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. It’s so easy for the wrong foods to disrupt these events and prevent the union of an egg and a sperm. By avoiding these five foods, you can boost the fertility of yourself and your partner and increase your own chances of a healthy pregnancy too.
Sugar and refined carbohydrates are a big no-no for fertility, especially if you are suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). According to the Nurses’ Health Study, the largest study on nutrition and female fertility, women who eat more refined sugar are more likely to suffer from fertility problems. Our body’s glucose levels rise whenever we eat refined carbohydrates or sugar. As the glucose levels rise, the body produces the hormone insulin so the cells can use the glucose for energy. 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 body 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. Research shows that up to 70% of women with PCOS are insulin-resistant.
Chips and fries may be crispy and satisfying snacks, but they’re also 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 out that women who ate more trans-fats were suffered from more ovulatory problems than women who did not. In fact, just a 2% increase in trans-fat consumption makes a woman 73% more likely to suffer from ovulation-related infertility. Trans-fats affect fertility by making the body more insulin-resistant and causing inflammation. In men, high trans-fat levels make the membrane of the sperm cell less flexible, decreasing its ability to successfully penetrate an egg cell.
Reports show that too much soy protein can decrease male and female 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.
Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that high soy consumption can decrease the levels of the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and increase menstrual cycle length.
Like most hardworking people, you probably like starting your day with a strong cup of coffee. But you might want to cut back on this and other caffeine-laden drinks. According to the Nurses’ Health Study, women who consume over 400mg of caffeine a day (one eight-ounce cup of coffee has 100-300 mg caffeine) are more likely to be infertile. Caffeine causes 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 keep your morning cup of coffee and your fertility too; as long as you consume less than 300mg of caffeine a day, you should be fine. Do take note that soda is also laden with caffeine; the Nurses’ Health Study notes that women are 50% more likely to experience ovulation problems if they drink two or more cans of soda a day.
Aspartame and artificial sweeteners
Here’s another reason to avoid soda, especially diet soda: they contain an artificial sweetener called aspartame that affects 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, causing 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 the FSH, LH, and gonadotropins. Aspartame is also known to impact sperm production and egg quality.