Eating a healthy diet with a good intake of plant-based proteins, wholegrain carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals is fundamental when you are trying to conceive.
We focused on general dietary advice for conception in our previous blog. Today we would like to dive deep into the relationship between diet and egg quality.
So, what does egg quality mean?
Women are born with all of the egg cells (ova) present from birth. The quality of the egg is one of the key factors in determining fertility. Good egg quality means that your egg is more likely to mature, ovulate, get fertilised, and eventually make a baby. We know that our eggs’ quantity and quality are determined by our genes in the first place. Unfortunately, as we age, there is more opportunity for DNA damage to occur in our egg cells, reducing their ability to function well.
The good news is that you can do things to maintain your egg quality by acquiring a healthy lifestyle, including quitting smoking, having a good diet, and being active.
Our 6 top nutrients to boost egg quality:
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin with various important functions in our body. Public Health England recommends that we take a daily supplement of vitamin D. Aim to take 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day in the Autumn and Winter seasons (Early September to late April).
Vitamin D also plays an essential role in egg quality because evidence shows that women with higher vitamin D levels are more likely to have successful IVF outcomes compared to women with low vitamin D levels.
Dietary sources of vitamin D:
- Oily fish such as salmon, trout, sardines, herring and mackerel
- Red meat
- Liver and offal
- Egg yolks
- Fortified foods – such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals
Most of our vitamin D is produced in our skin when exposed to the sunshine. Therefore, it is beneficial to spend time outside. However, the intense sun also may burn our skin, and consequently, we need to use sunscreen to prevent burns.
Omega-3 fatty acids
A diet rich in omega -3 fatty acids is associated with improved fertility. Some studies suggest that these fatty acids may help to preserve fertility and enhance the quality of eggs. There is good evidence that suggests that even a short-period of dietary intake of omega-3 can boost egg quality.
Dietary sources of omega-3- 3 fatty acids:
- Oily fish (sardines, mackerel, anchovies, fresh tuna, trout, and salmon
- Nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, flax and chia, pumpkin seeds
- Vegetable oils, e.g. rapeseed and linseed
- Soya and soya products, e.g. beans, milk and tofu;
If you don’t eat the above foods or their intake is low in your diet, speak to your fertility dietitian about the best supplement to take.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10 )
Coenzyme Q10 is a fat-soluble compound present in cellular membranes in most human tissues. It plays an essential role in mitochondrial energy production and has antioxidant properties. Unfortunately, as women age, the mitochondrial function reduces in egg cells, leading to deterioration in egg quality. The levels of CoQ10 also decrease.
Can changing our diet help in any way?
According to several studies, CoQ10 supplementation can improve the quality of eggs as we grow older. Coenzyme Q10 supplements can also improve the quantity and quality of eggs and increase positive pregnancy outcomes for women undergoing IVF.
Dietary sources of CoQ10:
- Meat and offal
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Nuts and seeds
- Some fruit ( strawberries and oranges)
This mineral is vital for the development, maturation and release of egg cells. It is essential for healthy cell division and growth. Being deficient in Zinc can have a serious impact on fertility, so it is necessary to eat foods that contain a good amount of Zinc daily.
- Chicken ( dark meat)
- Fish and seafood
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
These are a group of nutrients that play an important role in fighting oxidative damage and neutralise free radicals that can cause DNA damage to both eggs and sperms. Studies showed that women with higher antioxidant levels during IVF had better treatment outcomes. The darker coloured fruit and vegetables, like beetroot, pomegranate, blueberries etc., are excellent sources of antioxidants. Aim to eat a wide range of colourful fruits and vegetables each day ( 5+ portions a day). This is the most practical and sustainable way to get enough antioxidants from your diet.
Improving your diet is essential when trying to enhance your egg quality. However, do not be hard on yourself and remember to take small steps at a time on your journey. You may need a little help from the pros in the field of fertility nutrition. Get in touch to find out more about how I can help by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by: Nourhan Barakat, Registered Associate Nutritionist, reviewed by Eugenia Grand, Specialist Fertility Dietitian Nutritionist.