The Best And Worst Foods For Fertility In Both Men And Women

According to The Centers for Disease Control, around 10% of women in the U.S. struggle to become pregnant. Fortunately, some people may benefit from changing their diet. Harvard Health Publishing claims that dozens of studies have related food to fertility.

Eating certain foods can improve or impair fertility in both women and men. For example, women can benefit from drinking the right type of milk. And men, who contribute to 40% of infertility cases, will get better results from tomatoes. Read on for the best and worst foods for fertility, according to science.

Switch To Whole Fat Milk For Best Results

Cartons of whole milk are on grocery store shelves.
THOMAS URBAIN/AFP via Getty Images
THOMAS URBAIN/AFP via Getty Images

If you’re trying to conceive, switch to full-fat milk. According to a study in the Frontiers of Public Health, eating high-fat dairy lowers your risk of infertility. In 2007, Harvard researchers compared a high-fat dairy diet to low-fat. Participants experienced fewer ovulatory problems while drinking whole fat milk.

According to The Nurses’ Health Study, one or two dairy servings per day is enough to improve fertility. Full-fat yogurts and cheese will do if you don’t want the milk. Even a dish of ice cream could help!

Low-Fat Dairy Makes Conception Harder

A container of Nestle low fat yogurt is against a grey background.
Stanley Shin/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
Stanley Shin/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Although full-fat dairy increases fertility, low-fat products do the opposite. When Harvard researchers studied over 18,000 women, they discovered that low-fat milk had more ovulatory problems. People who ate low-fat dairy twice a day were 85% more likely to become infertile.

The less often women ate low-fat dairy products, the more likely they were to conceive. Why does this happen? It could be because certain hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, attach to fat. Eliminating the fat also removes these hormones that could help people become pregnant.

Enjoy The Pro-Fertility Ingredients In Watermelon

A model poses near giant slices of watermelon.
Erwin Blumenfeld/Condé Nast via Getty Images
Erwin Blumenfeld/Condé Nast via Getty Images

Watermelon contains many ingredients that improve fertility. One of them is Citrullus vulgaris, an antioxidant that reduces oxidative stress. According to a 2013 study, Citrullus vulgaris increased sperm count and mobility in animal studies.

Another watermelon ingredient is citrulline, an amino acid found in the white rind. Scientists have tested L-citrulline supplements in men. The amino acid enhanced sperm volume, mobility, and vitality. In 2008, researchers from Texas A&M University concluded that watermelon has a “Viagra effect” and increases libido. What better fruit is there for fertility?

Despite What Some Say, Pineapple Doesn’t Help IVF

A whole pineapple lays against a yellow background.
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Anjelika Gretskaia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Online infertility communities and medications often use pineapples as a symbol. Health myths encourage people to eat pineapple on the day of your embryo transplant during IVF. However, scientists have little evidence promoting pineapple as a fertility food.

“There’s no evidence in the literature that says consuming pineapple prior to an embryo transfer will improve implantation,” endocrinologist Tomer Singer told the Independent. Rudy Quintero of CARE fertility adds that all of the evidence is only anecdotal. If you want to help your IVF process, you can choose better foods than pineapple.

Eat Salmon For Its Omega-3s

A chef sprinkles seasoning on a salmon filet.
Ben McCanna/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Ben McCanna/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Salmon supplies omega-3 fatty acids, and these can help people conceive. One omega-3, called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), can improve fertility in men. According to a University of Illinois study, DHA supplies enzymes that help sperm penetrate an egg. But eating fish can aid both men and women.

In 2018, research in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism reported that couples who eat fish are more likely to conceive. When couples ate seafood at least twice a week, they were 92% more likely to become pregnant by the end of the year. Both male and female fertility benefitted from salmon.

Infertile Men Should Eat Tomatoes

A pile of tomatoes are offered for sale.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

If men want to improve fertility, they should eat more tomatoes. In 2019, researchers at the University of Sheffield discovered that tomatoes enhance sperm quality. An ingredient in tomatoes called lycopene provides nutrients to increase fertility. Other minerals in tomatoes, such as vitamin E and zinc, also increase your chances.

Previous studies support these results. Research in 2017 determined that tomato juice helps infertile male patients. Eating cooked tomatoes, such as sauces, helps too. Scientists say that 40% of all infertility cases stem from male sperm. It takes two to tango, after all.

