Fertility isn’t black and white. There is a laundry list of cofactors that impact conception, but the food we put in our body can play an important role in improving fertility-related outcomes in both women—and men. In fact, research shows that making simple adjustments to your diet can increase your chances of getting pregnant by up to 66 percent.1 Plus, eating the right foods for fertility is a simple change that you can take into your own hands and start practicing at home today. Wondering where to start? Keep reading for the five foods to add to your diet for fertility, also known as your conception diet.
When should I start my conception diet?
Healthy diet and nutrition practices don’t just start once you find out you’re pregnant. Instead, it’s actually recommended to start your conception diet at least three months to even years prior to planning for a future pregnancy.2 For women, this may help improve your fertility and reduce health complications for both mom and baby throughout the pregnancy.
But we know life doesn't always go exactly to plan, so we recommend starting your conception diet as soon as you can once you're thinking about getting pregnant to improve your chances of seeing those double lines on your pregnancy test.
The Foundational 5 Foods for Fertility
Folate is a form of B vitamin that is essential for DNA synthesis. Adequate folate intake is necessary to prevent neural tube defects, which is a serious birth defect involving the brain and spine that develops only one month after conception. If you’re trying to conceive, the risk of neural tube defects is greatly reduced with sufficient folate intake. According to research, women who supplemented their diet with folate versus those that didn’t saw an improved conception rate.3 Folate is present in a wide variety of foods including beans, dark leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, nuts, asparagus, avocado, and Brussels sprouts.
If you already include dairy in your diet, swap your low-fat dairy products for full-fat instead. Full-fat dairy products, such as yogurt, milk, and cheeses are associated with a lower risk of infertility compared to their low-fat alternatives and they include important nutrients such as Iodine and Vitamin D.4
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Aim to include a variety of Omega-3 fatty acids which may improve ovulation and increase egg quality in women; and may improve sperm quality, motility, and increase sperm count in men.5 Animal sources of Omega-3 absorb best in the body. You can find them in salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and DHA-enriched eggs. You can also find Omega-3 in plant-based sources, which include chia seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, and hemp seeds.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide among women of reproductive age and throughout pregnancy. An increased intake of iron may also demonstrate a lower rate of ovulatory infertility. Women should opt for an iron-rich diet that includes lean meats, poultry, shrimp, oysters, cooked spinach, beans, and lentils. You can also increase your iron absorption by cooking in a cast-iron skillet or by pairing with foods high in Vitamin C, such as oranges, tomatoes, strawberries, and broccoli.
Antioxidants are anti-inflammatory nutrients that protect against cell damage. You can find many different types of antioxidants in colorful fruits and vegetables. Eat the rainbow by aiming to include a variety of colors at each meal. Fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants include tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, blueberries, red beets, and radishes.
What may negatively impact fertility? Smoking, alcohol consumption, recreational or prescription pharmaceuticals, and excessive caffeine intake of more than 500 mg per day, which is equivalent to about three 12-ounce cups of coffee. Overall, healthy eating patterns can have a beneficial influence on fertility for both men and women. Start your preconception diet now to boost your chances of positive fertility outcomes in the future.
Be sure to support your fertility journey with the Conception Support Pack with added folate, antioxidants and Omega-3 DHA+EPA. We want to hear your fertility journey! Join the Perelel community on social or subscribe to our newsletter to share.
3 The journal of maternal-fetal & neonatal medicine. Tandfonline.com.
4 Journal of Nutrition Health and food science | Open Access Journal. Symbiosisonlinepublishing.com.
5 Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. Biomedcentral.com.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.