Trying to conceive? While there’s no shortage of old wives’ tales about getting pregnant, it’s sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction. Believe it or not, what you eat can have an impact on your fertility. We spoke with Kirsten Allen, BSc KIN, RD, P.H. Ec., registered dietician and professional home economist, to learn more about the best foods to incorporate into your diet if you’re hoping to eat for two in the near future.
The truth is, you can get pregnant no matter what you do — or don’t — eat; however, on a basic level, the nutrients you get from food contributes to the building blocks of your body’s reproductive system, such as the development of healthy eggs and the hormones required to release them. The foods you eat can influence your hormone balance and production, which supports your overall reproductive health.
Eating a well-balanced diet and maintaining a healthy body weight is good practice, but it’s especially important when looking to boost your fertility. Prioritize whole nutrient-rich foods and maintain a balance of lean protein, fibre and healthy fats. “Our fat cells produce the hormone estrogen,” Allen says, pointing out that it’s necessary for the growth and maintenance of a healthy uterus.
Overall, try to follow the principles of healthy eating — whole foods, fibre, healthy fats, plant-based protein — to support your body in its daily functions so that it’s ready to conceive when you are.
Foods to help increase fertility: whole grains
Choose minimally processed carbohydrates whenever possible, such as whole grain bread, brown rice, oatmeal and quinoa. “Not only are you getting more bang for your buck in terms of the nutrient-to-calorie ratio, but these foods also tend to promote a more balanced hormonal response in the body than their processed alternatives,” Allen says. Whole grains, in particular, are high in fibre and magnesium. It also balances insulin, a hormone that influences our sex hormones and ovulation.
Foods to help increase fertility: avocados
Chances are you already love avocados; they’re a delicious, popular superfood and with good reason! Turns out they are also a fantastic fertility-boosting food. Allen agrees that, “avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fats, which is a healthy fat that can have a big impact on fertility.” Packed with essential vitamins, avocados are anti-inflammatory and support overall health.
Foods to help increase fertility: legumes
Beans and lentils are high in fibre, iron and folate, which are crucial to maintaining a healthy hormonal balance. Legumes are also an excellent source of protein, which can help promote healthier ovulation. In fact, one study published in the National Library of Medicine found that prioritizing plant-based proteins over animal proteins can lower your risk of experiencing infertility issues related to ovulation.
Foods to help increase fertility: nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are another great source of plant-based protein, as well as key vitamins and minerals that are crucial to reproductive function. “Selenium, magnesium and zinc are often lacking in many of our diets,” Allen explains. “Incorporating a variety of nuts and seeds will provide varying levels of these beneficial nutrients, in addition to healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.” To keep it healthy avoid added salt or flavours and stick to raw nuts such as almonds and walnuts.
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Foods to help increase fertility: salmon
Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which studies indicate may play an important part in egg maturation and embryo implantation — both key processes in reproduction. With fish, there’s always the risk of exposure to contaminants such as mercury that would counteract any fertility benefits, so be selective in the source and opt for fresh, wild-caught salmon where possible.
Foods to help increase fertility: eggs
For breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a snack, eggs are versatile and easy to make. “Eggs are a nutrient-dense protein source full of vitamins and minerals that are necessary for reproductive health, including Vitamin B12 which is almost exclusively found in animal protein sources,” Allen says. Choose omega-3 enriched eggs for an extra dose of healthy fats alongside your protein, and boost those reproductive health benefits.
Foods to help increase fertility: dark leafy greens
It’s no secret that leafy greens are nutrient powerhouses and should be a mainstay in any healthy diet. Kale, spinach, and other dark greens are packed with vitamins and minerals that expectant mothers and their babies need. “When it comes to fertility specifically, folate is particularly important,” Allen shares, “and spinach is packed full of it!”
Foods to help increase fertility: citrus
In addition to being another great source of folate, citrus fruits such as oranges also contain vitamin C which acts as an antioxidant and, as studies have pointed out, supports the development of healthy eggs thanks to its role in collagen production.
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Foods to help increase fertility: fermented dairy products
Fermented dairy products provide a generous dose of probiotics, or “good” bacteria, which may contribute to a healthy vaginal microbiome that supports reproductive functions. Allen suggests adding fermented yogurt or kefir to your breakfast. They’re packed with key vitamins and minerals and are a high-quality protein to keep you feeling full.
Foods to help increase fertility: sauerkraut
Just like how we consume foods for our gut health, we can also influence our vaginal microbiome. This stands to have an impact on fertility because, as research suggests, your vaginal bacterial make-up goes hand-in-hand with your reproductive health. Sauerkraut provides another source of the specific strains of probiotics shown to be a part of a healthy vaginal microbiome, just be sure to choose refrigerated options which are more likely to be unpasteurized and additive-free.
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