Chow Line: Eating More Vegetables, Lean Proteins Could Help With Fertility

Photo: Thinkstock

I want to have children at some point in the near future. My mom says that the types of foods both my husband and I eat could help impact my chances of conceiving. Is that true?

It’s well-known that eating healthy, incorporating plenty of exercise into your normal routine and maintaining a healthy weight contributes to your overall health and well-being. And, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, nutrition and a healthy body weight for both partners can have a significant impact on the ability to conceive.

The issue is significant for many people considering that some 10 percent of the population is impacted by infertility, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

The Alabama-based multidisciplinary organization says that achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can increase a woman’s chance of getting pregnant. For example, women who are underweight, with a body mass index below 18.5, may experience irregular menstrual cycles or stop ovulating, the organization said.

And for women who are overweight, losing as little as five to 10 percent of their weight could improve fertility, according to researchers with the National Institutes of Health.

Following an overall healthy lifestyle including eating a nutritious diet, limiting — or eliminating — alcohol and caffeine consumption, and getting regular physical activity is especially important for women who wish to become pregnant. Achieving a healthy weight before conception also reduces risks for both mother and child. Be sure to talk with your doctor about these issues and potentially any others if you’re experiencing problems becoming pregnant.

Foods like fruits and vegetables, foods rich in monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and avocados, lean meats rich in iron, and foods rich in complex carbs such as whole grains and legumes are also healthy choices for women who are preparing to become pregnant, according to the Nurses’ Health Study published by a team of Harvard University researchers.

Smart diet and lifestyle decisions can also help with men’s fertility as well, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Those smart choices that can impact the health of a man’s sperm include eating more colorful fruits and vegetables such as apples, oranges, blueberries and leafy greens.

Other smart choices for potential fathers include eating whole grains; low-fat dairy; lean protein such as fish, turkey and chicken; limiting saturated fats and fried foods; and adding almonds, walnuts and olive oil to the diet.

While neither having a healthy diet nor taking other precautions can guarantee a pregnancy, making smart food choices can help in some cases, and can improve your overall health in general.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or

Editor: This column was reviewed by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences educator for Ohio State University Extension

Tracy Turner
For more information, contact: 

Jenny Lobb
OSU Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences