Fertility Diet part 4: Foods to Avoid


In the fertility diet series, we’ve been talking a bit about what essential nutrients we need and where to find them, so let’s talk a bit about the foods that may decrease our fertility as well.

Avoid Sugar

One of the “anti-nutrients” all health care providers, holistic health coaches, and nutritionists can agree on is sugar. This particular food can cause widespread damage throughout your body! One of the many ways it does is by causing your insulin levels to rise. When you eat a sugary food, your body needs to release insulin in order bring down the levels of sugars in your blood. The thing you need to realize is that insulin is a hormone, and when constantly flooding your system, rising and falling, it brings along all of the other hormones as well. Your endocrine system is connected so when just one hormone can not be regulated it can no longer perform and regulate the others – including your sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, etc.)

It’s also hard for our body to digest and uses the nutrients our body has stored in order to get rid of it, as well as being hard on the liver (which is our bodies natural detoxifier).

Avoid Caffeine

Studies have shown that women who drink one to one and a half cups of coffee each day had up to a 50% reduction in fertility. Three cups a day has been linked to early miscarriage (new evidence shows 200 milligrams as the limit). The liver has to convert caffeine so that it may be passed in your urine. Your liver also has to deal with excreting your hormones. If the liver is overworked in one area, it can’t function properly. Caffeine increases the excretion of calcium which is important in absorbing vitamin D as well as providing a little baby with strong bones.

Avoid Alcohol

In women, alcohol may actually prevent the production of progesterone, which is vital to ensuring a pregnancy is carried to term. In men, it reduces the levels of sperm-making hormones which can actually wipe out a sperm count for three months after a heavy drinking session. (It takes 3 months for new sperm to mature)

Avoid Low-fat Milk

The problem is, it seems our bodies need fat in order to maintain our cellular structure. And removing the fat from milk has actually been shown to cause an imbalance of hormones throughout the body, causing a failure to ovulate or produce a healthy egg. In a recent study, scientists found that women who ate full fat dairy were found to have a 27% lower risk of infertility. Women who ate low fat milk products twice a day were found to be twice as likely to not ovulate. This study shows that eating healthy fats, as are in milk, is helpful in reproduction.

Avoid Soy

Soy contains something called phyto-estrogens and while some health practitioners (even holistic ones) think that eating soy can be healthy, I have a problem with something that includes these “plant derived estrogens’. While in some cases a diet that includes a small amount of soy may not be bothersome, many men and women find they have issues with this particular food.

It’s also been alleged that soy is high in something called phytic acid which prevents nutrients from being absorbed as well as robbing bodily stores of nutrients trying to digest it. (it may bind to nutrients like zinc and carry it out of the body)

Lastly, a very large portion of the soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. Meaning that scientists have changed the DNA of the plant by ‘merging’ it with cells from other organisms. A few studies have been done on animals that show GMO foods may decrease fertility.

Avoid Processed Foods

This category of foods takes care of a lot of the harmful substances we place into our bodies like MSG, Trans Fats, high fructose corn syrup, and soda. there really is nothing more sabotaging to healthy eating than processed foods! Not only do they place many different toxins into our bodies (thereby making the liver less efficient at cleaning them out) we again use a lot of nutrient stores digesting them!

While we may never have a “perfect” diet, we can make a conscious effort to cut back our consumption of certain foods so that our bodies can run they way they do best. It’s all about eating for nourishment!

What foods do you stay away from when trying to conceive?

Donielle Baker

Donielle Baker

owner and editor of Natural Fertility and Wellness at Natural Fertility and Wellness
I believe women can learn how to heal their bodies & balance their hormones through natural methods. An advocate for natural health, I have a passion for nourishing/real food nutrition and natural living. My personal background includes both infertility and miscarriage and I started Natural Fertility and Wellness in 2008 in order to share all of the information I found helpful in my journey to heal from PCOS and overcome infertility.
Donielle Baker
Donielle Baker
Donielle Baker
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  1. Kate

    I *try* to avoid any pasteurized dairy (not always possible; sometimes I have to rely on local, low-temp pasteurized, grass-fed dairy, but I do avoid heavily processed). I’ve also found that sugar (even natural) gives me a headache so I try to avoid that, obviously. White flour, except in a pinch (family can only handle white flour or sprouted grains, so if we are out…white it is). Pretty much anything processed. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. NonGMOTalk


    The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), for example, issued a policy statement that all physicians should prescribe non-GMO diets for everyone, citing a long list of disorders found in animal feeding studies.

