When it comes to preparing your body for pregnancy the foods you eat in the 3 – 6 month window prior to conception are even more important than ever. A balanced nutrient-rich full of fertility promoting foods will not only help to provide you with the right building blocks to create a healthy baby, it will also help to set your body up for better recovery post-pregnancy. Research shows that nutrition from fertility-supportive foods can improve fertility rates and improve the future health of your baby. If you’re thinking of trying to get pregnant (even a few years down the line), now is the time to start focusing on your diet & environment – as these are critical to your fertility as well as your future baby’s health.
We’re excited to present to you this Replete guide to the top 10 fertiltiy-promoting foods:
Orange foods are one of nature’s best sources of beta-carotene, a nutrient that has potent antioxidant activity. Antioxidant-rich foods in general can help to neutralize free radicals which damage reproductive health. The ovaries and sperm are especially vulnerable to these free radicals, and the carotenoid compounds found in orange foods are especially great at reducing oxidative damage to these critical reproductive organs. Research shows us that beta-carotene can help improve progesterone levels (pro-gestation hormone: one of the most important factors in maintaining pregnancy) in women, and prevent sperm damage in males.
Orange Foods for Fertility:
Walnuts are rich in PUFAs (aka omega 3 fatty acids) are a type of anti-inflammatory fat that are essential for healthy hormones. Research shows that omega-3s from walnuts can help optimize hormones for fertility by reducing levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones negatively impact fertility because they ‘steal’ cofactors and precursors from progesterone production. The best dietary sources of PUFAs in a Western diet include wild fish (see below) & walnuts. Walnuts are much less expensive than organic fish and less likely to be contained with heavy metals. They are a wonderful source of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) but also contain iron, selenium, calcium, zinc, vitamin E and some B vitamins. Walnuts are an ideal snack for your partner as well since studies show that walnuts can improve sperm quality: ½ cup walnuts daily has been shown to improve sperm motility & morphology, and to prevent oxidative damage.
Beets are a fantastic source of the fertility-supportive antioxidant resveratrol, which has been shown to help to combat age-related infertility (were taking 31+ here unfortunately for all us working gals / non teen moms). They’re also full of nitrates to help your body produce more nitric oxide (NO), which dilates the pelvic blood vessels allowing more nutrient-rich blood to be delivered to your reproductive organs. Improved blood flow = improved implantation and higher chance of conceiving. Beets are traditionally prescribed in TCM as a blood-building food to improve iron and oxygen status in your red blood cells. They can be juiced and added to smoothies, roasted and tossed onto a salad or even snuck into baked goods and pancakes like in my favourite special occasion breakfast: pink crepes.
Eat an egg for healthy eggs: eggs are absolutely one of the best foods to include in your diet if you’re looking to improve your fertility because they contain a nutrient called phosphatidylcholine which is essential for a healthy pregnancy and well-functioning ovaries. Studies show that phosphatidylcholine requirements are increased during pregnancy and that adequate dietary intake prior to conception is important to the brain development of you future baby. Free range eggs also contain essential fatty acids, protein (7g/egg), and so many other ovary-boosting nutrients. Note: Please don’t just eat the egg whites; the yolks provide around 0.52 mg mitochondrial-supportive CoQ10 per serving.
Pineapple is a well-adopted symbol in the fertility community for a reason: pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Uterus receptivity is a very important aspect of fertility, and inflammation is a known cause of implantation failure and early pregnancy loss. Eating plenty of anti-inflammatory foods, like pineapple, can help reduce inflammation in the uterus and provide a healthier environment for implantation. Pineapple is also said to increase the quantity & quality of cervical mucus; that stretchy mid-cycle substance that improves fertility by keeping sperm nourished and mobile on their journey to your egg. Other foods to that can reduce inflammation include ginger, turmeric, green tea, wild salmon, dark leafy greens, and fermented foods.
