An optimal fertility diet for you may be a bit different than for your friends, but the foundation to this diet is the same! If you have PCOS, endometriosis, hormone imbalances, gut troubles, or other factors that play into your fertility, you may need an adjusted or more focused fertility diet – but what I discuss below is a great place to start.
A nourished and balanced body is one that will be able to conceive and hold a healthy pregnancy to term. While our bodies are amazing at protecting us and compensating when needed, it is important to take a look at your diet especially if you are wanting to get pregnant.
Did you know that what you eat, or don’t eat, influences your menstrual cycle regularity, ovulation, cervical mucous production, egg and sperm quality, the health of your uterine lining, as well as your immune system and vaginal microbiome?
A few examples of how important nutrients are to fertility:
- low vitamin E is connected with an increased risk of anovulation
- low vitamin C can reduce the function of your ovaries and lead to low progesterone levels (which can also cause a short luteal phase/luteal phase defect)
- low B12 or folate increases the risk of recurrent miscarriage and birth defects
- low antioxidants (CoQ 10, vitamin E, selenium etc) increase DNA damage to sperm
- poor glucose/insulin control can cause problems with ovulation and lead to hormone imbalances
As you can see, diet and nutrients are big players in your fertility. So what is the optimal fertility diet?
Fertility is complex, but we do know that a whole-food based diet that reduces inflammation and nourishes both parents will be beneficial. Restoring balance to the body and making it thrive (not just survive) will encourage conception to happen naturally. Your diet can be powerful and will often address many of the underlying causes of infertility. So whether you are planning ahead or have already been trying, take note of your diet and the improvements that you can make. (Remember, this isn’t about being perfect, it’s about eating well 85% of the time!)
An optimal fertility diet is the foundation to all other treatments and is a diet rich in vitamins A, C, and E, B vitamins including folate, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and selenium. Really any micronutrient deficiency can be problematic.
What is an Optimal Fertility Diet?
- Whole foods – what is it and where did it come from? (where do you find Cheetos in nature!?)
- Lots of fruits and veggies – are you getting at least 5 servings/day? Ideally you’ll get 1-3 servings of fruit and 5-8 servings of veggies each day.. A big salad or smoothie can increase your intake really fast!
- Good quality fats and oils – avocado, olive oil, coconut products. Look for cold-pressed oils in a dark bottle. Try to stay away from oils that have been poorly processed. Oils that have been exposed to a lot of heat, light (are they in a light bottle?), and oxygen can start to go rancid and cause inflammation in your body. Some studies show that pregnancy increases 4 fold with a diet of 40-45% fat.
- Good quality protein – especially eggs and fatty fish. It’s good to get a mix of animal sources of protein (if you eat meat) and vegetarian sources like beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Protein needs vary based on weight, but generally you’ll need at least 80-90 g/day or about 30% of diet.
- Nuts and seeds – Ideally raw or lightly salted (without other additives!)
- Carbs that have lots of fiber – think root veggies and some whole grains. Too many refined carbs increase your blood sugar and insulin which cause problems with ovulation and fertility.
- Water – this is a big one for adequate cervical mucous among many other things. Shoot for about ½ of your body weight in ounces/day.
- Antioxidants – more is better! Think colorful fruits and veggies as well as herbs and spices (especially fresh). These protect eggs and sperm from DNA damage, decrease inflammation, can help protect the adrenals (esp vitamin C), and much more!
- Limited processed foods, sugar, coffee, alcohol, dairy, and gluten.
- Eliminate food sensitivities: An optimal fertility diet for you eliminates any foods you are sensitive to. You can discover this through an elimination diet or food sensitivity testing.
Focus on increasing: fruits, vegetables, fatty fish like wild caught salmon, fresh ground flax seeds, avocado, other raw seeds like pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds!
While some people don’t have any issues (gut or otherwise) eating dairy and gluten, for the optimal fertility diet, limiting or eliminating these may be beneficial. Dairy can often have hormones in it that can affect yours and gluten sensitivity is common in endometriosis, leaky gut, thyroid issues (esp Hashimoto’s) and more. Try to focus on increasing all of the other foods above.
Research studies vary on the connection between alcohol and coffee and fertility. It’s likely that a cup now and then is not an issue, but it’s best to be on the safe side and mostly avoid them while trying to conceive.
If your diet looks nothing like this, pick on one or two things to start improving and go from there. You can also check out my clean eating plans (recipes included) or 7 day detox if you want to jumpstart your fertility diet.
If your diet is already on target and you have still been unable to get pregnant, consider looking into other possible root causes.
More to come on other optimal fertility diet supplements, herbs, and much more!