Over the last 10 years of being in the medical field, I have noticed an upswing in the infertility department. Whether it has been patients of mine or even friends of mine, I have noticed it has been increasing steadily in the last 10 years. I have read many studies which have shown that changes to diet can improve fertility, prevent recurrent miscarriage and support a healthy pregnancy.
Eating foods that boost your fertility and that are supportive of reproduction includes eating foods which are dense in specific nutrients needed for hormonal function, fetal development, egg health, sperm health, and blood health. These foods help build up nutrient stores and provide all of the building blocks necessary for a healthy child. It also focuses on giving you and your future child the best start in life.
While the optimal years for pregnancy are your 20s and 30s, many women are now having babies well into their 40s. While it’s tempting to chalk it up to “good genes,” it’s more likely that a healthy lifestyle and proper diet makes all the difference. You will, of course, want to steer clear of caffeine, alcohol, smoking, and highly processed foods—all have shown to have a negative impact on reproductive health. Here’s what you want to incorporate into your diet if you want to boost your chances of remaining fertile longer.
Folic acid —
This vitamin helps prevent neural tube defects as well as congenital heart defects, cleft lips, and limb defects, anomalies in developing fetuses. Deficiency in folic acid may increase the risk of preterm labor, fetal growth retardation and low birth weight. Deficiency may also increase the homocysteine level in the blood, which can lead to spontaneous abortion and pregnancy complications, such as placental abruption and preeclampsia.
Food sources of folate:
green beans, pinto beans, black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, spinach, brussels sprouts, collard greens, brown rice, peas, asparagus, chickpeas, bananas, liver, lentils,
Numerous studies have shown that women who have low iron stores, may suffer anovulation (lack of ovulation) and possibly poor egg health, which can inhibit pregnancy at a rate 60% higher than those with sufficient iron stores in their blood.
Food sources of Iron:
green beans, spinach, Brussels sprouts, brown rice, peas, asparagus, chickpeas, and bananas, eggs, fish, nettle tea, dark green vegetables, seaweed, and prunes
Calcium — quinoa, seaweed, plain yogurt, fish, canned fish with bones, broccoli, and kale
Selenium is necessary for the creation of sperm. In studies, men with low sperm counts have also been found to have low levels of selenium.
Food sources of Selenium: Kelp, dulse, brazil nuts, garlic, broccoli, tuna, herring
Zinc — According to The Centers for Disease Control’s Assisted Reproductive Technology Report, low levels of zinc, have been directly linked to miscarriage in the early stages of a pregnancy,
Food sources of Zinc:
Calf liver, oysters, beef, lamb, venison, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, yogurt, turkey, green peas, shrimp and dried fruit
Manganese — dulse and other seaweed, nuts, whole grains, and legumes
Essential fatty acids — These help fertility by helping to regulate hormones in the body, increase cervical mucous, promote ovulation and overall improve the quality of the uterus by increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs.
Food sources of essential fatty acids:
pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds,chia seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts,walnuts, avocado, olive oil, flax seed oil, and fish
B complex vitamins — brown rice, avocado, lentils, quinoa, pulses, sardines, eggs, spirulina, and seaweed
Vitamin C — raw fruits (especially berries), broccoli, red peppers, and sprouted seeds
Vitamin E — wheat germ, olives, avocado, nuts, and seeds
Vitamin A (beta carotene) — carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, spinach, and broccoli
Probiotic bacteria — plain yogurt, naturally fermented sauerkraut, and miso
Prebiotic bacteria — bananas, chicory, and artichokes
Foods to avoid:
Just as there are important foods to include, there are foods which cause a lot of damage to the reproductive tract. Some the main foods you want to avoid are soy products; they have estrogenic properties which negatively impact your hormones. GMO’s; which are causing an influx in infertility rates, fat-free foods, which are causing more damage than people realize. Fat is needed to build hormones and finally sugar and pasteurized foods which increase inflammation. Probably the most damaging of foods is gluten. Gluten damages the microvilli of the intestinal tract. These microvilli are responsible for nutrient absorption. So if you damage the body’s ability to hold nutrients, you won’t have the proper building blocks to hold and carry a baby to full term.
These are a few simple foods to include in your diet to promote fertility. If you have any questions, please feel free to make an appointment.