Food For Fertility

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There is a lot of information about being pregnant, having a baby and being a mom online. But what about before all that? This blog is here to create a place where you can go to get answers to all your questions about preconception, pregnancy and nutrition. Find everything you need here, from beginner’s guides to fertility foods to advanced topics like fertility diets and balancing hormones.

Food For Fertility

Fertility and diet are hot topics—and fertility-related foods are part of that craze. But can eating certain foods really boost your fertility?

While there is no specific food or fertility diet that will magically boost your chances of conception, a nutritious and well-balanced diet can certainly help support overall health, including reproductive health, in both men and women.

It’s important to note that food choices do not play a role in certain serious conditions that cause infertility in women and men. If, for example, the fallopian tubes are blocked, preventing sperm from reaching an egg, dietary changes won’t remove the blockage and open the tubes.

With that in mind, below are 15 healthy whole foods that may be beneficial to those wishing to optimize their diet for fertility.1

Sunflower Seeds

Close-Up Of Sunflower Seeds In Bowl Over White Background
Michelle Arnold / EyeEm / Getty Images

Roasted, unsalted sunflower seed kernels are rich in vitamin E, an essential nutrient shown to boost sperm count and sperm motility in some people. In addition, sunflower seeds are jam-packed with folate and selenium, which are important for both male and female fertility.1 Sunflower seeds are also a good source of omega-6 fatty acids and contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.2

How to Eat It

Sunflower seeds can make a great snack on their own, but you can also easily incorporate them into your favorite meals. Try sprinkling sunflower seeds on your salad, using them in trail mix, or substituting sunflower seed butter for peanut butter. You can also add a couple of tablespoons of sunflower seed butter into a smoothie, or stir it into yogurt, to add extra flavor as well as a little more nutrition.2

Citrus Fruits

Directly above shot of sliced grapefruit on white background
Halfdark / Getty Images

Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits some of the best sources for vitamin C. Grapefruits and oranges contain the polyamine putrescine, which some animal research has associated with the potential to improve egg and semen health.3

How to Eat It

Enjoy orange slices on their own or try incorporating citrus juice into your smoothies. Sliced grapefruit also makes a great addition to fresh salads.

Caution: Grapefruit juice can interact with some medications in very dangerous ways.4 If you’re taking any kind of medication, speak to your doctor about whether grapefruit juice is safe for you.3

Mature Cheeses

Different grated parmesan in glass bowls
Westend61 / Getty Images

Mature cheeses, like aged cheddar, parmesan, and manchego, may improve sperm health. Mature cheeses are high in polyamines. Polyamines are proteins found in plant and animal products. They are also naturally occurring in humans.

Research has found that polyamines may play an important role in the reproductive system. Mature cheese is specifically high in the polyamine putrescine, which may play a role in sperm health. Putrescine is also suspected of improving egg health, especially in women 35 and older.5 (Yes, that’s the same putrescine found in grapefruit.)

How to Eat It

Sprinkle some cheese on just about anything or have a few pieces along with some nuts or fruit as an afternoon snack. Just be mindful of portion sizes when adding cheese to your diet as a small amount packs in a lot of calories and saturated fat. Enjoy in moderation.4

Full-Fat Dairy

yogurt in bowl on wooden table. healthy eating
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Pastured dairy is a great choice for fertility and pregnancy for those who can tolerate it. Dairy is rich in saturated fat, which is especially beneficial for fertility. It’s also a good source of the fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, E, D, K, and K2.

A Harvard study found that women who ate full-fat dairy products were less likely to experience ovulation problems compared to women who ate primarily low-fat dairy products. In this study, low-fat dairy products included skim or low-fat milk, sherbet, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Full-fat products included whole milk, ice cream, cream cheese, and other cheeses.6

How to Eat It

If you already consume dairy, the easiest way to get full-fat dairy into your diet is to switch to whole-fat products such as swapping skim milk with whole milk and low-fat yogurt with full-fat yogurt.

An occasional serving of full-fat ice cream can also make a nice treat. Just be sure to take the extra calories into account. If you’re going for ice cream, limit yourself to one to two servings per week.5

Liver

Baked chicken liver with onion on a plate
derketta / Getty Images

Liver, particularly cow’s liver, is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It’s loaded with fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamin A which is difficult to obtain elsewhere in the diet.