    A team of scientists re-evaluated data from three rat feeding studies by Monsanto, and published evidence showing โ€œsigns of toxicityโ€ in major organs.

    Two institutes in Russia found that by the third generation of feeding hamsters GM soy, most lost the ability to have babies. And the infant mortality was 4 or 5-fold higher than controls.

    Scientists from the USDA, Purdue, and elsewhere, are now publishing reports about how the overuse of Roundup herbicide, used with GM Roundup Ready crops, may be depriving our food of key minerals.

  3. mamapoekie

    Great post, will be using it an a later Sunday surf (somewhere towards the end of june)

  4. Jessica

    I have an extreme love for coffee. I have been drinking decaf coffee two months before my husband and I decided that we wanted to try for a baby. Is drinking decaf coffee daily safe for fertility and pregnant women?

    BTW, I am so happy to have found your website. Its like an answer to my prayers ๐Ÿ™‚

    • donielle

      @Jessica, Glad you found me! You know – decaf is a bit better as it doesn’t cause all of the same issues. I know there are a couple of different ways to process decaf coffee and one is better than the other. A hydro process comes to mind as being a healthier option, so maybe at least look for that. Personally though I try and cut back on drinks like coffee that may contribute to an acidic environment in the body. If fertility becomes and issue, I’d cut it out. Or become a weekend drinker or something. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Rika

        @donielle, Look into Cafix for a coffee trade…its a bit like coffee, but no caffeine! its doing the trick for me now…=)

        • Dineen

          @Rika, Cafix is a barley product and not suitable for those of use trying to avoid gluten-containg grains in our traditional foods approach.

  5. Kim

    Oh no! I am looking at this list and I realize I have been eating a lot of most of these things. I didn’t even realize these things could affect fertility. Starting today I am cutting these out! I have been having problems with my cycle and getting pregnant for nearly a year now and I think these may be partly to blame. I was referred to your blog by a friend today and I really look forward to reading more!

  6. Amy

    Hi! I love your blog! Thank you so much for taking the time to share all of this great information. About the soy, though, h

    • donielle

      @Amy, Amy – looks like only half your comment came through. What did you want to ask about soy?

  7. April

    Wow, I had no idea that 1ยฝ cups of coffee daily can reduce fertility by 50%! I’m finally convinced to forgo the habit. I cut down to one cup (black) a day, but even that measly cup just isn’t worth it; the cons of drinking coffee definitely outweigh the pros. I already try to avoid the other things on this list as much as possible, and the fact that they mess with fertility is a reason to fight even harder to resist them lol ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. girlieofgod

    I like that you pointed information out about Soy. I have Hypothyroidism and soy interferes with the absorbtion of my medication from the research that i’ve done. funny though that my doctor never told me this until after I pointed out I had found it. I just came upon your site today. I have been suffering from heavy menstrual periods lasting weeks on end, spotting between cycles, blood clots, you name it i had it happen. I possibly had a miscarriage but because my bleeding was so abnormal the doctors couldn’t confirm or deny it had happened but I know in my heart that it was. It has been 1 1/2 now that i have been trying to overcome this issue. birth control didn’t work on its own but adding Metformine seemed to help. I don’t like using drugs for anything and I’d like to lose some weight, be healthier and not have to take these medicines. I am not diabetic but i have a history of ovarian cysts and my doctor thought metformine would help with that issue, which it seems to have and helped with my bleeding. but it seems to me that the issue may just be a blood sugar level that is not stable because of my diet. we want to conceive so I’ve stopped my birth control I am going to start changing my diet after reading this and after talking with some of my friends who have tried the fertility diet. Thank you for your series on the fertility diet. what is amazing is that several of the foods were listed over and over again and they are easy to ad to my diet. Thank you again and please everyone keep me in your thoughts and prayers:)

  9. Betsy @ Romance on a Dime

    Thanks so much for putting up all your research on this blog. I am just browsing through for the first time and writing lots of info down!!

