When we talk about fertility we often think in terms of “treatment” but I like to think in terms of nutrition, ongoing support for overall health and wellbeing. Instead of quick fixes, superfoods, herbs, and “extras”, today I want to focus on the basics. What should you put into your body to ensure a strong foundation? The truth is many foods that promote fertility are the same ones that promote optimal health. Let’s start here. Foundation is everything, supplements and superfoods alone can’t help you out of an unhealthy diet.
Eat More Plants: I know you’ve heard this a million times but it’s worth repeating. To prime your body for fertility, eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables every day, to optimize your antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral intake. I highlight some of my fertility favorites below and to make incorporating them easy, simply aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal. Get creative with your colors, different colors reflect different nutrients so eat that rainbow!
* When possible, purchase organic produce as some pesticides may have a negative effect on both male and female fertility.
- Fertility Favs: Important antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals
- Vitamin E - increases sperm health and motility; promotes sperm and egg DNA integrity. Enjoy in: spinach, dark leafy greens, papaya, almonds, and olives.
- Vitamin C - increases fertility outcomes in women during the luteal phase; promotes sperm health and motility. Enjoy in: red peppers, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli, cabbage, and citrus fruits.
- Lipoic Acid - protects female reproductive organs; promotes sperm count and motility. Enjoy in: potatoes, spinach, and red meat.
- Iron - adequate levels prevent anovulation and poor egg quality. Enjoy in: lentils/beans, spinach, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, beef, chicken, Agni's Sesame Nori Seasoning, and Double Chocolate Chip Cookies.
- Zinc - promotes hormone balance and reproductive organs; decreases risk of early-stage miscarriage. Enjoy in: sesame seeds, green peas, yogurt, nuts, shellfish, beef, chicken, and Agni's Cinnamon Maca Seasoning.
Complex Carbo-load: Fiber is the indigestible part of the plant abundant in fruits, vegetables, grains (oats, quinoa, farro, spelt), nuts, and seeds and plays an important role in our overall health. It supports our body's natural process to metabolize and remove excess estrogen and xenohormones while regulating blood sugar levels and preventing insulin spikes. Processed foods and sugar increase insulin which can disrupt our hormones and negatively affect ovulation and egg development. Therefore focusing on whole foods, low sugar, and meeting your fiber goals (25 - 35 g/day) is a healthy and natural way to balance hormones in both men and women.
Mix up your Protein: Made up from amino acids, adequate protein intake helps with growth, development, satiety, and metabolism. Research shows that replacing some animal sources of protein with plant-based varieties decreases the risk for infertility. For optimal outcomes and overall health, I recommend a mix of both.
- Pasture-raised eggs - Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamins D3 and B12, Iron, choline. Eggs are a complete protein that easily fit into your diet at any point during the day.
- Grass-Fed Beef - Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin B12, Iron, and Zinc. Grass-fed contains less saturated fat than conventional beef and reduces exposure to hormones and antibiotics.
- Nuts/Seeds - are great plant based sources of protein! Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin E Zinc and Fiber.
- Fish/Shellfish - Vitamin D, Zinc, Omega 3, Selenium, B12 and CoQ10. Wild sources are preferred as they will contain more nutrients and fewer antibiotics and pesticides.
Don’t Fear Fats: Often seen as negative, healthy fats are important for fertility and the development of a healthy fetus. Fats, including cholesterol, act as precursors to all hormones in our body especially progesterone, so eating adequate amounts is important. Additionally, enjoying a serving of full fat dairy once a day (hello ice cream!) is associated with regular ovulation and increased fertility outcomes. Some of my favorite fertility fats I recommend consuming daily include nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, avocado oil and coconut oil.
Here are the building blocks of a balanced and fertile diet. These components can easily be used to create nutritious meals all day long while keeping you healthy and energized.