The Power of Healthy Fats for Reproductive Health

What is a healthy fat?

Many of us grew up in an era believing low fat was the healthiest way to eat, and believing that fats are bad, and fats make you fat. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many kinds of fats, and some are healthy and fertility promoting while some are not.  Fats are one of the three macronutrients necessary for the body's proper functioning, alongside carbohydrates and proteins. Each and every cell in the body has a cell wall made from a lipid bilayer.  This cell wall is crucial for proper cell functioning, containing receptors for communication of all kinds (via hormones and protein messengers).  If the cell walls are made from unhealthy fats, the cell is compromised in its ability to “hear” information and respond appropriately.  Fats are also the building blocks for reproductive hormones - you must have enough fats in your diet to make healthy hormones.  A healthy fat refers to a type of dietary fat that provides essential nutrients and is beneficial for overall health when consumed in appropriate amounts. Healthy fats are known to have positive effects on various bodily functions and can contribute to reducing the risk of certain diseases.

When we discuss inflammation, one of the most important considerations is the balance between omega 3 and omega 6 oils in the diet.  Omega 3 rich oils lead in turn to the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines (made in the cell wall!) while omega 6 oils can lead to a more inflammation-prone environment.  It’s also important to note that inflammation is a healthy process when it's needed for healing.  Inflammation doesn’t become a health problem until it is chronic, related to an imbalance of oils in the diet, or to an ongoing immune response that is never fully healed.

There are three main types of dietary fats:

  1. Monounsaturated fats: These fats are found in foods and oils from avocados, olives, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin, and sesame seeds. This group of fats contains both omega 6 and omega 9 fats.  Monounsaturated fats have been associated with heart health and can help reduce “bad” cholesterol levels (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) while maintaining or increasing “good” cholesterol levels (high-density lipoprotein or HDL).   It’s important to note that LDL has a role to play in inflammation - it’s showing us that the body is sending out repair molecules (LDL) as a response to inflammation.  While each molecule has been labeled good and bad, it’s a much more complex story, for another day!
  2. Polyunsaturated fats: These fats are commonly found in fatty fish (e.g., salmon, trout, mackerel), flaxseeds, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds.Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential for brain function, heart health, and reducing inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids: A specific type of polyunsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids are particularly beneficial for heart health, brain function, and reducing inflammation. They are found in abundance in fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.  Both mono- and polyunsaturated fats are very delicate (with the exception of olive oil) and must be cold pressed to remain intact, and either not heated at all or only heated to low temperatures.
  3. Saturated fats: These fats are solid at room temperature and come from animal foods like meats and butter or ghee, coconut, shea and palm oils.  Saturated fats are the most stable fats to cook with, but can be harder for the body to digest, and can lead to inflammation if not balanced in the diet.  Saturated fats from animal origin are different depending on how the animal was raised.  Beef that is 100% grass-fed contains healthy omega-3 fats within the saturated fats, while grain-fed beef contains more omega-6 fats.  


It's important to note that while healthy fats are beneficial, they are calorie-dense, so portion control is essential, especially if you are aiming to maintain a healthy weight. It is also essential to balance the consumption of healthy fats with other macronutrients and a variety of nutrient-rich foods to support overall nutrition. On the other hand, unhealthy fats include trans fats, excessive consumption of saturated fats, and “vegetable” oils like soybean, cottonseed, canola, and sometimes sunflower (depending on how it was pressed and cooked).  Though vegetable oils have been touted as healthier than other fats, the reality is that these fats are very sensitive to heat, and must be extracted from the carrier seeds by chemically intensive methods, often using toxic chemicals like hexane in the extraction process.  The oils come out from this process smelling bad, because they have been damaged in extraction, and are then bleached and deodorized.  There is nothing healthy about them.  When choosing oils and fats for cooking and eating, think about the source and ask yourself if it seems oily!  If not, it’s probably not a good choice for fats.  If your grandparents wouldn’t recognize it, avoid it!  Trans fats, often found in partially hydrogenated oils used in processed foods, are also unhealthy.  They do not create fluid and flexible cell walls, and they are known to contribute to heart disease. 


What is the significance of these healthy fats in optimizing fertility health?

