What Is the Fertility Diet? What Can You Eat

We believe there is no universal strategy for living a healthful lifestyle at HealthEvoke. Effective eating programs must be personalized and consider the physical attributes of the individual. Particularly if you have an underlying health condition, consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian before beginning a new diet plan.

The fertility diet consists of a number of dietary and physical activity modifications that are intended to promote conception. These modifications emphasize the consumption of specific fertility-promoting foods, including plant protein and whole dairy products.

A number of clinicians, including the co-authors of “The Fertility Diet,” postulated that fertility could also be affected by exercise and diet. Furthermore, the regimen is supported by scientific principles. It was devised by researchers from Harvard Medical School who analyzed data from a large, long-term study involving over one hundred thousand women in order to determine what those women ate and how frequently they became pregnant.

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In their study, Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, and Jorge Chavarro, MD, ScD, examined the dietary and exercise factors that seemed to have the greatest impact on fertility. Particular attention is paid to ovulatory infertility, the form of infertility characterized by the absence of mature oocytes production by the ovaries during each menstrual cycle, in their book of strategies.

Despite the fact that the research does not conclusively demonstrate that adhering to the fertility diet will increase your chances of conceiving, nutritional experts assert that certain aspects of the program may certainly improve your chances.

What Can You Eat?

“The Fertility Diet” delineates 10 fundamental modifications to one’s diet and exercise regimen that increase the likelihood of achieving pregnancy. The modifications prioritize the transition from specific food items that may hinder conception to foods that have the potential to facilitate conception.

  • Avoid trans fats. Although artificial trans fats have been prohibited in the United States on account of their detrimental health effects, natural trans fats present in margarine, shortening, and fried foods should also be avoided.
  • Use more unsaturated vegetable oils, such as olive oil and canola oil.
  • Eat more plant-based proteins, such as nuts and legumes, and less animal protein.
  • Choose whole grains as opposed to “highly refined carbohydrates that rapidly increase blood sugar and insulin” and other sources of carbohydrates that “have slower, lower effects on blood sugar and insulin.”
  • Consume milk fat every day consuming whole milk in the form of a glass, ice cream in a small dish, or full-fat yogurt in a cup, and “temporarily exchange full-fat yogurt for skim milk and low- or no-fat dairy products such as cottage cheese and frozen yogurt.”
  • Take a multivitamin with folic acid  critical to fetal development—and other B vitamins.
  • Get plenty of iron from fruits, vegetables, beans, and supplements, but not from red meat.
  • Be mindful of what you drink. Avoid carbonated beverages such as sodas and other sugar-laden drinks.Moderately consume coffee, tea, and alcoholic beverages. Rather, consume water.
  • Aim for a healthy weight. A 5% to 10% reduction in body weight has been shown to stimulate ovulation in individuals who are overweight, according to the research.
  • Start a daily exercise plan, Alternatively, if you are already physically active, exercise more vigorously. However, exercise should not be overdone, particularly if you are potentially underweight, as excessive physical activity can hinder conception.

What You Need to Know

The fertility regimen does not emphasize weight loss in particular. Conversely, women with body mass indexes ranging from 20 to 24 were least likely to experience infertility, according to the research.

Additionally, overweight women who are experiencing difficulty ovulating may have a better chance of success if they lose weight, according to the authors. Hence, “The Fertility Diet” provides recommendations for achieving a moderate degree of weight loss. The authors postulate that certain approaches may also contribute to the enhancement of male fertility.

The authors advise those following the fertility diet who wish to lose weight to consume a nutritious breakfast within two hours of waking up. This breakfast should consist of whole wheat toast, yogurt, or oatmeal, with an egg, within the day. This practice aids in verifying the presence of whole cereals, plant protein, and whole milk.

Additionally, the authors advise women attempting to lose weight to abstain from eating anything after dinner. However, there is no requirement to schedule your meals or refreshments. The diet solely recommends concentrating on particular foods without mandating specific meal times or food rotation.

If you are not already physically active and you are following the fertility diet, you should begin an exercise regimen that includes vigorous workouts. “Muscle exercise is beneficial, not detrimental, to ovulation and conception.” “It is essential for maintaining blood sugar and insulin levels and for losing or controlling weight,” the authors write.

