CAN NUTRITION HELP WITH MY FERTILITY?

How are nutrition and fertility related? Can nutrition help get you pregnant or can nutrition help you get your partner pregnant?  Does it matter at all? And if yes, what do you do?  Can nutrition help with my fertility?

These are all great questions and of course, there is a lot of conflicting stories out there on what to do and why.  It can all be very confusing. This is why I always look to the science for answers and have summarized all the evidence-based nutrition facts for you.   

The way we answer this question is to look at the research – the scientific studies. These help us determine correlations and/or cause and effect of one action to another. In nutrition, cause and effect is very hard to determine because there are so many factors impacting our lives, however correlations (or connections) are easier to determine. Having said that of course, nothing is perfect so we work with what we have so far. 

The science is fairly straightforward on the relationship between nutrition and fertility.  To sum it up in a few works –  nutrition improves fertility outcomes. That’s it. For both male and female, nutrient-rich foods help feed the system, from the development of the sperm or the egg, to the  ovulation and germination to implantation, certain nutrients help support the process, every step of the way. So, what are those nutrients and which foods? Below, I list both the studies and foods that are supported for male factor, those supported for female factor and foods that are supported for both. Let’s dive in!  

Let me preface this too by saying, that infertility is no one’s fault. While there are foods that support the system, there are also many reasons why infertility occurs, most of them unknown, and in fact, it happens to 1 in every 6 couples in Canada.  Lifestyle factors, environmental factors, stress, medical history and often times, undiagnosed (aka – unknown reasons) all have an impact on fertility. As well, male factor and female factor infertility cases are split with 50% being rooted in male factor and 50% being rooted in female factors (with overlap combining both male and female factors) per couple. This article gives you some information on how nutrition can support you overall and is not meant for you to have thoughts of failure from one’s days meal choices.  

Let’s begin with Male Factor Studies and the recommended Food lists. 

Fertility Foods

MALE STUDIES

Studies for male factor infertility are less abundant however, they do still exist Researchers are starting to understand the nutrient integrity of the sperm cell. Here, a University of Illinois study reports that a certain omega-3 fatty acid is necessary to construct the arch that turns a round, immature sperm cell into a pointy-headed super swimmer with an extra long tail. 

This study indicates that without DHA, the sperm cell’s arc doesn’t form and the sperm cells don’t work.  DHA is an essential nutrient, meaning we have to get it from the foods we eat.  Having said that, one critique about this study is that it was concluded on mice, not human males and hence, more studies are needed to confirm or deny this same occurrence in humans. However, you can argue that sperm, through all the species, have the same functionality and mode of transport, and hence can hypothesize that the same would be true in humans.  

On the flip side, ensuring adequate amounts of DHA in one’s diet and known to support a healthy lifestyle and aid in many aspects of health. So, why not include it?

Especially when we see in other studies, like one here, significant improvements in their sperm count, vitality, motility and morphology (shape); these were consistent with improvements found in other recent studies with diets rich in omega-3, antioxidants (eg, vitamin C and E, selenium and zinc), and folate. Nuts are dense foods containing many of these nutrients and other phytochemicals.  

Here, this study showed that “the inclusion of nuts in a regular diet significantly improves the quality and function of human sperm, according to results of a randomised trial which measured conventional semen parameters and molecular changes over a 14-week study period.”  This study only included nuts in a regular diet, no signifacnty dietary change occurred in the 14 week study, other than the inclusion of nuts.

MALE FOCUSSED FERTILITY FOODS

Oysters

These are technically a mollusk as well, but oysters get a special shout out for male fertility health.  Oysters are at the top of list for fertility boosting nutrients for men.  They contain a very similar profile of nutrients as sperm require! Nutrients like zinc, selenium, Omega-3 fatty acids, B12, copper and iron.  Eaten raw or cooked, they provide a great source of lean protein as well. 

Mollusks

Clams, Mussels, Scallops

These little morsels of protein are rich in nutrients like Omega-3 fattay acids, choline, iron, B12, selenium ddn zinc, as well as being a great lean protein.

FEMALE FOCUSSED FERTILITY FOODS

One study here, conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, looked at over 17,500 women over 8 years as they tried to become or became pregnant.  It showed that women who followed a combination of five or more lifestyle factors, experienced 84% infertility due to ovulatory disorders compared to women who engaged in none of the factors. And women who followed only 1 of the 5 habits, had a 30% lower risk of infertility related ovulatory conditions.  So, essentially, the more factors one follows, the better the chances of success.  What were the factors the study was talking about? 

  1. Foods
  2. Physical activity level
  3. BMI

In another study here, “Researchers asked women about their diet before they underwent in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment and found that those who ate more fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, fish and olive oil, and less red meat, had a 65-68% greater likelihood of achieving a successful pregnancy and birth compared to women with the lowest adherence to the Mediterranean-style diet.”

FOR FEMALES:

Dairy

Yogurt, milk, cheese, kefir,  

Thes use of dairy can be a shocking one for some, but studies do show a positive effect with the intake of daily and fertility outcomes.  Studies show those who enjoy dairy on the regular have increased fertility outcomes.  High-fat dairy is a dairy product higher than 2% milk fat, so this includes homogenized milk, certain cheeses and yogurts as well as the probiotic-rich food – kefir.  Consuming dairy daily makes the list for positive fertility eating patterns. 

