Your diet is more than just a waistline. It can affect the health of your vagina and can contribute to infections.

sweet potato fries on greased baking sheet

Unbalanced pH. Sounds like chemistry class, right? Add the word vaginal, and then it’s enough to make us squirm. Literally — because when you feel different down there, like with a new odor or more-than-usual discharge, it could be a sign that your vaginal pH is off.

A balanced vaginal pH needs to stay between 3.8 and 4.2. The moment it strays out of balance for too long, bacteria has a chance to thrive and cause discomfort — or even an infection.

What causes a discrepancy? Douches with fragrances can cause a problem with the acidity in your vagina. Sweat and moist skin can cause pH changes below the belt if you wear tight-fitting clothing.

Your vagina is pretty good at protecting and cleaning itself, though. Proper vaginal care, such as good hygiene, safe sex, and regular gynecological visits, all play a role in keeping your pH in check. Water intake and diet modifications can also help, including adding Lactobacilli supplements — a type of probiotic — to your routine.

“The topic of food is related to the diet. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to what you should or shouldn’t eat for vaginal health, but here are eight eats that work in favor of your lady bits.”

We’ve all heard or heeded the popular advice: Drink cranberry juice to treat UTIs. But is there any evidence of that?

Cranberry juice (100% cranberry juice — not the sweetened stuff) or concentrated cranberry extract capsules are full of antioxidants and acidic compounds, which are powerful infection fighters that can help bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall.

Studies show that 100 percent cranberry products can be especially beneficial in preventing UTIs in women with recurrent or recent UTI issues. Just make sure you stay away from the sugar-loaded cranberry juice varieties, which can actually make things worse down there.

Cranberry juice for vaginal health

  • Powerful acidic compounds are used to fightbacteria.
  • contain plant compounds, vitamin E, and vitamin C to boost your immunity

    Pro-tip: Opt for natural and sugar-free juice varieties. Not a fan of their tart taste? Use the juice in fresh fruit smoothies or try taking pure cranberry pills.

These potatoes have some sweet benefits, even for your vaginal health. Rich in beta carotene and vitamin A, sweet potatoes help keep your mucous membranes healthy. This means they can help prevent bacterial vaginosis (BV), a common vaginal infection. Vitamin A deficiency, along with deficiencies in vitamins C, D, E, calcium, folate, and beta-carotene, is linked to an increased risk of BV. So, eat up!

Sweet potatoes are also high in fiber, which may help stabilize insulin levels in those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Insulin resistance is common with PCOS — so by regulating blood sugar over the course of several months, the fiber in sweet potatoes may promote fertility and help to reduce symptoms.

Sweet potatoes for vaginal health

  • It contains high amounts of vitamins A and beta-carotene.
  • contain fiber, which can regulate insulin levels in those with PCOS

    Pro tip: Start your morning with one of these delicious and healthy sweet potato toast recipes for energy and an ample dose of vitamin A.

Probiotic-rich food, including yogurt that contains certain Lactobacillus strains, is good for more than just your gut. It can also help improve your recovery from BV and reduce overall symptoms.

This bacterium helps keep your vaginal pH levels in check, helping to prevent the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Research shows that probiotics may help reduce symptoms of BV, such as discharge and odor. They may also help prevent recurrent BV infections.

Enjoy that cup of yogurt or kefir. It is important to choose brands that have live, active cultures. These are the beneficial bugs you want in your vagina.

Probiotics for vaginal health

  • can balance the pH levels
  • can help ward off infections and improve recovery

    Pro-tip: Get the 411 on the health benefits of probiotics and their safety.

Omega-3 fatty acids help with circulation and blood flow, which is good news for your sex drive. These essential fatty acids were shown to “improve sexual function in pregnant women by preventing increased pregnancy anxiety” — although more research is needed.

Is menstrual cramping getting you down? Studies also show that fish oil can ease severe dysmenorrhea without the adverse effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Plant fatty acids for vaginal health

  • It is recommended to help treat menstrual cramping with less risk of adverse reactions.
  • promote circulation and may relieve vaginal dryness

    Pro-tip: Find these essential fatty acids in oily fish (such as salmon), flaxseed, eggs, walnuts, and more.