Besides being the ultimate source of natural vitamin A, liver is loaded with highly absorbable iron, which helps prevent miscarriage and maternal anemia, and vitamin B12, which is required for the proper formation of red blood cells and DNA. Liver is also a rich source of choline, omega-3 fatty acids, and folate.

How to Eat It

You can certainly go the traditional route with a simple liver and onions recipe, but if you’re new to liver, consider adding it to other meat-based favorites like meatloaf, shepherd’s pie, or even meatballs.6

Cooked Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes on the vine roasted with herbs and balsamic vinegar. Top view.
Geshas / Getty Images

Tomatoes are high in the nutrient lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which can help augment your fertility. Lycopene has been extensively studied for its potential role in improving male fertility.

Lycopene supplementation has even been researched as a possible treatment for male infertility. One study found that supplementation of 4mg to 8mg of lycopene per day for 8 to 12 months led to improved semen health and increased pregnancy rates.7

How to Eat It

While both raw and cooked tomatoes contain lycopene, 1 cup of cooked tomatoes contains almost twice as much lycopene as 1 cup of raw tomatoes. So when you can, opt for the cooked tomato recipes like tomato-based soups and stews, tomato sauces, and even just roasted tomatoes.7

Beans and Lentils

Various legumes in bowls: chickpeas, cannellini beans, quail beans, black beans, yellow lentils, red lentils, black lentils
Westend61 / Getty Images

Beans and lentils are an excellent source of fiber and folate, both of which are crucial to maintaining a healthy hormonal balance. Lentils also contain high levels of the polyamine spermidine, which may help sperm fertilize the egg.

Lentils and beans are also high in protein, which can help promote healthier ovulation. Studies show that when 5% of calories eaten come from vegetable protein rather than animal protein—in particular chicken and red meats—the risk of infertility due to anovulation falls by over 50%.8

How to Eat It

Consider replacing one or two meat meals with lentil or bean-based meals. You can also try throwing some beans into your salad instead of cheese or meat.

If you choose a canned variety, check that the cans are free of BPA, a chemical that can negatively impact estrogen levels in women.8

Asparagus

Asparagus on a Wooden Chopping Board, Top View, Close Up on White Background. Cooking, Vegetarian, Healthy Eating
Nature, food, landscape, travel / Getty Images

Asparagus is a nutrient-packed superfood. It’s low in calories, will fill you up, and gives you a boost of fertility vital nutrients. In 1 cup serving, you’ll get your full daily value of vitamin K, 60% of your daily value of folate, and over 20% of other essential nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, and the B vitamin thiamin.

How to Eat It

When possible, reach for fresh or frozen asparagus. Enjoy it as a vegetable side (it’s delicious roasted or grilled) or added to recipes like frittatas or stir-fries. Canned asparagus, while convenient, is often full of added sodium. If you go for a canned or jarred product, look for low sodium options and rinse asparagus under running water before using.9

Oysters

Raw Oyster Platter
Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images

Oysters appear on just about every fertility food list. They are packed with fertility-boosting nutrients. A serving of six raw oysters contains only 139 calories, but all these important reproductive vitamins and minerals:

  • 408% of your daily recommended vitamin B12
  • 188% of your daily recommended zinc
  • 187% of your daily recommended selenium
  • 43% of your daily recommended iron

How to Eat It

Many people feel intimidated by oyster preparation, but you don’t have to be. You can prepare and serve this dish at home. The healthiest option is raw, but you can also enjoy them baked.10

Pomegranate

Pomegranate Seeds in a white bowl
Vlad Fishman / Getty Images

Pomegranates have long been associated with fertility and birth due to their many seeds. While not a scientific reason to indulge in pomegranates, it’s certainly an interesting one.

As for science, pomegranates are loaded with antioxidants which may improve sperm quality. In a 2014 study, 70 adult men who didn’t have healthy enough sperm to donate to a sperm bank tablets containing pomegranate fruit extract and powder of Galanga Root.9 After three months of treatment, sperm motility increased by 62%.

How to Eat It

Pomegranate seeds make for a delicious, healthy snack on their own, but also make for a great topping for yogurt, oatmeal, and even salads and quinoa bowls.