If You Eat Eggs, Include The Yolks

A man cracks open an egg with a double yolk.
Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

If you eat eggs for fertility, include the yolk. In 2020, a study in Aquaculture Research concluded that egg yolks increase sperm mobility and function. An ingredient in eggs called dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) speeds up sperm function and supports fertility.

Registered dietitian Lily Nichols asserts that eggs can help female fertility, too. The yolks contain choline, which can lower the risk of congenital disabilities. Eggs also provide protein, and more protein can reduce infertility, according to the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. So go ahead and enjoy your omelet.

Steer Clear Of Processed Meat

A chef flips a sausage on a flaming grill.
Nicolas Armer/picture alliance via Getty Images
Nicolas Armer/picture alliance via Getty Images

In 2015, researchers examined how meat affects a man’s fertility. Processed meats–such as sausages and deli meats–worsened sperm quality. Rebecca Sokol, the president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, said that processed meats ruined sperm’s ability to penetrate an egg.

On the flip-side, eating unprocessed meats such as chicken boosted men’s fertility. Processed red meats were the worst offenders. In 2004, a study in Human Reproduction found that processed meats increase a woman’s chance of endometriosis. This is a chronic condition that could drastically reduce a woman’s fertility.

Coffee Only Hurts If You Drink A Lot Of It

A woman drinks from a cup of coffee.
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Over the past few decades, health articles have claimed that drinking coffee can delay pregnancy. But scientists disagree. The scare began in 1988 when one study said that a single cup of coffee could reduce fertility by 50%. However, no studies have been able to repeat these results.

In 2012, research in Epidemiology observed women who drank 300 mL of coffee (more than one cup per day). Their fertility rates did not change. After years of examining studies, the American Scientific Advisory Committee concluded that coffee does not harm fertility, unless you drink A LOT.

Eat Plant-Based Proteins Like Beans And Lentils

Beans and lentils are sorted into cylinder containers.
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Tim Graham/Getty Images

Eating more plant-based proteins could help couples conceive. In 2018, researchers from the University of Adelaide compared vegetarian protein to animal protein in terms of fertility. Women who ate plant-based products were more likely to conceive. The easiest way to receive vegetarian protein is to add beans and lentils to your meals.

According to Laurel Fertility Care, beans provide folic acid, which is vital for pregnancy. It develops healthy embryos and speeds up conception. Studies show that protein encourages fertility, and beans supply enough protein to replace animal products.

Asparagus Can Help People Ovulate

Asparagus lies in a circular pile.
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If you can deal with odd-smelling urine for a while, you may want to eat more asparagus. Researchers from the National Institute of Unani Medicine have studied how asparagus interacts with anovulation, which causes 30% of infertility cases. According to them, ingredients in asparagus can stimulate follicular growth and ovulation.

In 2020, a study in Metabolites concluded that asparagus promotes fertility and produces more breast milk. Both white and green asparagus have been used to treat infertility in India. In just one cup, you’ll receive essential nutrients for conception such as vitamins K, A, B, and C.

Dangerous Chemicals Leak Into Microwave Popcorn

A bag of microwave popcorn spills open.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Although microwave popcorn can make a healthy snack, you may want to avoid it while conceiving. In 2009, scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles, discovered a harmful chemical in microwave popcorn. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which lines the bag, can reduce fertility.

Olga Naidenko, a scientist for the Environmental Working Group, explains that PFOA leaks into the popcorn while microwaving. It can increase the risk of infertility by 70%. You can still eat popcorn if you cook it in a pot. Avoid any packaged foods with PFOA for fertility.

Another Reason To Avoid Fast Food

A man eats McDonald's in the restaurant.
Mikhail MetzelTASS via Getty Images
Mikhail MetzelTASS via Getty Images

In 2018, scientists from the University of Adelaide observed thousands of women’s diets from several countries. Participants who ate plenty of fruit had higher chances of getting pregnant. However, women who ate little fruit–and a lot of fast food–were far more likely to become infertile.

Raj Mathur, the secretary of the British Fertility Society, believes that fast food harms fertility because it’s processed. It is high in fat and sugar, while pro-fertility diets are organic, low in sugar, and filled with produce. In short, steer clear of fast food if you want to conceive.

