Eating a healthy, balanced diet may increase your chances of becoming pregnant. Here are six delicious foods that science says may help you do just that.
Our diet plays a significant role in our health and well-being, so it shouldn’t be surprising that what we eat — and don’t eat — can impact our chances of getting pregnant.
But can a fertility diet really help you conceive? Possibly yes. In fact, research shows several links between nutrition and fertility:
- For TTC couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments, red meat consumption negatively influenced embryo implantation and pregnancy success rates.
- According to a 2009 prospective study, the amount and quality of carbohydrate intake are likely to be “important determinants of ovulation and fertility in healthy women.”
- Scientific data showed that following the Mediterranean diet while undergoing IVF led to more embryos being retrieved.
The 2007 Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) II involving more than 17,000 individuals also had more jaw-dropping insights on fertility diets for women.
According to the study’s researchers, adopting such a diet “may favorably influence fertility in otherwise healthy women.” In fact, those “who had the highest intake of a “fertility diet” significantly reduced their risk of infertility by 66%! Moreover, positive dietary and lifestyle changes can help prevent infertility issues caused by ovulation disorders.
Can’t wait to get started on a fertility diet? Read on to find out what constitutes a fertility diet for women and the six best foods to eat if you’re trying to get pregnant.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended as medical advice.
What Is a “Fertility Diet?”
To understand what a “fertility diet” is, we looked at data from the 2007 NHS study mentioned earlier.
Based on this study, a “fertility diet” meal plan includes the following:
- Whole grains and high-fiber foods, like brown rice and quinoa
- More plant-based proteins, like nuts and legumes
- More monounsaturated vegetable oils, like olive oil
- Full-fat dairy products, like whole milk and butter
- Multivitamins with folic acid (check with your primary doctor for recommendations)
- Healthy drinks — opt for water as much as possible
At the same time, make sure to:
- Avoid foods with high trans fats content, like fried foods and processed foods
- Prioritize plant-based proteins over animal-based protein
- Consume less sugar-laden drinks
- Say no to alcohol
Now that you know what entails a fertility diet for women who are trying to conceive (TTC), let’s look at the six foods scientifically thought to boost your chances of getting pregnant.
6 Best Foods To Help Increase Fertility for Women
What foods improve fertility for women, you ask? Are there any foods that can help induce ovulation naturally?
Look no further as we’ve compiled a list of the six best foods (and food groups) to boost your odds of conceiving. This fertility diet will likely benefit you, whether you’re going through IVF or struggling with fertility-related issues like endometriosis and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).
Fruit consumption was found to promote fertility, according to a 2018 study. Women who ate fruit three or more times a day were the fastest to become pregnant. In fact, women in this group had up to 19% shorter pregnancy time than those who ate fruits less than one to three times a month.
The good news is that there are countless fun ways to include more fruits in your diet. Go for a fruit bowl in the morning and spice up your water glass with sliced lemons and berries.
2. Sunflower Seeds
Did you know that vitamin E is an essential micronutrient for women trying to get pregnant?
Vitamin E possesses powerful antioxidative benefits that may help alleviate some of the harm caused by environmental pollutants and unhealthy lifestyle habits contributing to poor fertility health among women. Scientific data showed that due to the antioxidative nature of vitamin E, it can “exert beneficial effects” against reproductive issues like unexplained infertility and habitual abortions (when there are three or more miscarriages).
That’s why sunflower seeds may be your next go-to snack in between meals. Just one ounce (28 grams) of dry roasted sunflower seeds will provide you with 49% of your Daily Value (DV) requirements for vitamin E.
3. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Another abundant source of folate, dark green leafy vegetables are also recommended as a fertility-boosting food for women.
According to The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences, individuals with a female reproductive system capable of becoming pregnant should supplement with 400 micrograms of folic acid (the synthetic version of folate) before they are even pregnant.
The same dosage should then continue until the 12th week of pregnancy. Doing so can help tone down the risk of neural tube defects in your baby should you eventually carry a child.
Besides folic acid supplements, try folate from whole food sources like broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus. After all, this micronutrient is vital for proper and healthy fetal development even before you’re expecting.
Eggs are a great source of protein and contain several vital nutrients beneficial for fertility, such as:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Zooming in on choline, it’s an essential nutrient that our bodies don’t make enough of. That’s why we have to get the rest of what we need from our diet, such as scrambled, poached, and half-boiled eggs.
Per a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, a diet rich in choline — and possibly methionine (a protein-building amino acid) and betaine (derived from choline) — was linked to a lower risk of neural tube defects. If you haven’t already, it’s time to include eggs as part of your fertility diet!
Salmon is another staple in the typical fertility diet for women. It’s a great source of:
- Vitamin D, and
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Zeroing in on the last, science suggests including omega-3 fatty acids in your fertility diet for those going through ART. A recent systematic review published in 2022 showed that adequate intake of this micronutrient may enhance the “positive rate of ART outcomes and embryo quality” in women.
Avocado stands out as a fertility-promoting food for two reasons — not just because they get so much love as the food trend of the decade (thanks, Gwyneth Paltrow, for introducing it to us!).
Firstly, people trying to conceive or are already expecting tend to eat less folate and potassium than recommended. Given that avocados are a rich source of these two essential micronutrients, it makes sense to include them in fertility diets for women.
Secondly, avocados possess high levels of fiber, monounsaturated fats, and fat-soluble antioxidants associated with better health, birth outcomes, and breast milk quality. Indeed, there’s no better excuse to treat yourself to avocado toast today!
The Jury Is Still Out on Full-Fat Dairy
Some researchers may say that a fertility diet containing full-fat dairy foods such as butter, whole milk, and cream potentially improves egg quality, like this large-scale study of 18,555 women. On the other hand, another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said otherwise. In this particular study, scientists were not able to support the theory that eating more high-fat dairy boosts fertility levels.
Because the science is inconclusive about the impact of dairy products — full-fat, low-fat, or no-fat — on fertility health, it’s best to tailor your consumption to your unique health needs. For example, if your BMI is within the normal range, you may consider eating full-fat dairy in moderation. But if weight control is of priority on your fertility journey, switch to low-fat or no-fat alternatives.
Last but not least, always read the nutrition label on the packaging and consult your primary doctor if you’re unsure.
Diet Is Essential, but So Are Other Lifestyle Factors
Of course, these six foods we’ve highlighted aren’t the only foods helpful for fertility. Neither should you focus on them and overconsume them to the exclusion of other foods.
It’s important to note that eating a healthy and varied diet is just one piece of the fertility puzzle — albeit an important one. Other lifestyle factors are just as important when trying to conceive, such as:
- Being over- or under-weight
- Excessive exercise
- Substance abuse (e.g., tobacco, alcohol, and drugs)
- Constant environmental exposure to pollutants and hormone-disrupting toxins
- Mental and emotional stress
- Certain medications
If you’d like to include a fertility diet as part of your battle plan for getting pregnant, consult a medical professional like a fertility specialist or a dietitian. Together, you can work out a personalized meal plan for the best chances of improving your fertility levels.
Speaking of which, you may be interested in twoplus’ Meals for Fertility.
Meals for Fertility is currently only available in Singapore.
It’s a hassle-free meal plan delivery service for couples who are trying to conceive.
Designed by Australia’s leading fertility dietitian, Dr. Catherine Chong, and a Precision Nutrition-certified head chef, our backed-by-science fertility diet meal plan contains all the nutrients you need on your conception journey.
Now that you’ve learnt which fertility-boosting foods to prioritize, check out our post on the 10 foods you must avoid when trying to get pregnant!
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