Being diagnosed with infertility is a complex experience. It can come with many stressors and questions about potential medications, procedures, and even lifestyle changes, including diet. With the plethora of information and resources available, it can be easy to stumble across misconceptions related to nutrition and infertility that won’t help improve outcomes. But research shows that when implemented with the proper education, guidance, and support, certain dietary adjustments can benefit fertility and even increase the chances of successful in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment.
As a Registered Dietitian, I’ve encountered a fair share of false information regarding infertility and nutrition, and I believe it’s important to dispel common myths. Here are a few facts to remember when considering your diet's role in helping you get pregnant.
Myth #1: Pineapple increases the odds of implantation
You don't have to look far online to hear that eating pineapple after an embryo transfer increases the chances of implantation. Although there’s nothing wrong with pineapple, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that any of the fruit’s nutrients alter the chances of getting pregnant.
Research does suggest that eating a diet rich in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, and whole grains increases fertility in women and creates better semen quality in men. Eating pineapple and other plant-based foods may increase your chance of embryo transfer success. Still, pineapple — or any other singular food or diet — does not guarantee successful embryo implantation.
Myth #2: A gluten-free diet reduces inflammation
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, and it’s a common myth that eating it causes bodywide inflammation. No research indicates that gluten causes inflammation, unless you have a gluten intolerance or a condition like Celiac disease. On the contrary, research recommends whole-grain, glutenous foods to increase the chance of getting pregnant.
The Mediterranean diet, which includes gluten-rich whole grains, is often cited as one of the top eating patterns for fertility.
Myth #3: You shouldn't have any caffeine when trying to get pregnant
During an already stressful time, it may seem particularly difficult to eliminate caffeine from your diet. The good news is that you can still have a cup of coffee or tea without any adverse effects. The research on caffeine intake while trying to get pregnant is limited, but most studies conclude that keeping caffeine under 200 milligrams per day (the equivalent of approximately one 12-ounce cup of coffee) is safe. In addition, recent research on women going through fertility treatments found no correlation between caffeine consumption and pregnancy success.
To put these numbers into perspective, an 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 95 milligrams of caffeine, and an 8-ounce cup of black tea has about 45 milligrams. Experts generally recommend limiting caffeine intake to 10-12 ounces of coffee daily.
Myth #4: Bone broth increases fertility
Bone broth is made from animal bones, which contain collagen. Many assert that the collagen in bone broth influences hormones, aids in digestion, boosts immunity, and more. In reality, the only existing research on the benefits of collagen is related to skin and joint health.
While bone broth may be comforting, it doesn’t increase your chances of getting pregnant. Bone broth has some beneficial nutrients like protein, iron, and calcium, but no scientific evidence links it to fertility.
Myth #5: Nutrition doesn’t play a role in fertility
Some people may not focus on improving the quality of their diets and still manage to get pregnant quickly. Everyone is different, but in general, nutrition not only improves pregnancy outcomes but may play a significant role in your chance of getting pregnant and the health of both you and the growing baby.
Research has consistently demonstrated that nutrition can positively impact fertility. Specifically, diets that include fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes are considered best when trying to get pregnant. Research on people going through IVF suggests a “pro-fertility diet” consists of a higher intake of supplemental folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, soy foods, and seafood. Limiting your intake of trans fat, saturated fat, and sugar from processed and fast foods is also recommended.
The bottom line on nutrition and fertility
What you eat may play a significant role in your fertility journey. Nutrition is crucial, but it’s important to remember that no single food can make an instant, considerable difference. Try to avoid creating more stress by cutting out large groups of foods you enjoy, like grains or caffeine. Instead, shift toward a whole foods diet incorporating plenty of plant-based choices.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with meal planning, talking to a dietitian can help. Carrot members have access to unlimited virtual chats with registered dietitians. They will assess your medical history, food intake, and lifestyle to create an individualized plan that works for you. No matter where you are in your fertility journey, good nutrition can set you up for success.
If you’re a Carrot member, sign in to your account to learn more about your options.