Fertility Nutrition

Lee Bladon 2:36 pm

Fertility Nutrition

Foods to improve your fertility

The Best Foods to Improve Fertility

Nutrition plays a crucial role in female and male fertility. A balanced, varied, wholefood diet, rich in essential nutrients can enhance reproductive health and increase the chances of conception. However, it takes about 3 months before you reap the benefits in terms of a healthier body and higher egg/sperm quality. So, it’s best to start improving your diet before you try to get pregnant, but if you are already trying, it’s never too late to make some improvements:

  • Healthy Foods: Organic fruit and vegetables (lots of different colours), healthy oils (coconut oil for cooking and olive oil for salads), wholefoods, eggs, dairy, lean meat, legumes, seeds, nuts, honey and Celtic sea salt (high in minerals).
  • Unhealthy Foods: Ultra-processed foods, sugary foods and drinks, low-fat and low-calorie snacks, “diet” drinks and artificial sweeteners, white bread, white rice, refined seed oils (e.g. rapeseed oil and sunflower oil), refined table salt and refined sugar.

Most of us already know the difference between healthy food and unhealthy food, yet factors such as convenience, tastiness and emotional eating often prevent us from eating more healthily. But if you are serious about having a baby, and currently have an unhealthy diet, now is the time to make some changes. The sections below list some foods that can help to improve fertility in women and men, and a section at the bottom of foods to avoid.

Foods for Fertility

Foods to Improve Female Fertility

Here are some foods and nutrients that may improve fertility in women:

  • Leafy Greens (e.g. spinach, cabbage): Rich in folate, which is essential for preventing neural tube defects.
  • Citrus Fruits (e.g. oranges, grapefruits): Provide vitamin C and antioxidants that are important for overall reproductive health.
  • Oily Fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, sardines): Supply omega-3 fatty acids that help to regulate hormones and improve egg quality.
  • Legumes (e.g. lentils, chickpeas): Good sources of iron and protein, which support fertility.
  • Dairy Products (e.g. yogurt, milk): Contain calcium, potassium and B vitamins, which are vital for reproductive function.
  • Lean Meats (e.g. poultry): Supply iron and protein which are important for reproductive health.
  • Whole Grains (e.g. quinoa, brown rice): Provide complex carbohydrates to regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Nuts & Seeds (e.g. almonds, flaxseeds): Offer healthy fats, minerals and antioxidants.
  • Eggs: Rich in protein and nutrients that are beneficial for fertility. Choline, found in eggs, is necessary for the healthy development of foetus’s brain and nervous system.
  • Berries (e.g. blueberries, strawberries): Packed with vitamin C and antioxidants that are important for reproductive health.
Foods for Female Fertility

Foods to Improve Male Fertility

Here are some foods and nutrients that may improve fertility in men:

  • Oysters: Rich in zinc, which supports healthy sperm production and function.
  • Oily Fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, sardines): Provide omega-3 fatty acids, which can enhance sperm quality and motility.
  • Nuts & Seeds (e.g. walnuts, chia seeds): Good sources of omega-3s and antioxidants, which can benefit sperm health.
  • Citrus Fruits (e.g. oranges, grapefruits): High in vitamin C, an antioxidant that protects sperm from oxidative damage.
  • Leafy Greens (e.g. spinach, cabbage): Contain folate and other essential nutrients for healthy sperm production.
  • Lean Meats (e.g. poultry, lean beef): Provide iron and zinc, which are important for male reproductive health.
  • Beans & Lentils: Rich in iron and folate, which support sperm production and DNA synthesis.
  • Tomatoes & Red/Orange Peppers: Contain lycopene, which may improve sperm quality and motility.
  • Olive Oil: A source of healthy fats that can reduce inflammation.
Foods for Male Fertility

Regular vs Organic Produce

A 2018 study on the diet of couples undergoing assisted fertility, discovered something really surprising – that eating more (regular) fruit and vegetables actually reduces fertility. This isn’t because fruits and vegetables are inherently bad for fertility, but because the pesticide residues on regular produce are…

Greater intake of high-pesticide residue Fruits & Vegetables was associated with a lower probability of clinical pregnancy and live birth. Compared with women in the lowest [intake] of high-pesticide Fruit & Vegetable intake (<1.0 servings/day), women in the highest [intake] (≥2.3 servings/day) had 18% lower probability of clinical pregnancy and 26% lower probability of live birth.

Consuming 1 serving/day of low-pesticide residue Fruits & Vegetables in lieu of 1 serving/day of high-pesticide residue Fruits & Vegetables was associated with 79% higher odds of clinical pregnancy and 88% higher odds of live birth.

The simplest way of consuming low-pesticide fruits and vegetables is to buy organic, because they are grown without harmful pesticides, but organic options are expensive and aren’t always available. There is, however, another option… Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tests regular fruits and vegetable for pesticide levels, and the 2023 results are listed below:

  • The “Dirty Dozen”: The following fruits and vegetables typically contain the highest pesticide residues, so if you can’t get organic, try to limit your consumption of: Strawberries, Spinach, Kale, Peaches, Pears, Nectarines, Apples, Grapes, Peppers, Cherries, Blueberries and Green Beans.
  • The “Clean Fifteen”: The following fruits and vegetables typically contain the lowest pesticide residues, so buying organic is less important: Avocados, Sweet Corn, Pineapple, Onions, Papaya, Peas, Asparagus, Honeydew Melon, Kiwi, Cabbage, Mushrooms, Mangoes, Sweet Potatoes, Watermelon and Carrots.
  • The Rest: The following fruits and vegetables typically contain moderate levels of pesticide residues: Tomatoes, Butternet Squash, Celery, Potatoes, Lettuce, Tangerines, Cucumbers, Broccoli, Courgettes, Plums, Aubergines, Raspberries, Grapefruits, Sugar Snap Peas, Oranges, Cantaloupe, Bananas and Cauliflower.