Foods to Eat to Increase Fertility

Can eating certain foods really boost your fertility? The answer is yes. It’s important to remember that there is no magic diet that will result in pregnancy, but food and lifestyle choices do have a significant impact on the reproductive health of both women and men. The foods you eat, along with other factors like lifestyle and stress levels, can boost fertility through their impact on your gut, blood flow, hormone levels and overall health.

Laurel Fertility Care offers a holistic approach that includes many natural adjustments like diet and lifestyle changes before moving on to advanced treatment. Here are 10 foods to incorporate into your diet to boost your fertility.

1. Beans and Lentils

Beans and lentils are high in fiber and protein, which can help improve ovulation. Studies have shown that replacing animal protein with vegetable sources of protein can reduce the risk of ovulatory infertility. Both of these legumes are also an excellent source of folic acid, a vital component that aids with conception and helps in healthy embryo development.

2. Sunflower Seeds

Eating sunflower seeds is an easy way to help maintain proper sperm levels without making any huge dietary changes. Roasted, unsalted sunflower seed kernels are rich in Vitamin E, an essential nutrient that increases sperm count and motility. Sunflower seeds also offer substantial amounts zinc, folic acid, and selenium— all of which are potent fertility nutrients with stellar benefits.

3. Fruit

Antioxidant-rich foods like fruit and berries are high in vitamin C and folic acid, which provides healthy fetal growth after conception. Raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries all contain natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, two components that greatly improve fertility for both men and women. This study showed that women with high fruit intakes had a significantly reduced chance of infertility. 

4. Avocados

Avocados are full of Vitamin K, potassium and folate that assists your body with so many things— vitamin absorption, blood pressure regulation and more! They are also comprised of monounsaturated fats (healthy fats) that offer tons of dietary fiber and folic acid, which we know are crucial during the early stages of pregnancy.

5. Quinoa

Quinoa is an amazing whole grain because it’s not only carb-free, but it’s also a perfect source for protein, zinc, and folic acid. Altogether, these components offer a robust prenatal protection plan, while maintaining healthy fetal growth once pregnancy takes place. Not to mention, quinoa gives you all of the essential amino acids that meat products offer without any potentially harmful additives.

6. Greek Yogurt and Cheeses

Fatty foods are great for boosting fertility. Greek yogurt and cheese contain calcium, probiotics, and vitamin D, all of which help improve ovulation. Also, you’ll receive an ample amount of protein from each food, reinforcing your odds of a successful pregnancy through more precise ovulation cycles.

7. Salmon

To pile on more of those healthy fats, salmon offers loads of protein and valuable omega-3s that improve fetal development throughout pregnancy. Men can also benefit from eating salmon for its high levels vitamin D and selenium, two components that raise semen levels and enhance its overall health. Keep in mind, it’s best to purchase wild-caught salmon to decrease the presence of mercury, which can be harmful to a pregnancy if too much is consumed. To be safe, limit your salmon intake to once or twice a week.

8. Asparagus

Asparagus is a powerhouse food with incredible benefits for those trying to get pregnant. Studies show that eating one cup of boiled asparagus will provide you with over 60% of your daily recommended value of folic acid, fulfill your daily vitamin K value, and strengthen your reproductive health with more than 20% of vitamins A, C, and B. It also contains substantial amounts of zinc and selenium, so men should also incorporate asparagus into their diet!

9. Walnuts

Walnuts are packed with omega-3s and omega-6s that help your body maintain healthy brain functions and regulate hormones. Research also shows that men who eat walnuts on a regular basis will experience improved semen health, resulting in a better motility, quantity and morphology.

10. Egg Yolks

Most people ditch the yolk of the egg to cut back on calories, but yolks contain vitamin B and essential omega-3s. Yolks also contain folic acid which helps the body create red blood cells and help to maintain embryo development after conception.

Takeaway

Making healthy choices and changes while on your fertility journey can help your stress levels and provide some control during a time when circumstances can often feel overwhelming.

While these 10 foods are recommended as a natural way to boost your fertility, we encourage each patient to practice balance in their diets! Extreme restrictions or punishing yourself for the the occasional indulgence in a bowl of ice cream or a slice of pizza is not beneficial to your mind or body while on this journey!

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