As I’ve shared with you before, how and what we eat can make or break our fertility journey. The importance of eating a diet with fertility-friendly foods cannot be overstated. This means a diet of whole foods: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, some dairy. It also primarily means a plant-based diet, although most meats are okay in moderation.
I’ve shared a lot of recipes with you, including information on why those recipes are great for boosting fertility. But which nutrients are essential for a fertility-boosting diet?
Here are the top vitamins and minerals to make sure you get in your diet to improve your fertility and give you the best possible chance of getting pregnant (in alphabetical order):
Vitamin B6. The main benefit of Vitamin B6 in helping with fertility is treating luteal phase defect. Luteal phase is the time from ovulation to the beginning of the next cycle and is usually 13-14 days. A luteal phase of 11-13 days is also workable, but the luteal phase is too short if it is less than 10 days. When the luteal phase is too short, it’s difficult to maintain a pregnancy. Vitamin B6 helps to lengthen this phase. It also helps with managing Premenstrual Syndrome.
Good food sources: whole grains, eggs, fish
Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is a key fertility-enhancing vitamin because it helps with hormone balance and regulation. This in turn facilitates regular ovulation. Issues with ovulation are the leading cause of female infertility. Vitamin B12 is also beneficial for men because it helps improve sperm quantity and quality.
Good food sources: fish, whole grains
Vitamin C. Vitamin C has been linked to improved fertility because it helps balance the hormones and regulate the menstrual cycle, which goes a long way toward improving reproductive health. Vitamin C can also help women taking Clomid, by helping the drug to its job in stimulating ovulation. Finally, Vitamin C can also increase progesterone in the body, which can help thicken the uterine lining, aiding the embryo’s implantation after conception.
Good food sources: oranges, lemons, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes
Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to infertility. Studies have suggested that a Vitamin D deficiency negatively impacts reproductive tissues so that they’re unable to function at optimal levels. Vitamin D also plays a major role in cell growth and function. Women who are undergoing In Vitro Fertilization have also been found to produce higher quality embryos and have greater overall success with IVF procedures if their Vitamin D levels are higher. As a result, many fertility specialists are now recommending that their patients get more Vitamin D.
Good sources: Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods. Milk is fortified with Vitamin D, but the best way to get it is by sitting in the sun, as it’s produced naturally in sunlight. About 15 minutes a day in the sun, without sunscreen, is al most people need. You can also take supplements.
Vitamin E. Without Vitamin E the body cannot reproduce. Vitamin E is essential for protecting the health of our cells, functioning as an antioxidant, protecting the cells from oxidative damage. This includes our precious egg cells because Vitamin E is found in the fluid in the follicles surrounding our eggs. Studies also suggest that Vitamin E may help increase the thickness of the uterine lining, which helps facilitate successful implantation of the embryo after conception. Finally, Vitamin E can also help improve sperm quantity and quality in men.
Good food sources: extra virgin olive oil, nuts, nut butters, leafy green vegetables, avocado
Folate. Getting adequate amounts of this nutrient is absolutely essential if you’re trying to conceive. Folate is so important because it helps prevent birth defects such as spina bifida in an unborn child. It’s important to start increasing your folate intake when trying to conceive, before actually getting pregnant – usually, by the time you know you’re pregnant, your embryo may have already developed these defects, so starting to increase folate when you get pregnant may be too late.
Good food sources: Leafy green vegetables, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli
Iron. Iron is linked to improved fertility. Iron is needed to make estrogen and progesterone, essential for normal ovulation. Studies have also suggested that women with iron deficiency have a harder time conceiving. Once you actually get pregnant, iron is needed for a healthy pregnancy and fetal development.
Good food sources: beans, spinach, pumpkin seeds, moderate amounts of beef
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids. Known as the “good fats,” Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids help balance your hormones and keep them functioning properly (which promotes ovulation), improve cervical fluid (which helps the sperm fertilize the egg), reduce inflammation, improve sperm production, and improve uterine healthy by promoting blood flow to the reproductive organs.
Good food sources: salmon and other fatty fish, fish oil, ground flaxseed, chia seed
Selenium. Selenium is a trace mineral that functions as an antioxidant, improving the quality of our cells. Selenium is also important for egg production and regulates thyroid function, which is essential for hormone production and balance.
Good food sources: Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, fish, whole grains, mushrooms, onions
Zinc. Zinc plays a vital role in both female and male fertility. For women, zinc facilitates egg production, keeps the eggs healthy by maintaining proper levels of fluid in the eggs’ follicles, and balances the reproductive hormones. Zinc deficiency has also been linked to early miscarriage. For men, zinc promotes healthy sperm, both in terms of quality and quantity.
Good food sources: Oysters, beef, sesame and pumpkin seeds, yogurt, turkey
Have fun exploring ways you can get more of these vital nutrients into your diet!
To your fertility,