Pregnancy is a huge life change, but when you’re ready for it, you’re ready to go. The question is, is your body on the same page? Fertility issues affect 10-15% of couples. Why take your chances, when you can instead maximize them?
There are a lot of factors that go into fertility that you can’t control. Genetics and age, for example, simply are what they are. What you can control is your diet. Plenty of foods can affect fertility, which can help to minimize issues both with conception and down the road. Here are 50+ foods you can eat to help with fertility.
Foods Rich in Antioxidants
First up, we have foods rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants can help deactivate free radicals in the body, which can be damaging to gametes – the sperm and egg. Several studies have shown the effect of antioxidants as positive on fertility.
So what foods have good antioxidant levels?
3. Walnuts. While most nuts are a good, healthy choice, walnuts in particular are great for both antioxidants and omega-3s.
4. Spinach. Spinach is high in several key nutrients, including antioxidants. Popeye knew what he was doing when he was downing can after can, but fresh is better when you can get it.
5. Kale. Another example of a leafy green, kale isn’t just a trendy food for supermodels on Instagram, it’s a powerhouse of nutrients and vitamins.
6. Sweet potatoes. Yes, that’s right; as long as you’re using sweet potatoes as a base, you can eat plenty of chips and fries and still come out ahead.
7. Carrots. Not just for Bugs Bunny, carrots are packed with healthy vitamins, including tons of great vitamin A.
8. Tea. While there are a huge variety of different teas, green tea in particular is a great option for various healthy chemicals, and you can find tea to suit pretty much any taste.
9. Whole grains. Another health trend you may have noticed is the proliferation of whole grains. Simply switch from white bread to whole grain, from white rice to brown, and so on. There are whole grain replacements for most flour-based foods.
10. Fish. Pretty much any fish comes packed with omega-3s and vitamins, but some of the best include tuna, salmon, and trout. The fresher the better, of course!
11. Nuts. It should come as no surprise that nuts have made the list again. Nut oils are good fats that can fill many roles in the body without being harmful to your health. Of course, avoid them if you have nut allergies.
More Vitamins and Minerals
You may have noticed a trend with many of the foods above; they’re just good, healthy options. It should come as no surprise that foods packed with healthy vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins are good for the body, and what’s good for the body is good for fertility. This isn’t just for women, either: many healthy options help improve sperm viability and motility.
20. Tomatoes. Tomatoes are a great source of a ton of good minerals, but you want them fresh as much as possible. Most packaged tomato sauces and other tomato products are full of sugar and preservatives.
21. Dairy. Both cheese and yogurt are already on this list, but even something as simple as some whole milk can get you a lot of healthy fats and, importantly, vitamin D.
22. Mushrooms. In particular, UV-exposed mushrooms develop high levels of vitamin D, which helps you get it without needing to expose yourself to those same damaging UV rays.
23. Lean beef. While many of the foods on this list lean vegetarian, you don’t have to cut out meat to be healthy. Lean beef can be a great source of the antioxidant and nutrient CoQ10, which can lower blood pressure and help with fertility.
24. Oranges. Vitamin C is excellent for health in a lot of ways, and oranges are a great fruit-based source of the vitamin. Other citrus fruits, particularly lemons, can be great for it as well.
25. Chilis. Chili peppers are surprisingly good for vitamin C and several other nutrients. Capsaicin, the chemical responsible for that burning taste, can help with pain and inflammation.
26. Yellow bell peppers. Bell peppers in general are pretty good, but the sweeter yellow varieties are full of more vitamin C and other nutrients compared to their green counterparts.
27. Thyme. Don’t neglect your spices! Get some fresh thyme to spice your dishes and reap the fertility benefits that come with its vitamins and minerals. It’s one of the best culinary herbs to eat.
28. Bananas. In addition to being loaded with potassium, bananas include folate, which is absolutely critical for the developmental health of a fetus. It’s also linked to a reduction in egg production issues.
29. Lentils. A type of bean, lentils are great for many of the same nutrients and minerals as other types of beans and vegetables. They’re also a great source of folate.
30. Pumpkin seeds. Many seeds are good for you, and pumpkin seeds can be a great source of dietary iron. Studies are still out on how much iron affects fertility, but most people don’t eat enough as it is, so it probably won’t hurt.
Foods with Fiber
Fiber is good for digestive health. It can help remove excess estrogen from the body. Enough fiber can reduce the risk of infertility, though too much may have a negative effect. As with all things, eat in moderation.
Probiotic Fermented Foods
The human gut microbiome is an incredible important and diverse place. Without all of the various bacteria floating around down there, we wouldn’t be able to live, let alone be healthy. While this is an emerging area of study and we still don’t know what all is important, there’s a lot of new evidence suggesting keeping a healthy microbiome is very important for both fertility and the later health of the child. Fermented foods are a good source of some balanced and healthy probiotics.
Foods to Avoid
When you’re adjusting your diet for any purpose, be it weight loss, fertility, or simply to build healthy habits, you want to cut out some of the worst foods you’re eating. In the case of fertility, you want to ditch as much of the following as possible.
43. Caffeine. Sorry, but those three cups of coffee you need to wake up in the morning may be interfering with ovulation and can increase the risk of miscarriage. Just make sure to wean yourself off slowly, those caffeine withdrawal headaches are killer.
44. Alcohol. Common medical advice for pregnant mothers is to ditch the alcohol, and that applies all the way back to before conception. Women who consume more than two drinks a day lose as much as 18% of their fertility.
45. Low-fat milk. One long-running study showed that women who ate two or more servings of low-fat dairy each week had an 85% higher incidence of ovulation failure, while women consuming full-fat dairy had 27% higher fertility rates. Skim milk isn’t as healthy as they’d like you to think, it turns out.
46. High-sugar carbs. Carbs are another nutrient with a bad rap; you need some to live, but you can get good carbs from sources like whole grains up above. Avoid high glycemic index carbs like pastry, white bread, and cereals covered in sugar.
47. Processed sugar. Really, just do everything you can to avoid processed sugar. This means cane sugar, white sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup. These processed sugars can be very detrimental to your health, fertility, and even digestion.
48. Trans fats. Trans fats are a common health boogeyman, and with good reason; unlike some other health scares, these are legit bad for you. Margarines, processed foods, many baked goods, and hydrogenated vegetable oils are all pretty bad for these.
49. Fatty meats. Fatty fish is good for you, but fatty meats, especially red meats, can have the opposite effect. You don’t have to cut meat from your diet entirely, but swap some of that beef with chicken or pork.
50. Everything (or nothing). Humans have a healthy weight range where fertility is at its maximum, and being either underweight or overweight can reduce fertility.
Now, broad dietary changes are difficult to maintain, so it’s a good idea to take things slow. Cut out one bad ingredient at a time, add in one good fruit or vegetable at a time, and generally try to improve over the course of weeks and months, rather than all at once. Otherwise, you’ll never stick with it, and that’s not a good thing when you’re signing up for pregnancy.
Did we leave any foods out that can improve your chances at fertility? Let us know in the comment section below!