FOR BOTH

Plant – based proteins

Lentils, beans, chickpeas, peas

These plant-based proteins can substitute animal based proteins 25% of the time to help support your fertility health.  When you are thinking of dinner, the first thing we start with is the meat – are you having chicken, beef, pork etc..  With this, you can find some great vegetable based recipes here like my roasted beet hummus or my beans and greens recipe – this one is bursting with fertility optimizing nutrients! 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

This oil is most studied in relation to fertility health and is rich in mono-unsaturated fats.  Using this oil, in low to medium heat cooking is ideal. 

Vegetables

Beets, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and more….

Essentially, when it comes to vegetables, you can’t go wrong.  Eat them raw, steamed, baked or stewed, when it comes to vegetables, the only guidelines are the more the merrier and eat the rainbow.  Assorted colours provides assorted nutrients and antioxidants, all of which provide benefits we have only begun to calculate. We typically think of veggies as a side side, but in actuality, veggies should be major portion of your dish, covering 50% of your plate.  Here are a few various vegetable recipes that you’ll love at your next meal. Chose organic when possible. 

Fruits

Berries, pomegranate, citrus fruits, mango….and more..

A wide range of fruits including red, orange, green, yellow, white and blue carry various antioxidants and polyphenols that provide the body with fibre, essential nutrients, polyphenols and antioxidants. Try them in a smoothie, add them to your snacks or meals and toss them into grab n go lunches.  Eating them frozen or fresh is fine too – as frozen fruits are packaged at peak ripeness and keep longer than fresh ones (especially the berries which tend to ripen very quickly).  Chose organic with these as well, if you can. 

Whole grains

Quinoa, Oats, Buckwheat, Farro, Fortified cereals

Whole grains are gains that include the bran, germ and the endosperm of the grain.   This means that all the fibre, minerals and nutrients remain in the grain, like important B-vitmains, iron, fibre, folate, selenium, potassium and magnesium. Whole grains include carbohydrates that are minimally processed so the grain is the most intact, which provides the biggest bang for your buck with nutrients and provides a low glycemic index profile.  Low Glycemic index grains are important when talking about nutrition. They add satisfaction, fibre, B-vitamins, prebiotic fibres, and minerals like zinc, magnesium, iron, copper and loads of antioxidants, all needed to help nourish our bodies with what it needs to function the way we want and expect it to. 

Fish 

Salmon, tuna, sardines, trout, Atlantic mackerel

These fatty fish contains incredible nutrients that feed our body ant-inflammatory nutrients that help protect the sperm and the egg, as well as the environment in which they thrive. When it comes to fatty fish, you get both lean protein and essential fatty acids, the Omega-3 fatty acids, which are critical in the healthy developement of both the egg and the sperm. 

Dark Leafy Greens

Arugula, Spinach, Swiss chard, Rapini, Kale

Dark leafy greens get a special shout out from the vegetable category. These include spinach, kale, collard greens, arugula, rapini, swiss chard etc.  These greens are bursting with nutrients, including things like iron, vitamin K, Vitamin C, folate, calcium, fibre, potassium and magnesium. These are getting a special shout-out because, from my experiences, these nutrients are the pnes that are commonly problematic to get in sufficient quantities. In other words, these are the nutrients most likely to be deficient, when eating a regular western style diet. 

Eggs

Chicken, quail, duck

Eggs are a great protein and nutrient rich food for enriching your fertility health needs.  They are rich in zinc, choline, amino acids (essential and non-essential), Vitamin A, E, and D, B-vitamins like B2, B6, folate and B12.  And they offer a great source of minerals too like iron, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, copper and some calcium. 

Nuts

Brazil nuts, walnuts, cashews, walnuts

Nuts are incredible for both male and female fertility health.  They contain healthy fats, as well nutrients like as zinc, selenium, arginine, omega-3s, fibre and healthy fat, these little nuggets can really boost sperm factors. These nuts and seeds are rich in healthy fats, including omega 3s, monounsaturated and polyunsatruated fats which promote anti-inflammatory reaction in the body, and this supports fertility health. 

Seeds

Chia seeds, Flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, quinoa (yes, actually a seed)

Seeds contain 3 parts, the endosperm, the seed coat and the embryo and they hold all the nutrients that allow for a plant to grow.  You can understand why then, they are supported as nutrient powerhouses for our bodies. They are great sources of fibre, healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats, iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Use 1 tbsp of seeds added to any sweet or savoury meal or snack and that is a great way to start using seeds more often. 

THE BOTTOM LINE

Eating patterns rich in vegetables and fruit, whole grains, lean animal-based proteins, plant-based proteins, nuts, seeds, dairy and healthy fats support both male and female reproductive health. These foods provide adequate nutrients that support the development, growth and living environment of both the egg and the sperm.   Both cells depend on micronutrients for growth, development and function, so providing foods rich in these is crucial if it is expected that they function they way they should. 

When it comes to fertility health, nutrition is a crucial part of the puzzle and the other pieces include lifestyle factors, hormone health and environmental influences. 


When it comes to fertility health, nutrition is a crucial part of the puzzle and the other pieces include lifestyle factors, hormone health and environmental influences. 

Try my free 7 day fertility optimizing meal plan, just click here. 

As well, I work 1:1 or 2:1 with clients and couples to reach your fertility goals. 

For more information or to answer any questions you may have, book a free discovery call today! 


Call me and let’s talk!  My name is Teresa Maiorano, and as an RD working in this field for over 10 years, I’ve seen it all and I can help you reach your goals.  

You can connect with me through LiveandLoveNutrition.com,  on IG @LiveandLoveNutrition, through LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/teresa-maioranord/ or send me an email at Teresa@LiveandLoveNutrition.com.

“May there always be colours on your plate and joy at your table!”