The Fertility Diet: Fact or Fiction?

Of all the questions we hear at IVF Michigan, “what can I do to increase my chances of getting pregnant?” has to be the most common.  Many female patients inquire about supplements or exercises or even diets that will help them conceive.  While there is no scientifically endorsed diet that ensures a successful pregnancy, there have been a few studies that show women who follow a Mediterranean-style diet may have less difficulty getting pregnant.

A Mediterranean-style diet is generally plant based. Instead of meat as the main course of a meal, a Mediterranean diet would more likely feature beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit or whole grains. Because of this, people who follow this diet generally get six or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Fish--which is vital for its omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals such as iron--make an appearance on the table at least twice a week.  There is always debate about the amount of fish a pregnant woman should eat, so be advised that the current recommendation is 2-3 servings a week maximum.  The four types of high-mercury fish (tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, swordfish, shark, and king mackerel) should be avoided while trying to conceive, pregnant or breastfeeding. 

Where Americans love their butter, a Mediterranean diet uses olive oil, which is high in monounsaturated fat (aka “good fat”); monounsaturated fat is also found in avocado, peanuts and cashews.  A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who ate the most monounsaturated fat had up to three times the chance of giving birth via IVF as those who ate the least.

Also,  because more herbs and spices are used when preparing foods in a Mediterranean diet, less salt is needed. Lowering your overall sodium intake is beneficial to heart health, which is recommended when trying to conceive naturally or through IVF.  Lastly, red meats, dairy and sweets should be eaten sparsely. Calcium that you’d normally get from milk can be replaced with other sources like legumes, kale, almonds and oranges.

Whether the Mediterranean diet is a silver bullet for fertility remains to be proven, but fertility doctors can agree that a Mediterranean diet is an incredibly healthy choice and having a healthy body is always best when trying to conceive.