12th Mar 2024

How often have you heard the phrase, "You are what you eat"? Well, this same wisdom applies to your fertility diet. The food choices you make can influence both female and male fertility. In fact, some preliminary research shows that certain foods can help or hinder your chances of achieving a healthy pregnancy. 

Bear in mind that fertility is complex, so there is no magic food that ensures swift conception or overcomes all pregnancy challenges. However, making specific dietary changes can increase your odds.

In this guide, we'll explore how your diet can affect conception. We'll focus on foods to avoid while trying to get pregnant and the best things to consume. Alongside diet, we'll share additional tips to enhance your reproductive health.

One quick thing to note before we jump in. Managing stress is just as important as a healthy diet when trying to conceive. Remember, the path to pregnancy can be overwhelming, so avoid putting too much pressure on yourself. If you're eating nutritiously and balanced most of the time, you're already taking significant steps towards boosting your fertility!

Why is Your Diet Important When Trying to Conceive? 

Have you ever asked your mother or grandmother if they made any changes to their diet before getting pregnant? If you have, they might have given you a puzzled look and replied with a resounding "no." That’s because, in their era, the idea of preconception health1 was almost non-existent, even in planned pregnancies. However, nowadays, we know that being healthy before pregnancy, which includes eating a nutritious diet, can increase your chances of conceiving and may prevent certain complications when you do get pregnant. 

Most of what we know today about the effect of nutrition on fertility comes from a study based on data from the landmark Nurse’s Health Study.2 In this study, researchers followed nearly 18,000 women trying to have babies and tracked their nutrition and lifestyle habits for eight years. Participants were asked to eat plenty of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and beans, as well as protein-rich foods, healthy fats, and some full-fat dairy. 

By the end of the study, the investigators found that this fertility diet was linked to having a significantly lower risk of ovulatory infertility, which is when ovulation happens irregularly or doesn’t happen at all. Ovulatory infertility is a common cause of infertility in women.3 One thing to note, however, is that food choices have not been shown to play a role in other serious conditions that cause infertility in women and men, such as blocked fallopian tubes, genetic defects, undescended testicles, etc. 

Are There Any Foods That Cause Infertility in Females?

Those trying to conceive often wonder what foods stop you from getting pregnant, but is there any truth to this notion?

There’s no evidence to suggest that there are any specific foods that decrease fertility in females. However, it’s important to note that a poor diet can have a significant impact on your hormones, which can lead to ovulatory issues. For instance, consuming a carbohydrate-dominant diet with a lot of sugar and starchy foods can cause a sudden spike in insulin levels. Excess insulin in the body can interfere with the ovulation process by preventing eggs from maturing properly,4 and it may also increase the risk of ovarian cysts.

Moreover, an unhealthy diet can also lead to weight gain, which can negatively impact reproductive health. Studies5 show that women who are overweight or obese tend to have a more challenging time getting pregnant than women who are at a healthy weight, but why? 

Being overweight can cause hormonal imbalances that may affect reproductive health. For example, abnormal hormone signals from excess body weight can negatively impact ovulation and sperm production. Plus, there’s also a strong link5 between obesity, excess insulin production, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is a leading cause of infertility.

Obesity doesn’t only affect women’s fertility, though. According to research,6 men with high body mass indexes (BMI) are more likely to be infertile compared to those with a normal BMI. In fact, an increase of just 20 pounds in a man’s body weight may increase the likelihood of infertility by up to 10%.7This is because obesity can cause hormonal imbalances that affect the stimulation of the testicles and inhibit sperm production. Additionally, excess fat can cause the primary male hormone, testosterone, to be converted into estrogen,8 which can decrease testicle stimulation. Men with high BMIs have also been found9 to have lower testosterone levels and abnormal semen analyses, according to some studies.

7 Foods to Avoid While Trying to Conceive

Now that we’ve explored the importance of a healthy diet, let’s look at the foods and food groups that indirectly affect fertility by meddling with your hormonal balance. Remember, though, that when it comes to achieving and maintaining a healthy pregnancy, eating a balanced diet with loads of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and unsaturated fats is far more important than eating the occasional unhealthy food. Here’s what to avoid when trying to get pregnant:

Trans Fats

Typically found in processed and fried foods, trans fats have been linked to several health problems,10 including heart disease, premature deliveries, breast and colon cancer, and more. Although they aren’t directly linked to infertility, they can indirectly affect reproductive function by negatively impacting your overall health. Plus, trans fats can contribute to insulin resistance, which may disrupt hormonal balance and interfere with ovulation. So, instead of trans fats, opt for healthier fats found in nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocados. These sources of unsaturated fats can support reproductive health and overall well-being.

