How Does Nutrition Affect Fertility?
Deciding to start a family can be exciting and you will be trying your best to make your body as healthy as possible. Many different factors can impact your fertility, such as your age and underlying medical conditions. But did you know that nutrition can play a substantial role too?
In this blog post, we will look at the connection between fertility and nutrition, how your diet can impact ovulation and what nutrients can boost your fertility. Discover all of this and more with IVF Matters.
Fertility and diet: is there a connection?
Many studies on the connection between fertility and diet have found a likely link in both men and women. They show a healthy diet helps to improve fertility by regulating your hormones, supporting ovulation and reducing inflammation.
One study found women had a higher risk of infertility on a diet high in saturated fats, sugar and processed food. However, a diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein boosted fertility. Studies have also found that consuming high levels of trans fats, found in many processed and fast foods, can lead to ovulatory infertility.
Diet and nutrition can also affect a man’s fertility. For instance, a diet rich in antioxidants like vitamins C and E could improve sperm quality and motility.
The impact of diet on ovulation
Ovulation is when a mature egg is released from the ovaries to be fertilised by sperm. Many different hormones, such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinising hormone (LH), oestrogen and progesterone regulate this complex process.
Insulin and blood sugar (blood glucose) also play a role in ovulation. Insulin is a hormone your pancreas produces to help regulate your blood sugar levels. When the levels are high, insulin is released to signal cells to absorb glucose from the blood.
However, consistently high blood sugar levels, such as in people with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, can interfere with ovulation. High levels can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle — leading to irregular or absent ovulation.
Diet can affect insulin and blood sugar levels, which, in turn, impacts ovulation. A diet high in refined carbohydrates, such as sugar and white flour, can cause rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, leading to insulin resistance and disrupted ovulation.
On the other hand, a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, fibre and protein can help regulate blood sugar levels, reduce insulin resistance and support healthy ovulation.
Nutrients that impact fertility
There are various key nutrients that can affect your fertility including folate (also known as Folic Acid), iron and omega-3 fatty acids.
Folate is essential for healthy foetal development and a deficiency can lead to defects in newborns. Folate also plays a role in ovulation and implantation.
Good sources of folate include:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Citrus fruits
- Fortified grains and cereals
The recommended daily intake of folate for men and women is 200 micrograms (mg). Your body doesn’t store folate long-term, so you need to eat foods with folate frequently.
Iron is essential for the production of haemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your body’s tissues. Iron deficiency can lead to anaemia, which can cause fatigue and disrupt ovulation.
Good sources of iron include:
- Red meat
- Fortified grains and cereals
The recommended daily intake of iron depends on your gender and age:
- Men aged 19 and over need 8.7mg a day
- Women from 19-49 need 14.8mg a day
- Women aged 50 and over need 8.7mg a day
- Women over 50 but still experiencing periods can need 14.8mg a day
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential in both men's and women’s fertility, helping to improve sperm quality and regulate ovulation.
Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna
- Chia seeds
The recommended daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids is 1.6 grams for men and 1.1 grams a day for women.
- Fatty fish
- Egg yolks
- Fortified dairy products
The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 10mg a day for anyone over one year old.
Vitamin B6 is another useful nutrient for fertility as it helps regulate hormone production and can improve progesterone levels. Good sources of vitamin B6 include:
- Fortified cereals
The recommended daily intake of vitamin B6 is 1.4mg a day for men and 1.2mg a day for women.
Zinc is essential for DNA production and plays a role in egg and sperm development. Good sources of zinc include:
- Fortified cereals
The recommended daily intake of zinc is 9.5mg a day for men (aged 19 to 64 years) and 7mg a day for women.
The effect of weight on fertility
Weight can have a significant impact on your fertility and being both underweight and overweight can negatively affect your health.
Being underweight can:
- Disrupt your hormone production
- Cause irregular periods
- Prevent ovulation
- Decrease oestrogen levels
- Lead to nutrient deficiencies
On the other hand, being overweight can:
- Disrupt ovulation
- Increase insulin resistance
- Cause hormonal imbalances, such as high levels of oestrogen
- Increase the risk of conditions like PCOS
- Cause chronic inflammation
Consuming a diet that is high in processed foods, refined carbohydrates and sugar can lead to weight gain that negatively affects fertility. Whereas if you eat a diet containing many whole foods, such as vegetables and fruits, lean proteins and healthy fats, you can support a healthy weight and improve your fertility.
Can diet improve fertility?
Eating a well-balanced diet is essential for your overall health and a diet rich in nutrients can support your reproductive health, hormonal balance and fertility.
Some dietary recommendations for improving your fertility include:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Choose whole grains
- Eat more lean proteins
- Incorporate healthy fats
- Limit processed foods and added sugars
Nutrition plays a critical role in your fertility and you must eat a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients for your reproductive health.
If you’re struggling with fertility issues, don’t hesitate to contact us at IVF Matters and book a nutrition consultation.
Our nutritional experts will develop a personalised plan that supports your reproductive health goals, so you can begin your fertility journey.