6 Surprising Foods That You Didn’t Realise Affect Your Fertility
Advice by Eslem Kusaslan – Nutritionist Consultant at The Women’s Wellness Centre
Did you know that there are foods which can negatively impact your chances of getting pregnant – for both women and men?
Infertility affects one in every seven couples in the United Kingdom.1
While couples may not be able to manage all of the factors that contribute to infertility, they may control their diet. Nutrition and a healthy body weight can have a significant impact on both spouses’ ability to conceive.
Male infertility affects up to one-third of couples with subfertility, and each partner has an equal role in conception and fertility. Prior to conception, it is advisable that both couples improve their nutritional status. It is critical for the couple to remain consistent in order for the changes to be successful, and ideally, to begin making changes 3 months before trying to conceive.
It is really important to speak to your Doctor about scheduling a blood test to determine your current nutritional condition prior to conceiving and consult with a Nutritionist to help you get back on track!
So, let’s find out about these 6 foods!
1. SUGAR-SWEETENED BEVERAGES
Sugar-sweetened beverages are high in sugar and low in nutrients. Men and women who consume one or more soft drinks, sodas, or energy drinks on a daily basis have been shown to have lower fertility. These drinks have been associated with a reduction in both sexes’ average monthly chances of conception.2
Reducing the amount of soft drinks you consume would be a massive step toward conceiving!
Choose water as your main drink!
2. SATURATED FATS
Saturated fats are found primarily in animal-based foods such as chicken skin, fat on meat, processed meats (bacon, sausage), butter, cakes & pastries, chocolate, and coconut & palm oil.
Excessive consumption of saturated fats cause inflammation in the body, which lowers fertility. However, this does not mean that you should follow a “low fat” diet; instead, it means you should have a diet rich in healthy fats.
So, what exactly are healthy fats?
Fats called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are both considered as healthy fats. There is evidence that women who follow a diet that is high in monounsaturated fat have a higher fertility rate.3
So, swap your saturated fat sources with extra virgin olive oil, oily fish, nuts & seeds, nut butters, olives, and avocados, and cut down on the things listed earlier.
3. TOO MUCH ANIMAL PROTEIN
According to a study, simply replacing 25 grams of animal protein (about half a cooked chicken breast) with an equal amount of plant protein will increase your fertility by 50%!
It doesn’t mean you have to become a vegan or vegetarian. It’s as simple as limiting your consumption of animal protein and increasing your intake of plant protein sources like legumes (lentils, beans, peas, pulses), tofu & tempeh, nuts & seeds.
For example, next time when you are cooking Mexican meal, substitute half of the mince meat with canned beans (e.g. black beans or red kidney beans). Alternatively, have just veggie for a meal or two a week.
Caffeine has been shown to interfere with the production of oestrogen and other hormones that are necessary for conception.4
This can have an effect on ovulation, the amount of time a woman is fertile, and other components of the menstrual cycle.
Women who are attempting to conceive should limit their caffeine intake to less than 200mg (2 cups of coffee/3 cups of tea) each day as a precaution.5
Limit your intake of cola, high-energy drinks, and chocolate, as they all contain caffeine.
While we all know drinking is not good while pregnant, did you know that consuming excessive alcohol pre-consumption can also lower female and male fertility and chances of conception
Alcohol may increase the baby with fetal alchol syndrome, risk of pregnancy loss, and is linked to a variety of fertility problems.
Heavy drinking in males can result in decreased sex desire, impotence, and poor sexual performance, as well as a reduction in the quality of their sperm. 6
Research has shown that women who drinks seven or more alcoholic drinks per week are more likely to have fertility issues. 6
We still don’t know how much alcohol is safe to consume while attempting to conceive, but it’s better to avoid it while planning a pregnancy because it increases the time it takes to conceive.
6. MERCURY-RICH FISH
Mercury has a significant effect on both male and female fertility and conception. Mercury has been shown to affect sperm shape, mobility, quantity, and quality, as well as male sexuality and ejaculation. 7
Mercury can also influence the levels and function of oestrogen in women and fertility. Polycystic ovarian syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, early menopause, and endometriosis are among disorders that can result from it.
Women who are trying to conceive should minimise their consumption of mercury-rich seafood including shark, marlin, and swordfish.
Stick to fish that are high in good fats and omega-3s, such as salmon, trout, anchovies, and sardines.
This article has been written by Eslem Kusaslan, Nutritionist Specialist at The Women’s Wellness Centre.
As a Nutritionist, Eslem does not have a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Everyone receives a personalised plan to ensure you get the best results possible. She focuses on healing your relationship with food using a mindful eating approach and promoting long-lasting healthy eating habits.
She offers a wide range of Packages tailor made to different needs, like Fertility Package for Couples.
National Health Service [Internet]. UK. NHS conditions. Available from nhs.uk/conditions/Infertility/
Hatch, Elizabeth E.a; Wesselink, Amelia K.a; Hahn, Kristen A.a; Michiel, James J.a; Mikkelsen, Ellen M.b; Sorensen, Henrik Toftb; Rothman, Kenneth J.a,c; Wise, Lauren A.a Intake of Sugar-sweetened Beverages and Fecundability in a North American Preconception Cohort, Epidemiology: May 2018 – Volume 29 – Issue 3 – p 369-378.
Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. Diet and lifestyle in the prevention of ovulatory disorder infertility. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2007 Nov 1;110(5):1050-8.
Hatch, Elizabeth E.a; Wise, Lauren A.a,b; Mikkelsen, Ellen M.c; Christensen, Tinac; Riis, Anders H.c; Sørensen, Henrik Tofta,c; Rothman, Kenneth J. Epidemiology. 2012 May; 23(3): 393–401.
Lyngsø J, Ramlau-Hansen CH, Bay B, Ingerslev HJ, Hulman A, Kesmodel US. Association between coffee or caffeine consumption and fecundity and fertility: a systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis. Clin Epidemiol. 2017;9:699-719.
Van Heertum K, Rossi B. Alcohol and fertility: how much is too much?. Fertil Res Pract. 2017;3:10. Published 2017 Jul 10.
Bjørklund, G, Chirumbolo, S, Dadar, M, et al. Mercury exposure and its effects on fertility and pregnancy outcome. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2019; 125: 317– 327.