  10. Jessiejess

    Great site! I only wish I could get my husband to eat healthier. I try but he is so limited in what he will eat for veggies and whole foods. He eats LOTS of sugars and caffeine which I know affect his fertility as well. But at least I can do this for myself and for the health of our future child! Thank you for all of the research and effort to get these wonderful pages out there! It’s greatly appreciated!

    • donielle

      @Jessiejess, Sometimes you gotta get sneaky with those husbands! Smoothies are a great way to sneak in greens, raw (pastured) egg yolks, coconut oil, vitamins, etc. Just don’t let him see you make it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Laura

    We’re not trying to have more children (yet) but I’ve just gotten sick of all the fake stuff I’ve put in my body and used in my house. A few years ago, a began my own journey towards natural health and beauty…it all started with henna. Now, I’m ready to start implimenting some more changes. I’m going to do an herbal detox (and my herbal tea lady friend is going to help), but then I’m wondering where do I go from there. Sure, gradually making some changes here and there, like one thing a month. How do I do this on a budget? I my mind, healthy, whole living isn’t cost effective (and certainly isn’t time effective). Maybe that’s just a hump I’ve got to get over in my brain. Maybe I just need to decide that yes, I am worth it.
    BTW, I have fibromyalgia and chemicals certainly don’t help. Energy and I have a strained relationship and sometimes it’s hard to get moving the way I need to – before my body shuts down and doesn’t want to move for a week. Any suggestions on how I could approach exercise?

  12. Lisa

    Hi! Love your site. I ended up here by searching about Vitamin D3. I have had 3 miscarriages in a row. This last one was just over a week ago at 10 weeks. I have had EVERY test ran and the only thing that came back was MTHFR mutations, 2 copies. {blod clotting disorder even though my homocystine levels are normal& never had a blod clot!} My husband and I are very healthy. We juice nearly everyday, I am a vegetarian he isn’t but limits his meat intake. We never eat out, we eat organic and mostly veggies, fruits, nuts, grains etc. My cycles are always 29 days on the dot. I have had NO trouble conceiving, it’s STAYING pregnant that seems to be the problem. The first 2 losses were as doctors call them “chemical pregnancys” even though they’re still babies to us mommies. Also, I’m 25 years old. Anyway sorry for the long comment but I’m doing everything I can think of!!!!! Any suggestions???? THANKS IN ADVANCE!!!

    • donielle

      @Lisa, Well, something is obviously not healthy if your body can’t sustain a pregnancy, so while you may not have an ‘illness’ per se – something isn’t right…..

      Hmmm….there are a couple things that i can think of off hand. I know you said you’re vegetarian, and a lot of people come to that diet because either A)ethic reason or 2)they think low-fat is healthy (fyi- low fat diets can cause harm to your hormonal system). I have a couple posts on vegetarian diets you can read (and no – I don’t think they’re “unhealthy” there are just ways to do it where you’re not absorbing enough nutrients: http://www.naturallyknockedup.com/a-nourished-vegetarian/, http://www.naturallyknockedup.com/diet-vegetarianism/) Another thing to think about is that if you’re body isn’t functioning properly, that it’s not getting the nutrients it needs, so your body may be trying to tell you to eat more animal products.

      I also know that the MTHFR mutation can make it very difficult to maintain a pregnancy and you’ll want to keep in close contact with your doctor/health care professional while trying to conceive. Because they blood clots can come up in the placenta, causing it not to function and the baby doesn’t get nourishment.

      And for couples with multiple losses, I’d highly look at a gluten free diet. Many people have a gluten intolerance and don’t know it – in women this can show up as pregnancy loss. http://www.naturallyknockedup.com/diet-investigation-gluten-free/

      I’m so sorry for your losses and your struggles to grow your family. I truly hope you find something that will help your body heal.

  13. Brandi Goff

    Hi there, thank you so much for your site and information! I was curious about alcohol consumption. I just needed your information clarified. Would i need to ask him to not drink for over 3 months for us to be able to raise our chances of conception? Or was there a certain amount to stay under for 3 months to see it raise? Thank you!!