Not only are flax seeds a great source of fertility-supportive fats, they are also part of our favourite hormone balancing dietary therapy; seed cycling. Flax seeds support healthy estrogen production in the first half of your cycle because they contain high levels of lignans; plant polyphenols that help to modulate estrogen levels. Lignans can act as female hormone normalizers by either blocking or enhancing estrogen function due to their structural similarity to estrogen. This means that flax seeds can have either estrogenic or anti-estrogenic effects in the body depending on your own estrogen levels. High estrogen (and subsequent low progesterone) is at the root cause of many of my patient’s infertility struggles because it can lead to estrogen-dominant reproductive diseases like endometriosis and fibroids. Not only are flax seeds wonderful for balancing estrogen levels, they also contain a good dose of omega 3 fatty acids and fibre, both of which contribute to healthy hormones via their impact on the good bacteria in your digestive system. Stuck on how to incorporate more of these wonder seeds into your daily diet? Try This Doctor’s flax-based morning muesli or these blueberry lemon keto flax muffins.
Brazil nuts contain anti-inflammatory fatty acids + nitric oxide for improved blood flow to the pelvis. They’re also hands down the best food source of a thyroid-supportive nutrient called selenium. Selenium has been shown to lower antibodies against the thyroid gland, which is important since higher antibody levels in pregnant women are actually linked to a lower IQ level in their future children. As a bonus, selenium also plays an important role in helping the body produce and recycle glutathione which protects the ovaries from free radical damage. Brazil nuts contain around 250mcg per 3 – 4 nut serving, which is as high of a dose as you’d get in a supplement. When you’re sick of munching on plain brazil nuts I suggest you try my chocolate covered brazil nut recipe or our orange Brazil nut balls for a healthy treat – eat 2 of these daily as a snack or breakfast to get your daily recommended dose of thyroid-loving selenium:
Add all of the above ingredients to a food processor & pulse until mixed well, roll into small balls. These will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week or freezer for 1 month.
Taking your partner out for oysters once weekly (there are tons of great buck-a-shuck nights in Oakville & Toronto) is a great & delicious way to enhance your fertility. Oysters are a wonderful source of dietary zinc and other key minerals that are important in the preconception period. Zinc supports fertility by regulating hormone function, and supporting healthy cell division and ovulation. Our bodies don’t store zinc so it is important for women wanting to become pregnant to get a minimum 8mg zinc daily. While most shellfish contain some zinc, oysters are especially rich in this fertility loving nutrient: 6 medium oysters provides around 32mg zinc. They are also high in protein, low in calories, and loaded with other ovary-protective vitamins and minerals including vitamin B-12 and selenium. Bonus: regular oyster consumption can also enhance arousal since they contain specific amino acids that trigger the production of sex hormones.
Sunflower seeds can be eaten anytime when trying to conceive, but are especially important in the second half of your cycle because they are great food sources of zinc and vitamin E. These two nutrients have been shown to stimulate progesterone production and improve ovary health. It’s important to support optimal progesterone levels in preconception since this hormone is needed to maintain pregnancy and healthy ovulation. Sunflower seeds also happen to be another great source of phosphatidylcholine for the healthy development of your future baby. These seeds are a part of our favourite hormone-balancing protocol called seed cycling. Sprinkle 2 tbs sunflower seeds on your salads or throw a handful into your daily smoothie.
Iron deficiency is one of the most prevalent nutritional deficiencies affecting women of childbearing age. It is also a common cause of fatigue, brain fog, hair loss and insomnia – which is why it’s so important to run frequent lab tests if you experience these symptoms and are currently trying to get pregnant. Molasses is a fertility superfood for those of you with low iron status since 1 tbs of molasses has almost the same iron content as half of a steak. Iron is incredibly important for conception because you need it to build nutrient-rich blood and to provide adequate blood flow to the ovaries and uterus. You can add molasses to baking, oatmeal, or smoothies, but my favourite way to get more molasses is in this delicious iron-boosting salad recipe.
Bonus food – Add some organic grass-fed beef for your iron-boosting salad: healthy beef is a powerful blood-building food because it’s a significant source of heme iron. This type of iron is much better absorbed than plant based irons and adequate iron status is essential for reproductive health. Grass-fed beef is also rich in protein and healthy fats, as well as essential vitamins B12, B1, B2, B6, folate, and biotin.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Naturopathic doctor or primary care physician. Do not use the information in this document for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. Always speak with your Naturopathic doctor before taking any medication or nutritional or herbal or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read online.