Can a vegan diet boost your fertility?

Emily Reilly, Senior specialist dietitian at HCA Healthcare UK, discusses the impact of a vegan diet on fertility

Can going vegan boost your fertility?

Vegan diets are getting lots of attention at the moment, especially when it comes to the potential impact on fertility. While there’s plenty of information online about vegan diets, the question remains… can going vegan increase your chances of conceiving?

In this article, we’ll focus on what embarking on a vegan diet means, and whether it’s a good idea if you are trying to enhance your fertility and chances of conceiving.

What is a vegan diet?

It can be confusing when trying to differentiate what vegan, plant-based and vegetarian means when it comes to diet. Generally speaking, these 3 popular dietary options follow these rules:

  • Vegan diet - a diet without meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy and honey.
  • Vegetarian diet - a diet free of meat, fish and poultry but includes eggs and dairy. This is also known as lacto-ovo-vegetarian.
  • Plant-based diet - this diet is based predominantly on the vegetarian style of eating but may still include some animal products such as meat, fish or poultry on a less frequent basis.

How can a vegan diet affect fertility?

As with any diet, there are potential health benefits as well as drawbacks to eating an entirely vegan diet, especially when it comes to fertility.

Pros of a vegan diet for fertility

Eating more fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and wholegrains
One thing we know to have a huge positive impact on our overall health is eating more plant foods such as:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Wholegrains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes and beans

Fresh fruit and vegetables and wholegrains provide essential nutrients for fertility including plenty of antioxidants, fibre and B vitamins. Folate, a nutrient essential to egg quality and implantation, can also be found in fortified breads and cereals and dark green leafy vegetables.

Nuts and seeds provide healthy fats and a range of minerals such as zinc and selenium. Legumes and beans provide plant-based protein, zinc, magnesium, B vitamins and iron, which are all key for female fertility. So, there are definitely benefits to increasing the quantity and diversity of plant-based foods in your diet.

Vegetable versus animal protein
Rather than animal protein found in meat and dairy, a vegan diet usually contains lots of plant-based proteins from foods like beans, legumes, tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds, as well as wholegrains and plant-based milks.

Interestingly, research into diet and conception shows a reduction in ovulatory infertility when an increased portion of the protein in your diet comes from plants (Chavarro et al, 2008). It’s thought this may be because plant proteins are packed with heaps of the all-important fibre, vitamins and minerals needed for optimum fertility.

Gut Health
A well planned, plant-heavy diet is usually high in fibre, which supports healthy digestion. Prebiotics are specific types of fibre which feed your gut bacteria or your ‘microbiome’. Healthy gut bacteria also provide lots of health-boosting compounds and help to regulate hormones that are often involved in sex hormone related conditions that can affect fertility, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (He et al, 2021)

Cons of a vegan diet for fertility

Vegan ‘junk food’
While many vegan options are marketed as healthy alternatives to meat and dairy products, they are often in fact very highly processed, with more salt, preservatives and fewer vitamins and fibre. Lots of super-processed foods are also ‘accidentally’ vegan, such as sugary fizzy drinks, chips and sweets.

While balance is important, remember that whatever diet you follow, quality counts! Taking a whole food, minimally processed approach to eating for fertility will help ensure you’re getting lots of essential antioxidants and micronutrients.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
Any diet that involves restricting food groups needs to be carefully planned. Iron is an example of an extremely important mineral for good health and fertility, and you need much higher amounts during pregnancy. Meat and fish are great sources of this so if you’re planning on following a vegetarian, vegan or even plant-based diet, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough iron from other sources such as leafy greens and nuts. Pairing iron-rich plants with foods high in vitamin C will also help with your iron absorption - think peppers, tomatoes and oranges.

Vitamin D, zinc and B12 are more examples of nutrients that are essential for healthy conception and pregnancy, so it’s important to plan how you’ll get these into your too.

What does the research say about a vegan diet vs other options?

At the moment, there’s no clear evidence to suggest that cutting out animal products positively impacts fertility. It’s therefore safe to assume that a vegan diet may not have any significant benefits over and above a well-balanced diet containing both plants and animal products. In fact, there is some dietary research to suggest that certain animal products, such as dairy, actually have a positive effect in female fertility (Bordoni et al, 2017).

What are the key takeaways?

Our psychological relationship with food during the pre-conception stage is incredibly important. It’s not about cutting out lots of different foods but finding healthy swaps and enjoying a balanced diet.

How you decide to nourish and fuel your body is a very personal choice. While one diet may not be better than another, it’s important to remember the following if you decide to follow a vegan diet and are trying to conceive: 

  • Aim to eat more whole foods and try to avoid highly processed meat and dairy alternatives.
  • Some animal products, like dairy, meat and fish, contain high levels of key nutrients that are critical in pre-pregnancy. If you want to cut these foods out, plan how you’ll get your essential nutrients elsewhere. 
  • Pay particular attention to making sure you’re getting plenty of iron, folate and B12 in your diet.

Whatever diet you choose to follow, a fertility dietitian can support you to build a tailored plan, based on scientific research, that’s healthy, balanced and full of all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants required to support healthy pre-conception and pregnancy.

To find out more about our fertility services or to book an appointment with one of our specialists, please email us at

The information in the article is intended for general information only. Consult your healthcare team if you are planning on making any significant changes to your diet or medical plan.


Bordoni A, Danesi F, Dardevet D, Dupont D, Fernandez AS, Gille D, Nunes Dos Santos C, Pinto P, Re R, Rémond D, Shahar DR, Vergères G. Dairy products and inflammation: A review of the clinical evidence. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Aug 13;57(12):2497-2525. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2014.967385. PMID: 26287637.

Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. Protein intake and ovulatory infertility. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Feb;198(2):210.e1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2007.06.057. PMID: 18226626; PMCID: PMC3066040.

He S, Li H, Yu Z, Zhang F, Liang S, Liu H, Chen H, Lü M. The Gut Microbiome and Sex Hormone-Related Diseases. Front Microbiol. 2021 Sep 28;12:711137. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2021.711137. PMID: 34650525; PMCID: PMC8506209.