    • donielle

      @Brandi Goff, When it comes to alcohol, heavy drinking should always be avoided. Personally I choose to not have more than a drink or so a week, but with my husband I don’t mind if he has a few. (though he rarely drinks now that he’s gluten free – beer has gluten in it!)

      If you deal with male factor infertility, I’d say cut it out completely.
      If you don’t, I’d say a couple/few drinks per week (split up, not all at once) would probably be fine.

  14. muskaan

    hi !
    i am suffering from PCOS from last 3 yrs , as i am going through a homeopathic medecines to cure this problem but yet not found any result.from past 3 yrs i had only once manstrual cycle .pls suggest me some dait food and medicene to come out of this as i am only 23 yrs old .waiting for your reply

    • donielle

      @muskaan, You can find some basic meal plans here: http://www.naturallyknockedup.com/tag/menu-plans/ and I also offer a free fertility foods checklist to subscribers. So if you subscribe via RSS or email, there will be a link at the bottom taking you to the download.

  15. Erin

    *Conscious effort. “Conscience” is a noun. Great information, thanks!

    • donielle

      @Erin, Thanks for pointing that out! I’m such a dork. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Erin

        @donielle, Haha, no you’re not! You’re a very smart woman, great writer, and just missed 1 word ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Heather

    YAY!! I can honestly say I am already avoiding all these things! ๐Ÿ™‚ I am loving your blog & know I will become a frequent visitor!

  17. Shivani Pandey

    Hi Dear,
    I am 24yr recently married (3 months ago) I am suffering from Polycystic ovary, I was suppose to have my period on 1 Feb or so but its 21 Feb today have not yet received. Went to the doctor she said its the polycystic ovary case she had given me 3 kind of tablets out of which, 2 tablets I have to have for 1 month regularly and the third one was only for four days, and after those 4 days within 1 week I would receive my periods, its the second day today so I am going to wait for 5 more days for my period keeping my fingers crossed then again I ll consult the doctor.

    So I just need to know if you have any suggestions for me? If yes, please suggest me I am very much worried. Does it lead to total infertility . Please help me with anything and everything.
    I ll be really thankful…..!!!

  18. Jessica perkins

    Thanks for this info. I have unexplained secondary infertility and have tried a lot of natural interventions. I was starting to get down and consider Clovis and IVF but I do not have a peace about it. Glad I found this site. I definitely need the meal planner as I try hard but seem to fail when life gets busy!

    Thanks, Jessica

    • Jessica perkins

      @Jessica perkins,
      Clomid that is. Darn autocorrect:)

  19. Colleen

    Hi there, so glad I found this site as Ive been trying to conceive for 4 years now, 3 miscarriages 1 at 14weeks and no luck! So I feel something radical needs to be done! I recently got tests back and im intolerant to wheat, cows milk, egg white and some other things! Im seeing a napro doctor at the min and they have told me to eliminate these foods but your on your own after that! Any suggestions would be grateful! Thanks for your time

    • Donielle

      @Colleen, Hi Colleen, I’m so sorry for your struggles and losses.
      When dealing with food intolerance, it may be important to work on healing the gut. If you google terms like “leaky gut”, “GAPS” (gut and pshycology syndrome), or “SCD” you can find some specific diets that help promote gut healing and health. The basics are to choose foods that are digested easily, like meat and cooked veggies, eliminate grains, and eat plenty of probiotic foods.
      I hope that you begin to experience healing with the elimination of the foods you’re sensitive to!

      • Colleen

        @Donielle, thanks will do

  20. Alexa

    I’m so glad to have found this blog Donielle! I’ve been married to my soulmate for 3 years and we’ve been trying to conceive for the past year with no luck. We’ve done a lot of testing- blood work, HSG to check my tubes, transvaginal tests, post coital tests, semen analysis and all are normal without any signs of a low count, cysts or endo. I have regular periods and am ovulating regularly (opk tests), I also have a healthy diet and am on prenatal tablets and fish oil. We’ve done such a lot of research on this unknown infertility issue that it’s driving us nuts! We just did one cycle of an IUI which was unsuccessful.
    I have also just started yoga and plan to try ACV before we go in for the 2nd one. After that we plan to start medicated cycles of IUI, but I am completely against pumping my body with hormones when it seems to be healthy otherwise! Do you have any suggestions as to what I could try to help us conceive?

