The Infertility Diet

Delicious fried fish on green asparagus with salad

When it comes to getting pregnant, an infertility diet may be your best friend. Many couples have tried a variety of treatments in order to correct this debilitating condition. While many try a variety of drugs or resort to invasive techniques such as in-vitro fertilization, there is a simpler answer that might work for these couples that only involves a simple change in diet and lifestyle.

The infertility diet works off this premise, using foods and lifestyle practices that have been proven to enhance fertility and increase the odds of successful conception.  

Below, we will give you an overview of what the infertility diet is, how it works, activities you must abstain from, and what you can and cannot eat while executing this regimen.

What is the infertility diet?

The infertility diet is a lifestyle shift that is centered around choices that that enhances the reproductive potential of men and women, while controlling and eliminating the factors that repress them.

For years, people have restructured their diet and their lifestyle based on factors that have been proven to reduce their risk of developing debilitating diseases such as cancer and heart disease.  

The infertility diet copies this model, choosing specific types of food and encouraging behaviors that enhance reproductive health, while discouraging foods and lifestyle choices that do the exact opposite.

Additionally, the infertility diet seeks to uncover vitamin deficiencies that work to inhibit pregnancy.  It is often found that women who have fertility problems often have multiple vitamin shortfalls that can be easily remedied with by adopting a healthier diet filled with foods that bridge these gaps, or by taking a multi-vitamin on a regular basis (1).

Why does the infertility diet work?

Infertility Diet
Infertility Diet

This modality works because one of the primary causes of  infertility is anovulation, and the number one treatment for this condition is a change in diet.

Indeed, a recent study conducted by Harvard researchers confirmed a positive link between lifestyle and diet changes and fertility (2).

Frequently, the body of an infertile woman is a place where insulin spikes brought on by the consumption of simple carbs sets a series of biochemical processes in motion that suppresses the act of ovulation (3).

Basically, when you eat a doughnut (or any other sweet that contains massive amounts of refined sugar), the subsequent increase in glucose in your bloodstream will trigger a disproportionate insulin response.  

As you will see in a moment, this is bad enough on its own, but when this eating pattern is maintained over time, your body’s cells will begin to develop resistance to insulin. ¬†

This causes the pancreas to crank out even more insulin in an effort to cram free glucose into increasingly unresponsive cells, which then creates a situation where excessive amounts of insulin influence other structures in the body in a negative way.  

One occurrence that is relevant to this article is its effect on sex binding globulin, which induces it to produce more free androgen in the body of an affected female.  

When considerable amounts of androgen are produced, the production of estrogen is affected, which can cause the ovaries to not realize when it is time to ovulate, as it is this female hormone that marks the beginning of the ovulation process (4).

The infertility diet works by removing many of the sources of simple carb consumption that are in the everyday diets of women, and by eliminating lifestyle behaviors that are problematic for couples that are trying to conceive.  

Additionally, it emphasizes diet changes for the male in the relationship in order to enhance the viability of his sperm, further increasing the odds of a successful pregnancy.

Removing excessive amounts of glucose from the bloodstream of a female encourages insulin sensitivity to return to its prior level (5), thereby removing the trigger that spurs the ovaries to release massive amounts of androgen that goes on to disrupt the otherwise regular reproductive cycle that a healthy woman goes through on a monthly basis.

What can I eat on the infertility diet?

The infertility diet encourages whole foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats that act to reduce the insulin spikes that create conditions in the body that suppresses the ability of a woman to successfully conceive a child.

Additionally, foods that contain vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that improve a man and woman’s chance of having a successful pregnancy are also promoted, as the tenets behind this lifestyle shift don’t stop once the egg is successfully fertilized. ¬†

Specifically, women should make a concerted effort to consume large amounts of dark, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale; this powerful vegetable has 3.4mg of iron in only a half a cup serving size, while kale has 1.3mg in its recommended portion (6).

Both of these vegetables are also great sources of vitamins A & K, and folate, so be sure to pencil in these additions to your vegetable crisper when you are planning out your dietary changes.   

Meats of all kinds are green-lit on this diet, as all of these have considerable amounts of heme iron in each serving size, and most seafood also contains considerable amounts of this mineral.  

Due to the bioaccumulation of heavy metals (such as mercury) in some types of fish however,  consumption of this category of food should be limited to a few servings on a weekly basis (7).

In addition to the vitamins and minerals that the above-mentioned foods contain, consumption of vegetables and fruits that contain antioxidants will also help to reduce the potential damage that free radicals can wreak on the eggs of a female.  

Spinach and kale are also famous for containing large quantities of phytochemicals that play this important role in the human body, so couples that find a way to make room for these greens in their everyday diet stand to gain considerable protective benefits from them (8).

Fruits such as blueberries and raspberries contain these compounds as well, granting them an opportunity to sneak in a healthy snack every now and then, while keeping the consumption of natural sugars relatively low (9).

