Red Light, Green Light, 1,2,3…Decoding Fats and Fertility

fats and fertility

So, you’re on the TTC train. You’re doing fertility acupuncture, you’re going to regular doctor’s visits and you are getting your shots. Or, maybe, you’ve just gone off the pill. You’re doing everything you can to ensure your body has the best chance for conception. Eating a healthy, plant-based diet has been linked to improving your fertility odds. Particularly, there’s an increasing body of evidence linking the fats and fertility in your diet to hormone regulation. But what kind of fats are “healthy fats”? Which fats should you avoid? And, what is the best way to incorporate fats in your fertility diet? We’ve got you covered…

GREEN LIGHT: Unsaturated Fats and Fertility

These are your “healthy fats.” Unsaturated fats can be broken down into two varieties: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) can be found in olive oil, nuts (such as almonds, cashews), and seeds such as pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are found in many vegetable oils and certain nuts and seeds. These include varieties like walnuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds and flax seeds. Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid is the healthiest fat of them all. Some fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, as well as certain nuts and seeds like walnuts and flaxseed contain PUFAs. While all healthy fats are pro-fertility, the strongest evidence is in support of PUFAs. Studies have shown that PUFAs have positive effects on ovary cell quality and embryo implantation.

YELLOW LIGHT: Saturated Fats and Fertility 

Saturated fats are found in animal products such as meat and poultry skin, as well as high fat dairy products, butter and coconut oil. While saturated fat may raise LDL “bad” cholesterol, it also increases HDL “good” cholesterol. The net impact on cholesterol and heart health is less concerning than we once thought. Your best bet is to eat these foods less than unsaturated fat, but you don’t need to completely remove them from your diet.

RED LIGHT: Trans Fats and Fertility 

The worst type of fat you can eat are considered to be Trans fats. It both raises your “bad” LDL cholesterol, while lowering your “good” HDL cholesterol. A diet high in trans fats puts you at risk for heart disease, increased chronic inflammation and arterial plaque buildup – yuck! Most prevalent in partially hydrogenated oil is Trans fat. This particular oil increases a food’s shelf life. Trans fat is often found in processed foods like baked goods containing shortening, ready-made frosting, chips and snacks, fried food, refrigerated dough and margarine. Consuming trans fats may promote greater insulin resistance, which could have an adverse impact on ovulatory function. Amongst women, studies have strongly linked higher trans fat intake with reduced fertility.

Amongst women, studies have strongly linked higher trans fat intake with reduced fertility.

Incorporating Fat in Your Fertility Diet

Now you know what types of fat you should be consuming to support fertility. These are some simple suggestions for incorporating them into your diet:

  • Eat two (6-ounce) servings of fatty fish per week (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna).
  • Throw 1-2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed and/or ¼ avocado into your morning green smoothie or on top of some toast.
  • Sprinkle walnuts, almonds or pepitas (pumpkin seeds) atop a salad to add crunch and flavor.
  • Swap out mayo for ¼ mashed avocado on toast or sandwiches.
  • Use plant-based oils rather than butter when cooking – but be mindful of portion size – a little goes a long way!
  • Combine nut butters with an apple or sliced carrots for an afternoon snack.
  • Create your own simple vinaigrette using olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, sea salt and pepper.


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