Eating the right foods is essential to fertility, but these won’t do any good if you keep on eating foods that damage your chances of pregnancy. Conceiving is a delicate process that involves environmental cues, hormonal balance, and physiology. Just as it’s easy for the wrong foods to disrupt these events and prevent the union of an egg and a sperm, it’s just as easy for the right foods to encourage these events and improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy. By avoiding these five fertility-damaging foods, you can boost your own fertility and increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy.
A large study on nutrition and female fertility, the Nurses’ Health Study, found that eating refined sugar can lead to fertility problems. When we consume refined carbs or sugar, our body’s glucose levels rise. In response, the body produces the hormone insulin so that cells can use the glucose for energy. Research shows that a diet high in refined sugar can lead to insulin resistance in up to 70% of women with PCOS. Foods with a low glycemic index allow the body to go through the glucose slowly, but refined sugar (foods with high glycemic index) causes the blood glucose levels to rise too quickly. This makes your insulin levels stretch out too thinly and adds stress to your body. If you keep a regular diet of refined sugar, your cells will eventually become insulin resistant. This means that your cells will no longer respond to the insulin produced by your body, skewing the hormonal production required for timely ovulation and interfering with your chances of conceiving.
Crispy and satisfying snacks like chips and fries are often rich in an industrially created fat called trans-fat (trans-fatty acids or partially hydrogenated oils). Trans-fats are found in packaged goods, fried fast food, microwaved popcorn, or vegetable shortening in order to extend their shelf-life. Any commercial good that has “partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “shortening” in the ingredients label probably has trans-fats. The Nurses’ Health Study found that those who ate more trans-fats were more likely to suffer from ovulatory problems. In fact, a 2% increase in trans-fat consumption makes a woman 73% more likely to experience ovulation-related infertility. Trans-fats make it harder for the body to process insulin and cause inflammation. In men, high trans-fat levels make the membrane of sperm cells less flexible, which in turn decreases its ability to successfully penetrate an egg cell.
Reports show that soy protein can have a negative impact on fertility. A study published in Human Reproduction looked at the sperm samples and soy intake of 99 men with unexplained infertility. Researchers discovered that over half of the men had poor sperm motility and low sperm count. The researchers also observed that the men with higher sperm count and better sperm quality had lower soy intake.
According to another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming soy can negatively impact hormone levels. The follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) levels decreased, while the menstrual cycle length increased.
According to the Nurses’ Health Study, drinking large amounts of caffeine-laden beverages may cause infertility in women. Caffeine can cause the fallopian tubes to tense up and slow down the movement of a fertilized egg towards the uterus. Once the egg finally reaches the uterus, the endometrium may not be healthy enough to receive it.
You can have your coffee and drink it too without harming your fertility, as long as you consume less than 300mg of caffeine a day. Just be aware that soda is also full of caffeine; according to the Nurses’ Health Study, women who drink two or more cans of soda a day are 50% more likely to experience ovulation problems.
Aspartame and artificial sweeteners
Sodas, especially diet sodas, contain an artificial sweetener called aspartame that can affect fertility. According to Pediatrician and Professor Dr Louis Elsas, consuming aspartame before conceiving increases the likelihood of neurological problems in the child. When aspartame enters the intestines, it gets broken down into a chemical called phenylalanine and becomes concentrated in the placenta, which can cause developmental problems in the growing baby. Dr. Maledon Price of the University of Washington also notes that aspartame destroys the neurons that regulate the release of hormones, causing low levels of key reproductive hormones like FSH, LH, and gonadotropins. Aspartame is also known to impact sperm production and egg quality. So if you’re trying to conceive, it’s best to avoid soda altogether.