Refined Carbs

Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pastries, and sugary cereals, have a high glycemic index, meaning they can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Consistently elevated blood sugar levels may lead to insulin resistance, disrupting hormonal balance and negatively impacting fertility. Additionally, refined carbs lack essential nutrients and fiber compared to their whole-grain counterparts. When trying to conceive, focus on complex carbs from whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats. These foods provide sustained energy, support stable blood sugar levels, and offer vital nutrients beneficial for reproductive health.

Added Sugar

Foods and beverages high in added sugars not only contribute to weight gain and dental issues but can also have adverse effects on fertility. For instance, excessive sugar intake can lead to insulin resistance and inflammation, disrupting hormonal signaling in ovulation and menstrual cycles. While occasionally indulging in sweets is fine, limiting added sugar intake while trying to get pregnant is essential. Remember, the emphasis is on “added” here. Although fruits have sugar, they're packed with fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants beneficial for reproductive health. So, if you’re wondering if there are any fruits to avoid while trying to conceive, the answer is no. None are off-limits! 

High-Mercury Fish

Certain types of fish, particularly large predatory fish like swordfish and king mackerel, contain high levels of mercury.11 This heavy metal can accumulate in the body over time, potentially harming the nervous system and impairing fertility. While fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, it’s best to choose low-mercury options, especially when trying to conceive. Go for healthier types of fish, such as salmon, trout, shrimp, and sardines. Each of these fish is rich in nutrients beneficial for reproductive health without the risk of mercury exposure.

Processed Meats

Processed meats like bacon, sausage, and deli meats often contain additives, preservatives, and high levels of sodium, which may have negative implications for reproductive health. Consumption of processed meats has been associated12 with increased inflammation and oxidative stress, which can interfere with fertility. Additionally, processed meats are high in saturated fats, which may contribute to insulin resistance and hormonal imbalances. If you’re trying to get pregnant, prioritize protein sources such as poultry, tofu, legumes, and nuts. These provide essential nutrients without the harmful additives found in processed meats.

Low-Fat Dairy

Dairy products are good sources of calcium, protein, and other essential nutrients. However, some low-fat options may contain added sugars and lack critical fat-soluble vitamins. Some studies have found a potential link between low-fat dairy consumption and infertility,13 although more research is needed to establish a definitive connection. Instead of low-fat dairy products, consider full-fat or unsweetened options like Greek yogurt, whole milk, butter, and cheese. 

Sugary Beverages

Last on our list of things to avoid when trying to get pregnant are sugary beverages. Regularly consuming sugar-sweetened beverages can negatively affect male and female fertility. A study14 looking at over 3,000 women and over 1,000 of their male partners trying to get pregnant found that those who regularly consumed at least seven sugary drinks per week experienced reduced fertility. Interestingly, sugar-sweetened sodas and energy drinks showed the most significant negative impact compared to diet sodas and fruit juice, which didn’t show a significant association with fertility. 

Other Ways to Improve Fertility

We’ve been over what foods to avoid while trying to conceive, but what else can you do to improve your chances of getting pregnant? Here are some additional do’s and don’ts to consider while preparing your body for conception:

What to Do When Trying to Conceive:

  • Do track your menstrual cycle.
  • Do educate yourself about fertility and reproductive health.
  • Do take prenatal vitamins and supplements.
  • Do prioritize moving your body frequently.
  • Do limit caffeine.
  • Do seek emotional support from friends, family, or experts if you feel overwhelmed.
  • Do get enough sleep.

What Not to Do When Trying to Get Pregnant:

  • Don’t smoke, drink, or use recreational drugs. 
  • Don’t overdo intense exercise.
  • Don’t ignore menstrual irregularities or other potential signs of fertility issues.
  • Don’t neglect your emotional well-being.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion if you have doubts about your fertility treatment plan.
  • Don’t compare your fertility journey to others.
  • Don’t give up hope, even if conception doesn’t happen as quickly as expected.

Understanding what to do and what to avoid when trying to conceive is a great first step to reaching your pregnancy goals.

Boost Fertility with FertilitySmart

On the path to conception, your dietary choices can significantly influence your reproductive health. A balanced diet, free from inflammatory foods such as trans fats, added sugars, and simple carbs, can enhance your overall well-being and fertility.

Increase your odds of pregnancy by filling nutritional gaps and giving your body the nutrients it needs for optimal reproductive health. FertilitySmart’s award-winning fertility supplements for women and men contain all-natural ingredients and essential vitamins to help promote hormonal balance and healthy egg and sperm formation. 

Eager to know more? Read our success stories or check out our blog for more information on ways to boost your fertility. We’re here to support every step of your journey toward parenthood and beyond!


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Prevention, 29 Aug. 2014, www.cdc.gov/preconception/overview.html

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