The above information gives you more choices… If you can’t find or afford organic variants of your favourite fruits and vegetables, please at least wash them well. Wash fruit in dilute spirit vinegar solution (2 tablespoon per pint of water), and wash vegetables in dilute baking soda solution (1 teaspoon per pint of water), then rinse with fresh water.

According to a 2023 Foodwatch Report, each crop of cereals undergoes 4-6 pesticide treatments, and the higest levels are found in processed products like rolled oats, flour and bread. So, please only buy organic oats for your porridge or museli, and reduce your bread intake if possible.

Inflammatory Foods

flammation is a complex physiological response that is influenced by various factors, including diet. Inflammation impacts male and female fertility because it disrupts the healthy functioning of the testicles, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus and endocrine system (hormones). While individual responses to foods can vary, certain foods are generally associated with either promoting or reducing inflammation:

  • Inflammatory Foods: Refined sugars and starches (sweets, bread, pasta), Seed oils (sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, fried foods), processed meats (ham, hotdogs), and any foods you have even a mild intolerance to, e.g. milk or wheat gluten.
  • Non-Inflammatory Foods: Colourful berries, vegetables and leafy greens (organic if possible), Omega-3 fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), Nuts and seeds, Olive oil, Green tea, Probiotics, Turmeric, ginger and garlic. 
Inflammatory Foods

Foods to Avoid 

When trying to conceive a baby, it’s important for both prospective parents to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle to optimise fertility. While there are no strict dietary rules for fertility or conception, there are certain foods and habits that should be limited or avoided to increase your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. Here are some foods and substances that you should consider minimising or avoiding:

  • Non-Organic Produce: Non-organic fruits, vegetables and cereals usually contain high levels of pesticide residues (e.g. glyphosate, atrazine and organophosphates), which are bad for male and female fertility. So, please try to buy organic if possible (especially oats).
  • Excessive Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can have a detrimental effect on fertility and increase the risk of birth defects. If you drink alcohol, it’s advisable to do so in moderation or eliminate it altogether when trying to conceive (men and women) and during pregnancy (women only).
  • Caffeine: High caffeine intake has been associated with fertility issues and an increased risk of miscarriage. So, consider limiting your intake to two cups of instant or one coffeshop coffee per day, or try switching to tea or decaffeinated coffee.
  • Ultra-Processed Foods: Highly processed and sugary foods can lead to weight gain and inflammation, which can negatively impact fertility. Opt for whole, unprocessed and minimally-processed foods whenever possible. Basically, avoid foods with long ingredients lists because most of those ingredients are real food.
  • Trans-Fats: Trans-fats, which are often found in fried and highly processed foods, can contribute to inflammation and insulin resistance, which can affect fertility. Choose healthy fats like those in avocados and nuts. For cooking, use coconut oil, and for salads, use oilve oil.
  • High Mercury Fish: Some fish, particularly large predatory fish like swordfish and some types of tuna (e.g. bluefin and yellowfin), can contain high levels of mercury (skipjack tuna is better). Excessive mercury intake can harm fertility and fetal development. Instead, go for low-mercury fish like salmon, trout and sardines.
  • Soya Products: Soya products often contain high levels of phytoestrogens (synthetic hormones) which can interfere with your natural hormonal balance. The consumption of some soya is safe, but it is best to reduce your intake of tofu, tempeh, soya milk and edamame beans.
  • Raw or Undercooked Seafood & Meat: To prevent foodborne illnesses, it’s essential to avoid raw or undercooked seafood and meat when trying to conceive and during pregnancy.
  • High Sugar Intake: A diet high in sugar can lead to weight gain and insulin resistance, which may impact fertility. Focus on reducing added sugars in your diet.
  • Unpasteurised Dairy and Soft Cheeses: To prevent the risk of contracting foodborne illnesses, avoid unpasteurised dairy products and soft cheeses like feta, brie, and blue cheese during pregnancy.
  • Artificial Sweeteners: Some studies have suggested that certain artificial sweeteners may have adverse effects on fertility and pregnancy. It’s advisable to limit or avoid them when trying to conceive.
  • High-Glycemic Carbohydrates: Foods with a high glycemic index (that spike your blood glucose), like potatoes, pasta, white bread, white rice, rice cakes and most breakfast cereals can lead to rapid blood sugar spikes, which can affect your hormonal balance. So, choose complex carbohydrates like wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, legumes (beans, lentils and peas), nuts, vegetables and fruits instead.

In addition to watching your diet, maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, and managing stress are crucial for fertility and overall wellbeing.

Foods to Avoid

Stay Informed


Join my mailing list to receive very occasional email updates.

I promise I won't bombard you with emails - that's not my style.

Your information is safe, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Thanks, you have successfully subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This