What to Eat

  • Unsaturated vegetable oils, such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Vegetable protein from beans and nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Whole milk, ice cream, or full-fat yogurt
  • Iron-rich fruits, vegetables, and beans

What Not to Eat

  • Trans fats
  • Animal protein, especially red meat
  • Highly refined grain products
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Coffee and tea (only drink in moderation)
  • Alcohol (only drink in moderation)

Unsaturated Vegetable Oil

Substituting saturated fat with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat is advised by the diet. These fat varieties are regarded as nutritious. Nuts including pistachios and almonds, olive oil, canola oil, and avocados all contain monounsaturated fats. Additionally, seeds (sesame, pumpkin, etc.) are rich in monounsaturated fat.

Sardines, salmon, and tuna are examples of oily cold-water fish that contain polyunsaturated fat. Although fish may contain mercury, which is harmful to developing children, the fertility diet suggests consuming canola oil, flaxseeds, and walnuts as sources of polyunsaturated lipids. Safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils may also contain polyunsaturated fat.

Vegetable Protein

“The Fertility Diet” discovered that ovulatory infertility was more prevalent among women who consumed an excessive amount of animal protein as opposed to those who consumed the least amount of animal protein. Adding one serving of red meat, chicken, or turkey to one’s daily diet increased the risk of ovulatory infertility by approximately 32%.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered the exact opposite to be true when they examined plant protein: women who consumed an excessive amount of plant protein had a significantly reduced risk of ovulatory infertility. The authors concluded that consuming a greater proportion of protein derived from vegetation and a lesser proportion from animals could improve chances of conceiving and aid infertility.

Whole Grains

There was no correlation between the overall carbohydrate content of the fertility diet and ovulation infertility. Nonetheless, it appeared that the variety of carbohydrate sources had an impact.

In particular, women who incorporated a substantial amount of carbohydrates with a high glycemic load—that is, foods that undergo rapid digestion and conversion to sugar—into their diets had a greater propensity for experiencing infertility compared to women who consumed carbohydrates with a lower glycemic load—those rich in fiber and requiring more time to be broken down by the body.

You are not required to adhere to the glycemic index while on this regimen. Conversely, it advises a more liberal intake of legumes, a substitution for whole grains in bread and pasta, as well as an abundance of vegetables and whole fruits. Additionally, you should replace your beverages with water.

Whole Milk Products

Willett and Chavarro discovered a correlation between infertility and low-fat dairy products: the greater a woman’s consumption of low-fat dairy products, the greater the likelihood that she experienced difficulty conceiving. An increase in the consumption of full-fat dairy products was associated with a decreased likelihood of experiencing difficulties conceiving in women.

Whole milk was considered the “most potent fertility food,” with ice cream and full-fat yogurt following suit. As a result, “The Fertility Diet” advises each woman attempting to conceive to ingest one daily serving of whole milk, ice cream, or yogurt. A serving of ice cream is approximately one-half cups.

Iron-Rich Fruits, Vegetables, and Beans

Women who are attempting to conceive appear to experience more success when they consume 40 to 80 mg of iron daily, according to “The Fertility Diet.” This is two to four times the recommended iron intake for women.

For that much iron, the diet suggests consuming primarily plant-based foods that are abundant in iron. For instance, apricots, dark leafy greens (e.g., asparagus, spinach), coconut, numerous legumes, and certain nuts are all rich in iron. Consult your physician regarding the use of an iron supplement; in truth, numerous prenatal vitamins contain a significant amount of iron.

Modifications are straightforward on the fertility diet due to its adaptability—rather than mandating particular foods, it merely suggests particular categories, such as plant proteins. One can effortlessly exclude gluten-containing foods while adhering to a gluten-free diet, provided that they consume an adequate amount of gluten-free fiber and plant protein. Simply omit any tree nuts from your fertility diet while adhering to its fundamental principles if you have received a diagnosis of a food allergy, such as a tree nut allergy.

However, the diet presents a minor conundrum for women who suffer from lactose intolerance, milk allergies, or simple dislike of milk. Aim to implement the remaining suggestions in the book, such as increasing your intake of plant-based proteins and engaging in more physical activity.

Sample Meal Plan

In addition to 15 recipes for diet-compliant dishes, “The Fertility Diet” provides meal plans for a week and features Orange-Glazed Salmon, Red Lentil, Toasted Almond, and Ginger Soup, and Broccoli and White Bean Gratin.