Check The Nutrition Label For Trans Fats

Trans fats appear on a brownie bites nutrition label.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

What do donuts, frozen pizzas, and coffee creamers have in common? They all contain trans fats. In 2007, nutrition researchers at Harvard concluded that trans fats cause fertility problems. If 2% of your daily calories are trans fats, your risk of infertility doubles.

Researcher Jorge Chavarro believes that most women can reduce trans fats by replacing their cooking oils. While canola and corn oils provide have fats, olive oil supplies healthy fats that could increase fertility. Watch out for processed foods that likely contain trans fats.

A Handful Of Walnuts Can Improve Sperm Motility

Farmers shovel dry walnuts into a pile.
Xinhua/ via Getty Images
Xinhua/ via Getty Images

For men, a pack of walnuts can speed up the fertility process. In 2012, scientists at the University of Delaware found that walnuts increase fertility in several ways. They encourage vitality, supply omega-3 fatty acids, and enhance sperm motility. Men in their 20s and 30s may benefit from eating a handful of walnuts every day.

Researchers believe that walnuts provide nutrients that can heal peroxidative damage in sperm cells. In many cases, infertility results from sperm dying before it reaches the egg. Eating walnuts could prevent that from happening.

Sugar Is The Worst Ingredient For Fertility

Sugar pours off of a spoon.
Al Barry/Three Lions/Getty Images
Al Barry/Three Lions/Getty Images

A high-sugar diet is one of the worst choices for a couple trying to conceive. In 2018, a clinical study examined sugar’s impact on fertility. The advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in sugar destroyed women’s uterine lining. This results in a far lower chance of conception.

Sugar can also increase peoples’ cholesterol levels. According to a study in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, high cholesterol can worsen conception and fertility in both men and women. If you make one diet change, try to limit sugar.

Cinnamon Supports Fertility In Women

Cinnamon powder is in a bowl next to cinnamon sticks.
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Cinnamon not only adds flavor to a meal, but it also increases fertility in women. Scientists from Columbia University tested cinnamon supplements against polycystic ovary syndrome, a common infertility condition in women. After taking the supplements, participants had twice as many menstrual cycles, and two became pregnant.

Study author Daniel Kort admits that it’s not clear why cinnamon aids fertility. Perhaps cinnamon improves glucose and insulin levels. Prior research indicates that people with insulin issues, such as diabetes, have a higher chance of getting polycystic ovary syndrome.

Pomegranates Benefit Both Women And Men

An open pomegranate sits on top of whole fruits.
Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Pomegranates can benefit fertility for both men and women. In 2005, a study in the Journal of Urology discovered that pomegranate juice enhances sperm quality and soothes erectile dysfunction. In women, pomegranate extracts can improve fertility and support the growth of a fetus, according to Pharmacognosy Magazine.

Researchers believe that pomegranates are filled with antioxidants that prevent infertility. In 2014, a study in PLoS One analyzed these antioxidants. They increased sperm motility by 62% and may help women through IVF treatment. Whether you eat pomegranate seeds, juice, or supplements, all may help.

How Soda Worsens Infertility

Canned soda is in a fridge in a store.
Jiang Qiming/China News Service via Getty Images
Jiang Qiming/China News Service via Getty Images

If you’re trying to become pregnant, stop drinking soda. In 2018, a study in Epidemiology concluded that high-sugar drinks such as soda reduce fertility. Lead study author Elizabeth Hatch added that caffeine also prevents fertility, and most sodas contain both sugar and caffeine.

Boston researchers have reported that soda shrinks fertility by 20% in both men and women. According to Medical News Today, soda contributes to poor semen quality and early menstruation. Both can lead to infertility over time. Replace sweet drinks with sparkling water or tea.

Whole Grains Help, But Don’t Eat Too Many

A close-up shows whole grain bread.
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

According to a few amount of studies, whole grains can improve fertility. In 2017, scientists analyzed women who ate bread. Participants who ate whole grains had a higher chance of implantation and becoming pregnant. White bread did not have that same effect.

However, other studies advise women to limit their carbs. In the journal Human Reproduction Update, researchers analyzed 14 clinical trials. They determined that low-carb diets increase fertility. If you’re aiming to get pregnant, limit carbs, and eat whole grains whenever you have bread, cereal, or rice.