    • Donielle

      @Alexa, I’m so sorry for your struggles! There are a few lab tests that come to mind: Vitamin D, vitamin B12, and a full thyroid panel, possibly a day 21 adrenal saliva test as well.
      Do you chart your basal body temps each month? how long is your luteal phase and what are your average pre and post ovulation temps?
      Are you on a low-fat USDA pyramid type diet? What’s a normal daily menu for you? Do you exercise?
      There are so many facets to fertility! But answering some of these questions can help you figure out what may be going on.

      • Alexa


        Hi Donielle, thanks for replying! I did have my thyroids checked in my blood tests and the other tests came out normal as well. I did chart my basal body temperature for many months but got frustrated after a point and now rely on the OPK tests which have been accurate so far. My average pre ovulation temp would be 96.9F- 97.2F and post ovulation 97.4F-97.8F. Luteal phase (the period from ovulation to the cycle?) is around 13-14 days. I do have a long cycle- 32-33 days which my fertility dr says is fine as long as they are normal regular periods (not heavy and not extended).

        I am primarily a vegetarian but eat chicken 4 days a week, I am not into any diets. I supplement my food intake with prenatal vitamins and Omega 3 capsules (for over a year). I wasn’t exercising regularly for a long time in between but have recently restarted yoga- for fertility as well as exercise. I am exactly in my weight category- 138lbs (5’6 and a size 6). I do believe that my husband and I were pretty stressed for a period of time over this issue as well as general work stuff, but we’re happy and supportive of each other and our relationship so I hope that that is not causing us difficulties.

        In addition, my dr tells me (after my HSG and transvaginal scans) that my ovaries and uterus are healthy and I have a good reserve and he does not recommend a laparoscopy as there is no evidence whatsoever of endo. He also says that I am pretty fertile and my husband is healthy and producing healthy sperm as well. It’s so frustrating to be in the ‘unexplained infertility’ category as I don’t know what to fix!

        • Donielle

          @Alexa, How completely frustrating! For your thyroid tests, did they do a full panel or just TSH? (most just do TSH) Did I mention Vitamin D level before? That’s really important to check too as well as B12.

  21. Ina

    But you wrote kombucha can be drunk in your preconceiving diet plan…..but kombucha contains some alcohol too.

    • Donielle Baker

      From everything I’ve heard about kombucha, it could have “up to” 0.5% alcohol, which is a very small amount. So as with anything, each woman should do what she is comfortable with, but for me, in a preconception diet plan, I’m fine with kombucha.

      Kombucha also shouldn’t be consumed in large amounts all day long, it’s something where you have a few ounces at a time, maybe a couple times per day, if you’re going to be drinking it regularly.

  22. Nikki

    Thanks so much for this wonderful information! I have a question about “processed foods”. What would your definition be? I love me some chocolate. I typically choose an organic dark chocolate and eat maybe 1 bar every week or every other week. Should the organic soy lechtin be enough to stop this delicious habit?

    • Donielle Baker

      I see processed foods as things that come in a box, bag, or can and have more than a few ingredients. The soy lechitin might only be a problem if you have a soy sensitivity. ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Lezlie

    What do you include in sugar? Do you include things like agave, honey, maple syrup or stevia? Or do you just mean white and brown table sugar? Thank you!

  24. Anna


    Thanks for this great info! I just want to add that some people may need to cut out all dairy or all gluten due to the inflammatory response that comes from eating a food you have an allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity to. I was only able to conquer my infertility after I ditched dairy. It turns out that study only looked at women diagnosed with anovulatory disorders, and not women with other diagnoses. I’m actually writing a blog post on dairy and fertility which is why I’m taking a critical look at that study.

    My issue was reoccurring early miscarriage and very high FSH (and endometriosis) but I kicked it naturally with diet, mind body work, and clearing out toxins from our lives (like phthalates). I’m looking forward to making my way throug your website!

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