Although not comprehensive, the subsequent three-day meal plan ought to furnish you with an overall understanding of what the fertility diet entails. Should you decide to adhere to the diet, alternative meals might be more suitable for your personal preferences and interests.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Toast with Avocado and Eggs in Five Minutes; 8 ounces of full-fat milk; 1 banana
  • Lunch: 1 apple and 1 cup of vegetarian southwest quinoa salad
  • Dinner: Fish tacos accompanied by a zesty and sweet grilled vegetable salsa

Day 2

  • Breakfast: berries garnished with 3/4 cup full-fat Greek yogur
  • Lunch: Five kalamata olives; stacked Mediterranean sandwich; one cup red curry lentil soup with kale
  • Dinner: Spinach and roasted pepper pasta; roasted beet and feta salad

Day 3

  • Breakfast: 1 cup oatmeal topped with fruit, shaved coconut, and hazelnuts or almonds
  • Lunch: 1/2 cup full-fat cottage cheese; whole-grain crackers; and 1 cup tomato basil soup.
  • Dinner: Salmon Baked With Herbs; Asparagus Roasted; Mixed Greens

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Diet is generally healthy
  • Plant-based foods are emphasized
  • Avoids high-sugar foods
  • Steers clear of trans fats

Cons

  • Diet requires calorie counting
  • Emphasis on full-fat milk products
  • May require more meal prep
  • Could include too much iron

Pros

Although the fertility diet is specifically tailored for women attempting to conceive, several of its tenets—consume an abundance of fiber, avoid sugary foods, and consume an abundance of vegetables—are applicable to all individuals. Nevertheless, the co-authors of “The Fertility Diet” exercise caution in identifying instances where their suggestions for addressing infertility might diverge from those for a nutritious diet as a whole.

A greater intake of plant-based protein is suggested in lieu of animal protein on the fertility diet. Incorporating this practice will enhance your consumption of fiber (beans, for example, are rich in fiber and high in protein) as well as numerous vitamins and minerals.

According to “The Fertility Diet,” carbohydrates that are rapidly digested—such as those found in soft beverages, cakes and other sweets, chips, white bread, and beer—are detrimental to fertility.

Cons

It is the belief of “The Fertility Diet” that full-fat dairy products can aid infertility by enhancing ovarian function. However, they also suggest that consuming a great deal of full-fat dairy products on a long-term basis may not be the optimal option for the body. Furthermore, incorporating full-fat dairy into your diet may require you to be more conscientious of the other foods you consume in order to prevent an increase in your calorie intake.

A nutritious diet requires considerable time investment. Meal preparation will require more time if you adhere to the prescribed diet, as you will be required to prepare nutritious ingredients from the beginning. This may not always be convenient for your timetable.

Is the Fertility Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

The fertility diet closely resembles the majority of the federal dietary recommendations for health. For weight management, the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans of the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages while remaining within the recommended daily limit of 2,000 calories. In addition, restricting the intake of alcoholic beverages and foods and beverages that are high in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium is also advised by the USDA. Federal regulations consist of:

  • All kinds of vegetables, including starchy, dark green, red, and orange varieties; beans, peas, and lentils; and other vegetables
  • Fruits, especially whole fruit
  • A minimum of half of the grains comprise whole grains.
  • Dairy products, including yogurt, cheese, and fat-free or low-fat milk, as well as lactose-free and fortified soy beverages and yogurt as substitutes
  • Protein-rich foods, such as soy products, nuts, seeds, and lean meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; beans, peas, and lentils; and peas, beans, and peas.
  • Oils, including those found in foodstuffs, seeds, and vegetable oils

The dairy section is the only significant difference between the USDA’s recommendations and the fertility diet. Skim milk and non-fat or low-fat yogurt are suggested by the USDA, whereas the fertility diet specifies full-fat dairy products. Additionally, the fertility diet restricts lean animal protein.

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You may need to count calories if you are attempting to lose weight while following the fertility diet to ensure that you do not consume too few or too many. Optimal daily caloric intake for weight loss is between 1,500 and 1,750 calories; however, this range fluctuates according to age, weight, gender, and level of physical activity, among other variables.

Health Benefits

By increasing your consumption of plant-based foods, you can potentially decrease your consumption of saturated fat, thereby potentially benefiting your overall health. In general, substituting these foods with alternatives that are higher in fiber is a prudent decision. Sugar is restricted on the fertility diet, which is beneficial for the heart. Reducing your sugar intake may lower your risk for diabetes and other conditions that are influenced by an unhealthy diet, according to scientific research.

Additionally restricted on the fertility diet are trans fats, which are present in margarine, certain baked products, and fried foods. Ingestion of natural trans fats in an inordinate quantity has been associated with the development of cardiovascular disease.

Health Risks

Although uncommon risks are not commonly associated with the fertility diet, research suggests that excessive iron intake is conceivable.10 It is crucial to consult your physician regarding your iron consumption in order to prevent overdosing. In addition, excessive consumption of full-fat dairy products may result in weight gain.

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