “miracle foods reported in the media with very little research to back them up. However, health and nutrition play a very vital role in fertility. The food and diet choices that you make can positively affect your fertility treatment in a number of ways. In addition to the direct impact of a nutritious diet on fertility, nutritious food choices are necessary to supply the building blocks necessary for fetal development.
Acai berries are known to contain high levels of antioxidants. A recent study conducted at CCRM has shown improvements in clinical outcomes following acai berry supplementation among patients undergoing IVF cycles. By regulating the oxidant-antioxidant balance in the body and reducing oxidative stress, antioxidant-rich foods, like acai berries, contribute to benefiting one’s reproductive health.
CoQ10 – CoQ10 is a coenzyme that aids in energy production in the mitochondria and acts as an antioxidant. Energy production plays an important role in oocyte maturation and embryo development. Further, it has been suggested that the decrease in production and levels of CoQ10 with age may correlate with age-related decline in fertility. Clinical studies have indicated that CoQ10 supplementation can improve ovarian response to stimulatory medications and higher fertilization rates, especially among patients diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve. (Pretreatment with coenzyme Q10 improves ovarian response and embryo quality in low-prognosis young women with decreased ovarian reserve: a randomized controlled trial (nih.gov))
Inositol is a sugar and vitamin-like substance commonly recommended as a dietary supplement to manage PCOS and certain mental disorders. It has been shown to increase ovulation induction and decrease the amount of gonadotropins used among women with and without PCOS during IVF cycles. (Inositol supplement improves clinical pregnancy rate in infertile women undergoing ovulation induction for ICSI or IVF-ET - PubMed (nih.gov))
Vitamin D3 is a widely recommended and studied steroid hormone due to its multiple roles in the body. Specific to fertility, several studies have suggested that healthy levels of Vitamin D in the ovarian follicular fluid can improve implantation rates after an embryo transfer (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4555056/). Vitamin D supplementation has also proven to benefit women with PCOS. PCOS is a condition often associated with insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia. By increasing insulin sensitivity, Vitamin D has shown to provide therapeutic benefits for PCOS patients (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7086222/).
Resveratrol is a polyphenolic compound found in plants. Due to its antioxidant properties and ability to promote mitochondrial function, the compound and its reproductive benefits have been subject to numerous studies. These studies have reported that resveratrol supplementation improved oocyte maturation, fertilization, and subsequently, the formation of blastocysts in both aged mice and female patients (Resveratrol improves in vitro maturation of oocytes in aged mice and humans - PubMed (nih.gov)).
Supplements can be taken to improve egg and ovarian health. At Generation Next Fertility, we recommend our patients to incorporate the following into their diet: