Kale, green smoothies, turmeric, coconut oil… We hear constantly about the healing properties of so-called “super” foods. It’s enough to make you wonder: “Which foods can improve my egg quality?”
The answer, unfortunately, is none. There’s no perfect “egg freezing diet.” And contrary to claims made by companies hoping to sell teas, supplements, and health foods to women worried about their fertility—there are no teas, supplements, or health foods that have been shown to improve female egg quality.
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Remember: egg quality refers to whether an egg is genetically normal or abnormal. The primary reason that egg quality declines is age. As you age, your body—and therefore your eggs—are exposed to fevers, infections, stress, hangovers, toxins, and all manner of molecular unpleasantness (like free radicals) that cause them harm. That’s inevitable, and once an egg becomes abnormal, it can’t be “healed.” We wish we could simply recommend a few foods to improve female egg quality (wouldn’t that be easier?), but that’s just not the way it works.
The “Fertility Diet”
While there’s no evidence that you should be eating certain foods to improve female egg quality, certain diets can improve fertility in women who have ovulatory disorders.
The “Fertility Diet” was developed as a result of a study that followed more than 17,500 married women for eight years. The study found that women who followed a certain diet—one that’s higher in monounsaturated fats than trans fats, higher in vegetable protein than animal protein, and includes low-glycemic carbs, high-fat dairy, multi-vitamins and iron in the form of plants and supplements—had a decreased risk of infertility related to ovulatory disorders.
The study concluded that this type of diet might increase fertility, and that diet and lifestyle modification may reduce the chance of infertility due to ovulation disorders. But generally, for most healthy women, there’s no evidence that a specific “fertility diet” can improve or increase their chance at pregnancy. As one study states, “there is no ‘one size fits all’ dietary intervention to boost fertility.”
A 2013 review of scientific literature looked at the effectiveness of the “Fertility Diet” in improving mitochondrial function in eggs. (Mitochondria provide energy to eggs, powering cell division and growth.) Researchers concluded that there’s good reason to further investigate nutritional treatment for infertility patients. So, while it’s not as simple as saying “these 10 foods can improve female egg quality”—we’re likely to see more compelling studies in the coming decades.
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So how can I keep my eggs healthy?
While there’s no scientific evidence that food—or anything—can improve female egg quality, there are some steps you can take to proactively keep your eggs healthy.
First and foremost: quit smoking! Smoking causes chromosomal damage to women’s eggs, decreasing their egg quality and increasing the risk of chromosomal abnormalities in their embryos.The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) estimates that up to 13% of female infertility is caused by cigarette smoking. And among women who need in vitro fertilization to conceive, women who smoke require nearly twice the number of IVF attempts as non-smokers.
Learn more about other ways to extend your fertility.
The best way…
The optimal way to preserve egg quality is (of course) to freeze your eggs! A 30-year-old woman’s frozen eggs remain as healthy as they were at 30, indefinitely. So while a trip to the health food store probably won’t help you get pregnant later, a trip to the reproductive endocrinologist’s office just might.