Though many kinds of grains are contraindicated on the infertility diet due to the high levels of simple carbs contained within them, breads that contain whole grains, brown rice, beans, and quinoa are all recommended due to the high levels of fiber that they possess.  

In addition to the benefits that it compares to the digestive system, fiber is very useful to women trying to conceive due to the fact that it acts to mop up excess amounts of estrogen and harmful xenohormones before they have a chance to enter the bloodstream (10).

If you are a guy, you can improve the viability of your sperm by eating foods that are rich in zinc.  Gram for gram, the best thing you can eat to improve your fertility are oysters, as they contain an average of 78.6 mg of zinc per 100 grams within their tasty flesh (11).  

Carnivores will have an easy time getting the zinc they need, as meats like beef and lamb also contain considerable amounts of zinc per capita.

Another compound that is a male fertility booster is selenium; ¬†if you’re looking to get more of this compound into your everyday diet, be sure to add brazil nuts to your snack rotation, as this treat gives you 777% of your daily recommended intake in a single ounce (12).

As mentioned above, men are equally vulnerable to the negative effects of free radicals as women are.   Consequentially, they should also make a concerted effort to consume significant quantities of antioxidants, as these compounds will protect their sperm from the ravaging effects that uncontested free radicals can have on them.

In addition to the foods mentioned in the women’s section above, working mashed up kidney beans into hamburger patties or having a big pot of chili more often is an excellent way of getting phytochemicals into a guy’s system, as this wonderfood has been shown to contain a mind-boggling 6,000 different kinds of antioxidant (13). ¬†¬†

Finally, a proviso to the above-mentioned foodstuffs; whenever possible, be sure to select organic sources of food over the regular kind, as the latter is often is filled with harmful pesticides and hormones that can either do direct damage to the body and its systems.

These harmful compounds mimic estrogen in the female body, which acts to further aggravate infertility challenges related to the inconsistent reproductive cycle of affected women (14). If selected organic fruits and vegetables is not an option, wash your produce well before consuming it.

What foods should I avoid?

First and foremost, women and men adopting the infertility diet should make an effort to avoid simple carbs as much as humanly possible.  

This includes the usual suspects such as candy, cookies, soda, and other foods that are sweet tasting,  but it also includes less obvious foods such as refined pasta, white bread, fruit juices, and white rice.  

The reason for doing so is due to the fact that the consumption of these foods induces a massive spike in free insulin in the body, and if you eat them on a habitual basis, then there is a very real possibility that you will develop a resistance to insulin (15).  

By removing the influence that carbohydrate rich foods can have on the body via digestion, the body’s cells will repair their ability to process insulin, and with the lack of food that can trigger an aggressive insulin response, there will be far less of this compound in the bloodstream that could potentially trigger androgen releases from the ovaries.  

Over the course of weeks and months that follow, the chances of a return to a regular reproductive cycle is increased, which then increases the probability of a viable pregnancy taking root.

While the consumption of meat is actively encouraged for females and males following the infertility diet, there are many that choose to abstain from this category of food, as they are vegetarians or vegans.  
Following the infertility diet is still possible if you have adopted this lifestyle choice, though care should be taken to avoid any food products that contain soy.  

The reason for this is because the compounds contained within this product often mimic estrogen in a woman’s body (16). ¬†

As previously explained, this can add to the problem of the female reproductive system not knowing when to trigger an egg release due to the already high levels of estrogen in the body of women suffering from infertility problems.    

In addition to the foods that you cannot eat on the infertility diet, there are a number of behaviors that you should minimize or avoid during the course of your attempts to conceive.  

Alcohol consumption should be kept to a minimum, and those that smoke cigarettes should quit the habit as quickly as possible, and resist the temptation to start again.  

On a more difficult note, caffeine consumption should be minimized or eliminated as well, as this stimulant has been shown to suppress the reproductive process when it is present in elevated amounts in the female’s bloodstream (17).

Finally, the consumption of water is essential to the proper function of the reproductive system. However, those suffering from infertility issues should either have their water tested to ensure that it does not contain compounds or chemicals (such as those found in agricultural runoff) that are known to  inhibit the reproductive cycle (18).  

if the test comes back positive, or if you have strong reason to suspect that your water is compromised, and you cannot afford the cost of having your water tested, have a filter installed on your kitchen faucet, or begin drinking purified water.


While the emphasis of infertility treatments remains focused on pharmaceutical and surgical solutions,  you owe it to yourself to at least try to make a shift in lifestyle and diet.  

Over the course of several months, the infertility diet might just be the thing that will snap you and your partner out of your funk with respect to your efforts to have a child, and you won’t have to spend a lot of money in order to do so.



Fertility Chef

Fertility Chef provides online PCOS diet & nutrition resources for women. Learn what a PCOS diet is & how it works.

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