How does your diet affect your fertility?


Food and lifestyle are essential elements for your reproductive health. There are several vital nutrients that aid in supporting your fertility.

Generally, unsaturated fats, whole grains, vegetables, and fish are associated with improved fertility in both women and men, while a diet high in saturated fats and refined sugars is associated with poorer fertility. There is a broad list of nutrients that are essential for your fertility and reproductive health. Still, some are more significant including folate (folic acid), vitamin B12, and omega-3 fats.

Folate (folic acid) and fertility

Folate is a type of B vitamin (vitamin B9). Often, the term “folic acid” is used to refer to the synthetic form of folate that can be found in supplements and fortified foods. Folate has a key part in making and repairing your DNA, producing red blood cells (whose role is to carry oxygen around your body), and, during pregnancy, developing your baby’s brain and spinal cord – in case there is an issue with this development, it is referred to as a neural tube defect (NTD).

Increased consumption of foods that contain folate, especially in the form of supplements, has been associated with a lower rate of infertility and miscarriage in females. It is also linked to a better environment for developing an egg and more successful fertility treatment. In males, low folate levels have been associated with lower sperm count and motility.

Since your body does not have the capacity to store folate in any way, you can have a deficiency in a matter of weeks. Therefore, it is crucial to perpetually get enough from your nutrition or in supplementary form. Incorporating folate-rich foods into your diet is always a good choice, even if you are already taking folic acid supplements because they contribute to your overall health. Foods high in folate are leafy, green vegetables — for example, spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, beans, peas, lentils, eggs, shellfish, beetroot, oranges, and whole grains.

Vitamin B12 and fertility

Vitamin B12 is crucial for red blood cell production, DNA synthesis, a healthy nervous system and heart, and the development of a baby’s brain and nervous system during pregnancy. Research highlights that a higher intake of vitamin B12 is associated with a lower risk of ovulatory infertility – when ovulation-related issues stop you from becoming pregnant.

Having a vitamin B12 deficiency can sometimes cause temporary infertility in females, but this can generally be solved with treatment. In males, vitamin B12 can aid in supporting sperm quality. Foods that contain a high amount of vitamin B12 are organ meats — though, it is recommended you avoid too much organ meats if trying to get pregnant (contain a lot of vitamin A which can cause miscarriage or birth defects), beef, fish — like clams, sardines, salmon, and tuna, milk and dairy products, eggs.

Naturally, vitamin B12 can only be found in meat, fish, or dairy, but there are fortified plant-based sources that contain vitamin B12 like fortified milk alternatives, cereal, and nutritional yeast.

Omega-3 fats and fertility

Omega-3s are a type of unsaturated fat. They’re crucial for brain development, cell structure, and hormone production. Besides helping hormone production, omega-3s could improve egg quality, delay ovarian aging, improve sperm motility, and reduce the risk of pregnancy complications — like preterm birth.

 During your pregnancy, omega-3s aid in constructing the structure of your baby’s cells. Moreover, in case you are not receiving enough omega-3s from your diet, your reserves will be depleted to provide it for your developing baby. Thus, it is essential to ensure that you are receiving enough before and during your pregnancy.

One of the best sources of omega-3 sources is oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. It is advised that you try eating it twice a week. During pregnancy, it is recommended you avoid certain types of fish that contain a high concentration of mercury such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, marlin, and bigeye tuna. Some plant sources that contain omega-3 are flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds, but it is harder for your body to use this specific type of omega-3 (ALA).

Diet and fertility

Oily fish, whole grains, and vegetables have been proven to have a positive effect on your fertility. Notably, the Mediterranean diet is high in these foods, which is most likely why it is associated with improved fertility.

On the other hand, eating too many foods high in saturated fats and processed sugars may have a negative impact on fertility.

Should you take a fertility supplement?

The best way to get all the nutrients you need is by eating a wide range of foods with folic acid. Though, if you are concerned you are not receiving enough nutrients to support your fertility, a supplement might be helpful. It is advisable you discuss this with a health professional that could counsel you in finding the best supplement for you.

Supplements for female fertility

Generally, a prenatal supplement will contain a wide range of nutrients that are essential for both fertility and the early development of your baby during pregnancy, like folic acid, and vitamin D. It is recommended that all adults consider a 10mcg vitamin D supplement from October to April, vitamin C, omega-3 fats, iron, calcium.

However, the ideal is to find a supplement that does not exceed your daily recommended dose for each nutrient and possibly avoid supplements that contain a high dose of vitamin A (which can harm the development of a baby).

Supplements for male fertility

According to research, antioxidant supplements, like vitamins C and E, may be favorable for males that suffer from fertility problems. If you have an excess of free radicals, which are harmful molecules, it can cause oxidative stress which accelerates the damage to your cells. Antioxidants aid in preventing these free radicals from damaging your cells.

Due to the high susceptibility of sperm to oxidative damage, evidence shows that antioxidant supplements can improve sperm motility. Also, some antioxidant-rich foods are fruit, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.

 At UNICA, our doctors are here to assist you in formulating the best meal plan tailored to your individual needs and answer any questions or clarify doubts about foods that you may consume and supplements you may take before or during your pregnancy.


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