Infertility is becoming increasingly more prominent and couples are searching for answers. There can be a variety of reasons for infertility, from hormonal imbalances to health conditions. It is always important to speak with your provider to get individualized care and insight on your own fertility journey. However, nutrition can be a powerful tool to support you and your partner’s body and may positively affect your fertility in the process. Research indicates that strong nutrition, for both men and women, that focuses on high-quality fats, protein, micronutrients and maintaining a healthy weight may have positive effects.
1. Protein, protein, protein: Protein is essential at any stage of life, it supports our muscles, hormones, bones, the list goes on. When trying to get pregnant, protein plays an important role in creating an optimal environment to have a baby. However, the type of protein is important. Focusing on lean protein and plant-protein, that is lower in saturated fat, is a great way to meet your protein needs and prioritize your fertility.3,5,10
Seafood (salmon, tuna, oysters)
Lentils and Beans
Tofu, edamame **
Lean chicken, turkey
Nuts and nut butters
Seeds (chia, hemp, flax)
** Do not be afraid of soy either! Natural forms of soy like tofu and edamame are a great source of protein. However, steer clear of the ultra-processed forms like soy isolates and soy protein add-ins.4,5
2. Focus on complex carbohydrates: Complex carbohydrates, or carbohydrates with a little bit more “stuff” to them (i.e. fiber), are an important staple to any diet, especially pre-pregnancy. Simple carbohydrates (like sugars, cookies, chips, processed foods) may poorly affect our internal fertility environment due to their impact on our blood sugars and insulin response, therefore prioritizing complex carbs can be a powerful way to support your fertility. 3,5,7-10
Complex Carbohydrates Ideas:
Whole wheat/seeded bread
3. Healthy Fats (opt for that high-fat dairy): Healthy fats are a pivotal piece to hormonal health for women at any point. Fats like Omega-3’s can have positive benefits on inflammation, heart health, and brain health to name a few. They may also help create a positive fertility environment as well.3,8,10 Opting for higher-fat dairy over their low-fat counterparts may also benefit your fertility as well since low-fat dairy products may poorly affect ovulation.3,5,10 It also is important to choose high-quality products that emphasize sourcing and production to minimize excess hormones and sugars.
Healthy fat ideas:
Fish (salmon, sardines)
Seeds (chia, flax)
4. Glutathione: When thinking about conceiving, you want to create the most healthful internal environment to support a baby. This means minimizing stress and maximizing the good nutrients for optimal function. Glutathione, an antioxidant that has several positive effects on our bodies, is a powerful nutrient to emphasize when trying to conceive. Oxidative stress can poorly affect our fertility, and glutathione may work to combat this.1,2,6,8
Try adding in some of these glutathione-rich food sources:
Sulfur-rich foods like broccoli, onions, garlic, cabbage
5. Micronutrients: Vitamins and minerals are essential to creating that healthy internal environment we discussed earlier for a fertile environment. These nutrients are needed for an endless amount of functions in our body that can support ovulation and combat that oxidative stress that can be harmful to fertility. B-vitamins, vitamin D, folate and iron are some of the key micronutrients that may positively impact fertility. Antioxidants are also extremely important as well for optimal body functions.1,8,9
There are an endless number of fruits and vegetables you can incorporate to get those beneficial vitamins and minerals in your diet. Focusing on variety and addition is a great way to approach it in a manageable way. Opt for raspberries in that morning bowl of oatmeal, add in some kale to your brown rice, or throw some dandelion greens to your smoothies. Sneaking in fruits and vegetables to your current daily routine can make such a difference!
Fertility is personalized and while nutrition is just one piece of the puzzle, these tips are beneficial to support a healthy lifestyle in any facet.
Happy Eating! - Emily LaBombard, MPH, RDN, LDN
Adeoye O, Olawumi J, Opeyemi A, Christiania O. Review on the role of glutathione on oxidative stress and infertility. JBRA Assist Reprod. 2018;22(1):61-66. Published 2018 Mar 1. doi:10.5935/1518-0557.20180003
Boedt T, Vanhove AC, Vercoe MA, Matthys C, Dancet E, Lie Fong S. Preconception lifestyle advice for people with infertility. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021;4(4):CD008189. Published 2021 Apr 29. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008189.pub3
Eagleson H. What to Eat to Get Pregnant: Conception Diet. Parents. Published October 20, 2022. https://www.parents.com/getting-pregnant/fertility/what-to-eat-to-get-pregnant/
Jefferson WN. Adult ovarian function can be affected by high levels of soy. J Nutr. 2010;140(12):2322S-2325S. doi:10.3945/jn.110.123802
Kaufman C. Foods That Can Affect Fertility. Eatright.org. Published 2018. https://www.eatright.org/health/pregnancy/fertility-and-reproduction/fertility-foods
Minich DM, Brown BI. A Review of Dietary (Phyto)Nutrients for Glutathione Support. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2073. Published 2019 Sep 3. doi:10.3390/nu11092073
Sakumoto T, Tokunaga Y, Tanaka H, et al. Insulin resistance/hyperinsulinemia and reproductive disorders in infertile women. Reprod Med Biol. 2010;9(4):185-190. Published 2010 Sep 7. doi:10.1007/s12522-010-0062-5
Schaefer E, Nock D. The Impact of Preconceptional Multiple-Micronutrient Supplementation on Female Fertility. Clin Med Insights Womens Health. 2019;12:1179562X19843868. Published 2019 Apr 23. doi:10.1177/1179562X19843868
Silvestris E, Lovero D, Palmirotta R. Nutrition and Female Fertility: An Interdependent Correlation. Frontiers in Endocrinology. 2019;10. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fendo.2019.00346
Skoracka K, Ratajczak AE, Rychter AM, Dobrowolska A, Krela-Kaźmierczak I. Female Fertility and the Nutritional Approach: The Most Essential Aspects. Adv Nutr. 2021;12(6):2372-2386. doi:10.1093/advances/nmab068