Ultra-processed foods and fertility

In recent years, the rise of ultra-processed foods (UPF) has become a major concern for health professionals and consumers alike. These highly processed, convenience-orientated food products often dominate our modern diets, leading to various health issues. One aspect that has gained attention is the potential impact of ultra-processed foods on fertility.

In this post, we’ll explore the connection between UPF and fertility and why making informed food choices is important for reproductive health.

UPF contain ingredients that you don’t recognise as items you might have in your kitchen cupboard.

ultra processed food and fertility

What are ultra-processed foods?

Ultra-processed foods typically contain high quantities of industrial ingredients, additives, and preservatives. Common examples include sugary snacks, fizzy drinks, takeaways, and ready-to-eat meals.

UPF typically undergo multiple stages of processing where nutrients are lost and artificial flavours, colours, sweeteners, and other chemical compounds added.

Ultra-processed foods and fertility

Research suggests that a diet high in ultra-processed foods may negatively impact fertility in both men and women. Several factors may contribute to this connection:

  1. Inflammation and Oxidative Stress: UPF often contains high levels of unhealthy fats, sugars, and additives, contributing to inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. This may affect reproductive health and disrupt hormonal balance, potentially hindering fertility.
  2. Hormonal Imbalance: Ultra-processed foods may interfere with the endocrine system, leading to hormonal imbalances. For example, elevated insulin levels due to the consumption of processed sugars may disrupt reproductive hormones, affecting ovulation in women and sperm production in men.
  3. Nutrient Deficiencies: UPF tends to be low in essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Inadequate nutrient intake may compromise reproductive health by impacting the quality of eggs and sperm.
  4. Weight and Metabolic Issues: A diet rich in ultra-processed foods is often associated with weight gain and metabolic disorders. Obesity and related conditions can contribute to fertility issues, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women and reduced sperm quality in men.

Enjoy a balance of foods

The festive season especially can involve a host of ultra-processed treats, meals, and drinks, so it’s important to strike a balance between enjoying festive delights and making nutritious choices.

Steering clear of excessive amounts of sugary snacks and drinks and heavily processed treats in favour of wholefood based, nourishing and tasty meals and snacks will help to maintain your overall health and reproductive well-being long after the festivities are over.

Tips for eating well

Consider the following to support reproductive and fertility health over the festive season and into the New Year:

  1. Choose whole, nutrient-dense foods: Prioritise a diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These foods provide essential nutrients essential for reproductive health.
  2. Limit processed and ultra-processed foods: Reduce the intake of foods high in refined sugars, artificial additives, and unhealthy fats, by reading labels more closely on the foods that you buy. Choose homemade meals and snacks to have better control over ingredients.
  3. Stay hydrated: Adequate hydration is crucial for overall health, including reproductive function. Water helps maintain proper bodily functions and supports a healthy environment for conception.
  4. Breakfast go tos such as toast, crumpets, bagels, and cereals can mean that we often start our day with UPF. Try the granola recipes below over the holiday season or prep ready for your return to work. Add some Greek yogurt and fruit to start your day UPF free.
Fruit on a shelf

While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between ultra-processed foods and fertility, a diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods is supportive of reproductive health.

To find out how you can make manageable changes, get in touch with our nutritional therapist Angela.

Granola recipe

Choose an item from each category and mix all the ingredients thoroughly Spread out the mixture on a baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 12 minutes before cooling. Multiply the ingredient to make a larger batch of several servings in one go.

(30g – serves 1)

Quinoa flakes
Buckwheat flakes

(1 tbsp)

Sunflower seeds
Sesame seeds
Pumpkin seeds

(one from each list)

150ml unsweetened milk of choice
150g plain Greek yoghurt

1 handful of berries
Half a chopped apple or pear
1 chopped plum or apricot



2 tsp xylitol
1 tsp coconut palm sugar
2 tsp maple syrup


Coconut and peanut butter (1 tbsp melted coconut oil, 1 tbsp peanut butter, 1 tbsp coconut flakes)
Cinnamon and chocolate (2 tbsp melted coconut oil, 1 tsp cacao powder, 1 tsp cinnamon)
Sesame and almond (1 tbsp melted coconut oil, 1 tsp tahini, 1 tsp almond butter)

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