We are born with all the eggs we’ll ever have. So anything between birth and the time you’re trying to conceive can affect egg quality. That’s one of the biggest reasons why fertility declines with age. While there’s nothing we can do about the damage that’s already been done (anyone else guilty of a bit too much partying in their 20s?!) There are certain lifestyle changes you can make today to improve egg quality. Diet and egg quality are closely related so tweaking your diet is one of the most effective ways to improve your egg health.
Even short-term changes can affect how healthy our eggs are when we ovulate each month. Because an egg has a lifespan of 85 days (from an immature follicle to an egg released by the ovary into the fallopian tube), what you do in those days can have a significant impact on your egg quality. Here are our 9 tips for optimising diet and egg quality:
Marine omega-3s have a plethora of research on improving fertility, including diet and egg quality. One study on mice showed that eating omega-3 fatty acids (2% calories from DHA) can prolong reproductive function into advanced maternal age. Even short-term intake of omega-3s was shown to improve egg quality. The balance of not having excessive omega-6 also mattered. So have a serving of low-mercury seafood at least 2-3 times a week or consider a DHA and EPA supplements. Limiting oils high in omega-6 (e.g. soybean or sunflower oil, or processed foods made from these) may also help.
Foods high in antioxidants help to protect your eggs from DNA damage. Think colourful, vibrant, flavourful plant foods like berries, pomegranate, green leafy veg, whole grains, and herbs/spices like turmeric and curry leaves. Focus on lower pesticide residue produce. Pesticides can harm egg quality, so make sure you washing your fruit and vegetables well.
Vitamin D can be a factor in improving diet and egg quality. Women who had higher levels of the sunshine hormone had higher chances of producing quality eggs and conceiving during IVF. Vitamin D deficiency is also related to hormonal imbalance and anovulatory infertility. So, do ensure you meet your country’s recommended guidelines for sun exposure (10-30 minutes per day in Singapore, although it varies depending on how dark your skin is). If you’re not able to achieve that, do pack in foods rich in vitamin D like egg yolk, salmon, sardines and dairy or consider supplements.
Coenzyme Q 10 levels fall as we age, so having adequate intake of CoQ10 in our diet can help make up for this and optimise egg quality. While you can get supplements to obtain CoQ10 (ubiquinol is the most absorbable form), organ meats, red meats (or darker meats like chicken thigh), oily fish and olive oil are excellent food sources of it too
Not surprisingly, folate (vitamin B9) has a role in diet and egg quality. Other than its well-known function in preventing neural tube defects, it can also protect eggs from pesticide exposure, and assist in maturation and implantation. Supplementation (as part of a multivitamin) helps provide a healthy environment for the developing egg and reduces risk of ovulatory infertility.
Being deficient in zinc can impair the early stages of egg development, reducing the ability of cells to divide and become fertilised. Include foods rich in zinc such as oysters, clams, red meats, legumes, pine nuts, and pumpkin seeds.
You may have heard of inositol being good for women with PCOS, but did you know that it’s also been shown to improve egg quality overall in those (without PCOS) undergoing IVF? It is found in follicular fluid that helps the egg mature and is involved in embryo development. Research suggests that taking combined myo-inositol and D-chiro inositol supplements are more effective than taking either alone, but you can work it into your diet with whole grains, rockmelon, legumes, and oranges.
Even if you don’t have diabetes or insulin resistance, blood sugar is an important factor in diet and egg quality. Too much insulin (from a high-refined carb diet) increases inflammation in your egg’s microenvironment. Choosing lower GI foods, incorporating healthy proteins, healthy fats, and fibre in your diet, can help with this.
Damaging chemicals like phthalates, BPA/BPS/BPF, parabens, pesticides, advanced glycated end products, and heavy metals like lead or aluminium, may negatively affect your egg quality. To reduce exposure, do try to:
– Wash fruit and vegetables well
– Limit your intake of processed, canned foods and trans fat
– Choose lower-mercury seafood and trim the fats off meat
– Avoid storing or heating food in plastic containers, use glass or china instead
– Limit eating charred foods and go for more moist cooking methods like boiling, microwaving or stewing
The main goal is to provide the egg with a nourishing and protective environment. This maximises all the nutrients it needs to thrive and limiting toxins that could cause inflammation or DNA damage.
How do you put all this together? Start by downloading one of our Recipe Books to optimise your diet and egg quality.
Amara (Ami) is a fertility dietitian and ovulation expert. She lives in sunny Singapore with her husband and rainbow baby.
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