Many fruits are also high in antioxidants, which are great for improving blood flow, keeping your cells healthy, and reducing oxidative stress — which plays a role in fertility.

Fruits with high levels ofAntioxidant include:

  • The fruit of the tree.
  • There are some things that are blue.
  • There are some fruit items that are called raspberries.
  • There are strawberries.
  • There are apples.
  • Goji berries are a berry.

Bonus: Women who consume more citrus fruit are less likely to develop uterine fibroids.

Fruits for vaginal health

  • Improve blood flow and keep cells healthy.
  • Improve male and female fertility.
  • reduce chances of developing uterine fibroid

    Pro-tip: Fruit has many other health benefits and can be used to make your favorite smoothies.

Soy can be a bit of a controversial topic. But the phytoestrogens — compounds that mimic estrogen in the body — found in soy are good news for vaginal health, especially in people with reduced estrogen levels. There are many reasons for decreased estrogen levels in the body, from medications to menopause. But one of the major symptoms of low estrogen is vaginal dryness.

So, here’s how soy helps: Minimally-processed soy products are hydrophilic (which allows your muscles to retain more water) and contain isoflavones (a plant-derived phytoestrogen) that are beneficial for the skin in postmenopausal women.

Research shows that soy dietary supplements can help improve vaginal dryness in postmenopausal women when compared to a placebo. It’s important to note that most studies focus on supplements with high levels of isoflavones, which may not be present in all foods.

Soy for vaginal health

  • It is beneficial to women with decreased estrogen levels.
  • can help with vaginal dryness and benefits skin and blood vessel health in postmenopausal women

    Pro-tip: Opt for minimally-processed soy products such as edamame, tofu, tempeh, and miso.

Your favorite toast topper is also great for your sex life — who knew? Avocados are ample in healthy fats, vitamin B6, and potassium — all of which have positive effects on your libido.

This libido-boosting fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!) may enhance lubrication and estrogen levels, strengthen vaginal walls, and may even increase IVF success because of its monounsaturated fatty acid content — though more research on the link between avocados and maternal health is needed. Funnily enough, the avocado tree was loosely named the “testicle tree” by the Aztecs.

Avocados for vaginal health

  • Contain vitamins B6, and K.
  • may enhance lubrication and strengthen vaginal walls

    Pro-tip: Think beyond guacamole! There are 23 ways to eat an avocado or you can start cooking with avocado oil.

What are leafy greens not good for?! Add vaginal health to their long list of health benefits. Dark leafy greens are blood-purifying and enhance circulation due to their many nutrients, including dietary nitrates.

The vagina is a place where nitrates are used to improve blood flow. It is never a bad thing to have increased blood flow to improve vaginal dryness and sexual arousal.

These greens are rich in vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to vaginal muscles.

Leafy greens for vaginal health

  • They are naturally blood-purifying.
  • contain nitrates that may help prevent vaginal dryness

    Pro-tip: Think green and include more kale, collard greens, spinach, and chard in your diet.

As to what not to eat? The general rule of thumb is to skip foods with added sugars and trans fats, as well as any processed foods. Some foods can also make your urine more acidic, leading to a foul smell. In others, genetics may play a role in how food affects your body odor.

Some foods to avoid.

“If you notice a bad smell after eating any of these foods, it’s best to avoid them. A balanced diet and drinking plenty of fluids will help keep you smelling fresh.”

With these eight bites for your bits, it’s easy to prioritize your vagina (and yourself). Better yet, try creating recipes that incorporate several of these foods! This healthy vegetarian lentil stew, for example, contains half of them: sweet potatoes, leafy greens, probiotic-rich Greek yogurt, and avocado.

“Factors that affect vaginal odor and pH include diet, hygiene, and sexual activity. A strong vaginal odor is usually not considered to be a health hazard. If you have a vaginal discharge that isn’t normal, it could be a sign of an infection. Talk to a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.”

Tiffany La Forge is a professional chef, recipe developer, and food writer who runs the blog Parsnips and Pastries. Her blog focuses on real food for a balanced life, seasonal recipes, and approachable health advice. When she’s not in the kitchen, Tiffany enjoys yoga, hiking, traveling, organic gardening, and hanging out with her corgi, Cocoa. Visit her at her blog or on Instagram.