Healthy fats play a crucial role in optimizing fertility health for both men and women. They are essential for hormonal balance, reproductive function, and overall reproductive health. Here's why these fats are significant in improving fertility:

  1. Hormone production: Fats are the building blocks for the production of hormones, including sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone in women and testosterone in men. Balanced hormone levels are critical for reproductive health, ovulation, and sperm production.  Not enough healthy fat in the diet will lead to low hormone production.
  2. Inflammation reduction: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and plant sources like flaxseeds and walnuts, have anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation in the body can interfere with fertility by disrupting hormone balance and impairing reproductive organ function.
  3. Insulin sensitivity: Healthy fats can help improve insulin sensitivity, particularly monounsaturated fats found in foods like avocados and nuts. Insulin resistance can lead to metabolic imbalances and may affect fertility in both men and women.
  4. Egg and sperm quality: Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are critical for the development of healthy eggs and sperm. They are essential for maintaining the integrity of the cell membrane and the genetic material within the reproductive cells.
  5. Regular menstrual cycle: For women, consuming healthy fats can support a regular menstrual cycle and improve ovulation, which is essential for conception.
  6. Blood flow: Healthy fats can support cardiovascular health, promoting proper blood flow to the reproductive organs. Good blood circulation is vital for the nourishment and function of these organs.
  7. Antioxidant absorption: Some fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, require fats for proper absorption. These nutrients contribute to overall reproductive health and fertility.


Exploring the Link Between Healthy Fats and Fertility Health: Insights from Research Studies

While there is ongoing research in this area, here are a few studies that have explored the link between healthy fats and fertility:

  •  Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. Dietary fatty acid intakes and the risk of ovulatory infertility. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(1):231–237.

This study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, investigated the relationship between dietary fat intake and ovulatory infertility in women. The researchers found that a higher intake of trans fats and a higher ratio of trans fats to monounsaturated fats were associated with an increased risk of ovulatory infertility, while a higher intake of monounsaturated fats was associated with a lower risk. 


  • Jensen TK, Heitmann BL, Blomberg Jensen M, et al. High dietary intake of saturated fat is associated with reduced semen quality among 701 young Danish men from the general population. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(2):411–418.

This study examined the association between dietary fat intake and semen quality in young men. The researchers observed that a higher intake of saturated fats was linked to reduced sperm concentration and motility.


  • Safarinejad MR. The associations between semen quality parameters and consumption of different levels of specific fatty acids. J Androl. 2010;31(1):33–43.

This study investigated the relationship between specific fatty acid consumption and semen quality in men. The results showed that a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids was associated with better sperm morphology and motility.


A Guide to the Best Options for Enhancing Fertility Health with Essential Healthy Fats

Including certain types of healthy fats in your diet may help optimize fertility health. Here are some of the key healthy fats that have been associated with improved reproductive function:

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3s, particularly DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), are crucial for reproductive health. They are found in fatty fish like salmon, trout, and mackerel, as well as in plant-based sources such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Omega-3s support hormone production, reduce inflammation, and contribute to the healthy development of eggs and sperm.
  2. Monounsaturated fats: Monounsaturated fats have been linked to better fertility outcomes. Foods rich in monounsaturated fats include avocados, olives, and nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin, and sesame seeds. These fats can positively influence insulin sensitivity and hormone levels, both of which are important for reproductive health.
  3. Polyunsaturated fats: We need a balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats in our diet.  It is estimated that humans used to eat a ratio of around1-6:1 omega 6:omega 3, and that humans today commonly consume ratios of up to 20:1. This imbalance leads to a tendency for inflammation, if there is a deficiency of omega 3 fats. 
  4. Vitamin E, A, D, and K: Although not fats these vitamins are fat-soluble and must be absorbed in the presence of fat.  Each one is crucial for fertility in its own way. Vitamin E supports healthy uterine lining and egg and sperm production, and vitamin A is directly involved in ovulation, egg quality, and sperm production and quality as well as hormone production.  
  5. Choose saturated fat sources that are responsibly harvested or raised, grass-fed if animal origin, and keep them in balance in the diet.  An overconsumption of saturated fats burdens the body and can lead to inflammation (especially if the fats are from unhealthy animals!)
  6. Avocado: Avocado is an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin E, and other essential nutrients. It's a versatile fruit that can be added to salads, smoothies, or used as a spread on toast.
  7. Fatty Fish: Fatty fish like salmon, trout, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for both male and female fertility.
  8. Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds provide a combination of healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can support fertility health.
  9. Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil is a source of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, making it a healthy choice for cooking and salad dressings.


Maintaining a balanced diet that includes healthy fats in moderation while minimizing unhealthy fats is crucial for overall health, including fertility health.  Healthy fats can positively impact fertility by supporting hormone production, reducing inflammation, and improving egg and sperm quality. However, a well-rounded diet that includes nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy alternatives is equally important for optimizing fertility health. If facing fertility challenges, seeking advice from a healthcare professional or fertility specialist is essential. We can provide personalized recommendations based on individual health circumstances, increasing the likelihood of successful conception. While studies provide insight into the potential benefits of healthy fats for fertility health, more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms and establish specific dietary guidelines. Ultimately, remember that individual dietary needs vary, and consulting with a healthcare professional is the best way to receive personalized advice to support overall health and fertility goals. Emphasizing a diverse and nutrient-rich diet remains fundamental for promoting fertility and overall well-being.