Food for Fertility
Kitty Finklea, RDN, LDN, AFAA-CPT
Infertility is on the rise in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, 10% of women aged 15-44 have trouble getting pregnant or staying pregnant and 9% of men aged 15-44 also have problems with infertility.
While there are many tests and procedures couples can discuss with a medical provider, it’s also important to consider lifestyle tips to help women and men increase their chances of conceiving.
If overweight or obese, losing 5 to 10% of body weight increases the chance of pregnancy for women and is associated with a higher sperm count for men. In addition, participating in moderate physical activity like walking, biking, swimming, or dancing for 150 minutes per week is also associated with improved fertility in both men and women.
Vigorous activity may inhibit pregnancy in some women so make sure to listen to your body and not overdo it.
High stress, anxiety, and poor sleep quality are other factors inhibiting fertility in women and men. Additionally, evidence suggests certain foods are also associated with fluctuating fertility.
Omega 3 fats
Omega 3 fats have been shown to help increase blood flow to reproductive organs and includes salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, anchovies, walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
Women can talk to their provider about taking 400 micrograms of folic acid daily when trying to conceive for fertility as well as preventing birth defects. Foods with folic acid are also helpful, including leafy greens like spinach, kale and arugula, beans and peas, whole grains, asparagus, beets, and nuts.
Whole grains are high in B12 which is important for fertility. A deficiency in B12 makes it harder for women to become pregnant and lowers sperm count in men. Aim for at least half of grains consumed to be whole grains such as oats, brown or wild rice, whole wheat (breads, crackers, pasta, etc.), and quinoa. Whole grains are also higher in folic acid, so it’s a double win for fertility!
Flavonoids are substances found in many plants and are linked with improved circulation in the ovaries and improved semen quality in men. Foods high in flavonoids include berries, onions, dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more), leafy greens, green tea, and citrus fruits.
Water consumptionDehydration can decrease sperm count and quality in men and in women can cause poor egg health and less fluid to help semen swim to an egg. Generally speaking, women need nine cups and men need 11 cups of water daily. Bottoms up!
Foods linked to decreased fertility include:
Fried foods and processed fatsFried foods along with processed fats, like chips and donuts, decrease blood flow to reproductive organs and are associated with infertility in men and women. Focus on baked, broiled, or grilled foods and more whole as opposed to processed foods.
Processed and red meat
Meats such as bacon, sausage, and lunch meat, along with beef and pork are associated with a decrease in fertility. Choose more poultry and seafood and include meatless meals with beans, peas, or lentils as the protein source.
Refined carbohydrates and sugarProcessed carbohydrates made with white flour and other products high in refined flours and sugar are associated with decreased fertility. Choose fresh fruit more often than candy or sweets, switch to whole grain products, and drink water or naturally flavored water instead of soda or sweet tea.
Keep these tips in mind and consider implementing healthy eating, moderate exercise, stress management, and good sleep hygiene to help promote a better environment for a new life to grow!
Kitty Finklea, RDN, LDN, AFAA-CPT, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified personal trainer, and health writer for HopeHealth. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.