There's no doubt that a healthy diet holds many benefits, from lowering heart disease risk to supporting mental health. Nutrition also plays a role in fertility and reproductive health.
While you may not have control over some of the factors involved in fertility — like your age or a medical condition — several vitamins may help boost fertility when you're trying to conceive.
Six Vitamins and Nutrients to Help Boost Fertility
In recent years, much research has been done on the relationship between diet, nutrition, and fertility. Let's look at critical vitamins and nutrients that could benefit people who want to build a family.
Folate (Folic Acid)
Folic acid is commonly found in prenatal vitamins. Pregnant women should take folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy since adequate B vitamin levels can help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida.
Research suggests folic acid may also increase the likelihood of getting pregnant. Folic acid supplementation may help increase progesterone levels and support regular ovulation, which can bolster fertility.
Folate, or vitamin B9, is the vitamin form that occurs naturally in food. When you take a folic acid supplement, your body converts it into folate so it can be used.
Where to get it:
Folate is naturally present in dark leafy green vegetables, beans, sunflower seeds, fresh fruits, whole grains, and eggs. You'll want to take a folic acid supplement if you're pregnant or trying to conceive. Folic acid is found in most prenatal vitamins.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats the human body can't produce. This means we must get omega-3s from our diets. Omega-3 fatty acids have numerous benefits, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and supporting brain health.
Although it's unclear what role omega-3 fatty acids play in natural fertility, some research suggests that omega-3 supplementation may increase an infertile woman's probability of pregnancy following in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Where to find them:
Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and several other fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Some plant foods also provide them, such as chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseed, and walnuts. There are many popular over-the-counter supplements available as well.
Sperm function and motility can play a role in infertility. According to an analysis of several studies, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) significantly increases sperm concentration and motility.
Studies suggest that CoQ10 may also benefit women trying to get pregnant through IVF. Women who took CoQ10 for two months before undergoing IVF had higher egg quantity, improved ovarian response, and more high-quality embryos. However, it's unclear if CoQ10 is helpful for women who are trying to conceive naturally.
Where to find it:
CoQ10 can be taken as a dietary supplement or obtained from foods like salmon, tuna, organ meats, and whole grains.
Selenium is another nutrient that's excellent for male infertility. One study determined that supplementation with this important trace element improves sperm count, sperm motility, and sperm quality in men.
It's unclear whether selenium benefits fertility in women. However, another study suggested that selenium deficiency could increase a woman's risk of luteal phase deficiency. This can affect the ovulation cycle and uterine lining, putting her at risk of infertility. So it could be worth supplementing.
Where to find it:
Besides over-the-counter supplements, selenium is present in foods like brazil nuts and seafood.
This vitamin is important for healthy bones and helps the body retain calcium and phosphorous. Some research suggests vitamin D may play a role in reproductive health. For example, vitamin D may impact hormone levels in men and women and affect semen quality.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a chronic health condition that can cause infertility. Vitamin D supplements may help with menstrual frequency and metabolic issues in women with PCOS who are vitamin D deficient, potentially boosting fertility. However, it's unclear if vitamin D improves fertility generally, especially if a person is not deficient. Still, it doesn't hurt to up your vitamin D intake, especially if you live with PCOS.
Where to find it:
Your body makes vitamin D with sun exposure, but it may be hard to get enough sun, especially during winter in colder climates. There aren't many foods with vitamin D, so it's a good idea to supplement or eat foods fortified with vitamin D.
Zinc is a mineral that helps with cell function, immunity, healing, and metabolism. According to some research, zinc may also play a part in egg quality, and zinc deficiency could contribute to male infertility.
Where to find it:
Zinc is found in dietary supplements, as well as chicken and red meat.
Things to Avoid When You're Trying to Conceive
Ultimately, there isn't one single vitamin or supplement that will guarantee fertility.
But some other dietary factors could affect your chances of getting pregnant. For example, one study found that women who ate more fast food and less fresh fruit took longer to get pregnant. Interestingly, another study found that replacing animal protein sources with plant protein may lower the risk of ovulation-related infertility.
The bottom line is that a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables promotes overall health and well-being. Regarding fertility and reproductive health, a wholesome diet is essential for people of all genders. It can also help maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and reduce stress if you're trying to conceive.
Support Your Fertility and Grow Your Family
Of course, infertility happens for many reasons, and your diet and nutrient intake may or may not be a factor. If you've been trying to conceive for more than a year or experiencing infertility due to a medical condition, speak to a fertility specialist.
At Advanced Fertility Care, our dedicated and experienced team will answer any fertility questions and support you on your journey to becoming a parent. We offer services at different locations. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.